Andi Jensen & Julie Larsen
Secret to Success:
Squeakers, LLC, was founded in St. George in 2008 by Andi Jensen and Julie Larsen. The company develops and produces fun and funky children’s shoes that help toddlers and children learn how to walk properly from heel-to-toe.The shoes can prevent developmental problems that sometimes arise when babies start walking on their toes instead of on their heels.
"Learning to walk is probably the first major accomplishment in a person's life," said Jensen, Squeakers CEO."If my daughter had worn Squeakers shoes when she was a toddler, we could have avoided major grief and expense. But they weren't available then."
Squeakers’ shoes have removable squeaking devices built into the heels of the shoes that encourage children to use their heels in order to make the squeaking sound. The Foot and Ankle Institute provided their endorsement for Squeaker shoes and recommends that children should toddle on their heels when learning to walk, which is the natural stride for humans. "Plus, the removable squeaker helps parents keep track of their wandering two-year-olds," said Jensen.
Jensen and Larsen started Squeakers as a part-time business that was funded from a few small business loans.In the four years since the company launched, Squeakers has sold over 60,000 pairs of shoes–growing from $42,320 of sales in 2008 to $368,000 in 2011.The growth of Squeakers surpassed all sales projections and broke a profit in their fourth year of business.
"In 2011 we started selling direct from as well as through stores," said Larsen, President of Squeakers. "The online market has responded well, and most stores we talk to want to carry (the shoes) once they see them." Squeakers offers over 200 shoe styles and colors for boys and girls ages one through six.
Larsen's background includes direct-to-consumer sales and Jensen's experience is in consumer banking and broadcast media. Both partners had prior retail experience before launching the company and had a strong understanding about the fashion footwear market. Squeakers shoes are currently on display in 300 retail stores nationwide.Jensen and Larsen have plans to grow their distribution to over 3,000 stores nationally and plan to exceed $5 million in annual sales by 2016.
"We couldn't know for sure how well our shoes would sell until we put them in stores," Larsen said. "But now, the market has confirmed Squeaker products. As soon as people experience Squeakers shoes–they just love them and want to buy them as gifts, or for their own children."