Scrappy Maine Startup Scores Another Big Win With L.L. Bean by Forbes – Entrepreneurs

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Last October I posted a story about the Maine startup, Flowfold, a partnership of three Maine natives — James Morin, Dave McNeil and Charlie Friedman – who harpooned the white whale, landing a deal with L.L. Bean.

After years of assiduous courting by the partners, Bean agreed to sell their wallets and other outdoor gear made from recycled sail cloth.

The new Flowfold/L.L Bean Boot collaboration, a milestone for Flowfold especially.

Courtesy Flowfold

As Morin said in October, “Why would they trust three 26-year-old kids to understand what it takes to partner with a $1.6 billion company? They made us work for it.”

Well, now the boys at Flowfold have landed an even bigger deal with L.L. Bean: a makeover of the company’s iconic Bean Boot featuring, you guessed it, sail cloth instead of leather in a collaboration that Outside magazine called “perfect.”

The boot launched on February 19, taking Bean’s loyal customer base by storm, according to Morin.

“What I can tell you anecdotally is I’ve gotten several messages from friends and family saying they have literally had to rip shoes off the manikin at the flagship store because they don’t have sizes.”

L.L. Bean’s flagship store in Freeport, Maine, is famously open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Morin said some sizes of the collaboration boot are sold out online as well.

“For all intents and purposes, sales have exceeded expectations,” he said. “They were planning on 3,600 boots for this batch. They’re likely not going to get past spring at this rate.”

The new look, lighter Bean boot has been well-received by customers.

Courtesy Flowfold

The Bean/Flowfold boot began when Morin and his partners, who were already collaborating with Bean on the wallets, a backpack and other gear, found out the company was interested in launching a lightweight boot for spring.

“We joked about us having a better chance of designing a boot that went to Mars than Bean,” Morin said.

Nevertheless the partners pitched the idea to Bean of using sail cloth to lighten up the boot. They developed a new double-sided version of their sail cloth that would have the thickness required for a boot.

Working with Bean’s bootmakers, some of whom have been at it for more than 40 years, Morin and his team solved the challenges presented by sail cloth, as opposed to leather or canvas, in the production process.

In the end, the collaboration resulted in a product both companies were happy to put their logos on. The Bean/Flowfold boot also weighs about a pound less than the leather version, while remaining waterproof, keeping wearers dry in wet spring conditions.

But the difference, and the real selling point, says Morin, is how cool it looks with colors never before seen on the Bean boot and a striking white sole.

The distinctive new boot from L.L. Bean and Flowfold is getting noticed.

Courtesy Flowfold

“You can spot the boot from 150 feet away in Portland [Maine],” Morin said. “You’re seeing individuals at L.L. Bean who’ve been there for years sharing pictures of the new boots because they’re excited about it. It doesn’t look like anything they’ve ever had on the shelves. It created a stir.”

Meanwhile Flowfold has purchased a new $70,000 computerized cutting machine for materials as part of an initiative Morin likes to call his “innovation lab.”

“We’re going all in on figuring out how we can launch products faster, sketch to website very quickly,” Morin said. “That is the single greatest advantage of being made in the U.S.A. right now.”


April 26, 2019 at 11:49PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs