For the past three years, Donna Schall Hill ’94 has dressed summer’s favorite footwear in beads, crystals, faux fur, or pearls for a stroll down the aisle. These formal flip-flops, called Doo Dops, are the trademark product and namesake of Hill’s at-home company.
Doo Dops is truly a family business. The company’s name came from Hill’s daughter, then a toddler, attempting to pronounce “flip-flops.” Hill’s 3-year-old son enjoys watching the shipping labels being printed and occasionally helps paste them on the boxes.
“This is not something I thought I would be doing when I graduated,” says Hill, who majored in mechanical engineering at Lehigh.
Before launching a bridal and formal footwear business, Hill worked as an engineer and salesperson for W. L. Gore & Associates and Teradyne Connection Systems, and she did some woodworking. After she had children, Hill laid aside her engineering job, and shelved her woodworking tools, afraid that her kids would injure themselves on the equipment.
Hill created her first bridal shoes in 2002, when she doctored a pair of Keds for her own wedding. The sneakers seemed appropriate for the former jumper and hurdler on Lehigh’s track and field team.
She could have danced all night
Hill decorated the rubber near the shoe’s sole with lace, sewed pearls on the canvas, and laced them up with ribbon. The shoes were visible under the gown only when Hill climbed stairs, but the ease with which she moved and danced was obvious to all.
Several years later, Hill designed a set of flip-flops for her sister-in-law’s bridal shower. The shoes drew admiration from other shower guests and several women requested some for their engaged friends.
Their interest caused Hill to open her own company. She designed two basic flip-flop styles, the classic flat and a wedged heel, and then ordered 100 pairs from an overseas manufacturer. Once she received an order, Hill stitched embellishments on the shoes’ straps. She has filled orders for shoes to be worn by brides-to-be, prom queens and even a gymnastics team.
Doo Dops are a comfortable—yet formal—alternative to the classic pump, and are popular with many brides, especially those having a destination wedding, says Debbie Welcher, the owner of Chatfields Bridal Boutique in St. Louis.
Unlike most flip-flops, Welcher says, Doo Dops have well-crafted straps and a decent tread, which prevents the bride from slipping.
“I get a lot of positive responses,” Welcher says. “They are just so cute and unique. Plus they are handmade.”
Welcher’s boutique specializes in modest and other “unexpected” wedding gowns, and she stocks her shelves with accessories made by stay-at-home moms, such as Hill.
Her shoes are displayed in several bridal boutiques and advertised on Bride.com. The shoes can be ordered from Hill’s Web site
, along with tee-shirts embellished with crystals and an assortment of wedding favors.
This fall, Hill has unveiled her newest product – FlopTopz. Hill invented these flip-flop inserts when she was visiting a friend. She wanted to wear a pair of well-loved flip-flops, but she did not want her friend to see the stains on her shoe’s sole. She found some fabric and pasted in her shoe with double-sided sticky tape to disguise the marks. After some marketing research, Hill discovered that while inserts are sold for regular shoes none existed for flip-flops.
Hill relied on her engineering degree to design the footwear and apply for a patent, which was granted this summer, and she hopes to sell FlopTopz to surf shops and nail salons this fall.
If this new product is as successful as she suspects it will be, Hill will be able to hire a few assistant sewers or other help and sell Doo Dops to national wedding stores.
Story by Becky Straw
Posted on Monday, November 30, 2009