#46: Libby Fitzgerald, Founder of Sea Star Beachwear

Libby Fitzgerald launched Sea Star Beachwear in the summer of 2015 with the goal of creating a fashionable water shoe. She saw a white space in the market for a quality, attractive, functional water sport shoe that would easily transition from ocean swimming to rocky beaches or rainy city pavement while staying comfortable and cool.

Traditional water shoes are poorly constructed and purely functional, and do not resonate with today’s more style-conscious and quality-demanding customer. The classic, timeless espadrille design was re-imagined with a water-friendly, quick-drying neoprene upper and a protective rubber sole.

Sea Star Beachwear is a specialized lifestyle brand that designs, manufactures and sells water sport shoes for men, women and kids.

What do you consider your top 3 core values and how do they affect how you lead your business?

Focus. Many entrepreneurs describe themselves as being passionate about what they do. I think being focused on your mission, and having determination to succeed are essential. It’s very easy as a start-up to say yes to every opportunity and idea that comes your way. I try to stay focused on what makes our product unique and desirable to our customers and what it’s going to take to grow our business purposefully.

Innovation. It was important for me to create an innovative, clever product that addressed a known pain point. Well made, classically designed and functional water shoes that can be comfortably worn out of the water too did not exist. I wanted to minimize space and waste for our customers. Our product is more than a water shoe, it combines utility and beauty in one.

Humor/Positivity. I try infuse humor and positivity into everything we do. Sea Star Beachwear is all about warmth and playfulness. We want our customers to be comfortable and happy when they wear our shoes. I see them spending time with family and loved ones, making memories, relaxing and enjoying themselves.  We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and prioritize customer satisfaction.

Can you share a time you either thought you failed, or actually did fail? How did you react and move past it, and what impact did it have on business decisions?

Creating a new business is all about failures and the founder’s ability to learn from mistakes and move forward. We made many inventory mistakes early on as we grew and learned who our customer was and what our customer wanted. Sorting out sizing and predicting the popularity of a color or print was challenging at first. We now know classic colors (navy and black) make up the bulk of our business and plan inventory accordingly.

What types of projects do you have coming up that we can look forward to seeing in the future?

We are focusing in the immediate future on producing our shoes from recycled material and making our business more sustainable. Our preference would be to work with recycled ocean plastic, and hope to reach this goal within two years. To date, we have prioritized the quality and longevity of our product, and look forward to taking production to the next level.