Having a good idea is one thing, although possessing the necessary qualities to turn that idea into a successful reality is a rare trait. But using his drive, his education, the Internet, and the principles instilled in him as a KA brother, Hayes Brumbeloe (Delta Alpha–Western Carolina ’04) has created a successful international business in just a few years.
Brumbeloe is the founder and CEO of the company behind Floafers, a patented water loafer for both men and women. In just three years of production, Brumbeloe has managed to place the shoe in major footwear and department stores nationally, as well as in dozens of other countries. It’s always been about doing right by your brother or sister, doing the right thing,” he says, “and KA taught me to see the best in people first, and to always extend my hand to help. graduated with a B.S.B.A. in entrepreneurship, and used the ambition that led him to choose a somewhat unusual major to begin with to create a growing brand of footwear.
“I grew up wearing driving loafers,” he said, “but also boat shoes – I grew up on boats and they were kind of a staple shoe. About five years ago my wife and I were heading to the Bahamas. I told her I loved the idea of the material of Crocs, but wanted a style that could be married with the classic driving loafer. So I started searching and I couldn’t find anything like that, and I thought that a fashionable shoe like that would make sense in my world – what if you had a shoe you could wear on the beach, that you could get wet but that wouldn’t be destroyed like leather or suede would? So I thought that if it made sense to me, it would make sense for a lot of people.”
“The idea just stuck with me. At the time I was working as a medical device rep. So I just kind of educated myself on the footwear industry, and decided to make the first prototype. It was not pretty, but it turned into what we have today. It’s buoyant, lightweight, doesn’t absorb water and they’re anti-microbial. I grew up on boats, and on my father’s boat and most of the time would have everyone go barefooted because some shoes leave scuff marks. So this was one of the big design aspects that I wanted to make sure the shoe had, which was scuff-proof with a slip-resistant bottom, perfect for boat decks and wet surfaces.”
Brumbeloe found his launch support in a place that’s not uncommon these days, on the Internet. “In 2017 we actually launched the company on Kickstarter, and we ended up in the top 10 shoe campaigns of all time,” he said. “It was the validation we needed, and we ended up selling Floafers into 46 countries through Kickstarter. We now continue to perfect our product and expand our selection, and we’re partnering up with large retailers like Macy’s, DSW and others as we continue to drive our direct consumer business that’s absolutely on fire right now.”
There are countless marketing opportunities online, and Brumbeloe took advantage of one of them when he sent a box of the shoes to sports and pop culture website Barstool Sports, where website founder Dave Portnoy reviews products that are sent to him by viewers. Portnoy opened the box on-camera and gave Floafers a thumbs-up. “He was doing an ‘unboxing live,’ where companies and individuals send him products to be reviewed,” Brumbeloe said. “We sent him a box of shoes, and it turned out to be a good thing for our shoes, as the livestream was probably seen by hundreds of thousands of people, which is always a good thing for a young brand.”
“It’s always been about doing right by your brother or sister, doing the right thing, and KA taught me to see the best in people first, and to always extend my hand to help.”
Born and raised in North Carolina and now based in Dallas, Brumbeloe says that his KA experience definitely played a role in helping him become a successful businessman. “It’s always been about doing right by your brother or sister, doing the right thing,” he says, “and KA taught me to see the best in people first, and to always extend my hand to help. I’m one of the first that will always extend my hand out to a younger brand or a younger company, especially those who are following in Kickstarter footsteps. Any type of help I can give others, whether that’s from being a KA or being a Christian, it’s part of my compass if you will. And with KA, we have very high standards of who we allow in, so you’re surrounded by people who have much higher aspirations than the average person. I think that naturally motivates anyone who’s part of KA to give their very best, no matter what it is you do. I’m an entrepreneur, and in KA I was surrounded by other entrepreneurs who were in different stages. When you’re around other sound-minded individuals, it will just drive you that much harder.”
“Being involved with such high-quality young men when I was in college definitely helped mold me into who I am today,” he said. “It made me feel like I had to strive for much greater things, and helped give me the confidence to do so.”
For more details, go to floafers.com.