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An Orange County entrepreneur creates kids shoes with interchangeable soles. Simple yet brilliant.

An Orange County entrepreneur creates kids shoes with interchangeable soles. Simple yet brilliant.


omewhere in Orange County, members of the Newport Beach branch of Girls, Inc., a nonprofit youth organization dedicated to girl power, are called to a meeting with Orange County entrepreneur Jerry Stefani. On the agenda: colors and patterns for Stefani's first line of shoes. Never mind that the board members are between the ages of six and 12 -- these girls have a business savvy that Stefani is not privy to; namely, the world of kids.

This kind of insider information is a gold mine for Stefani, who is releasing his first line of Zipz, zipper-fastened shoes, that come in two parts: the "core," or the top part of the shoe, and the sole. The core is where the creativity comes in, and where Girls, Inc., can answer such vital questions as: Are princesses a hot topic among the pre-teen set?

The sole is, well, made of rubber, but the catch is that it can be replaced when it gets worn down, keeping the core intact until its time for substitution comes. It's an ingenious, why-didn't-I-think-of-that invention of the sort that only a career entrepreneur could see the sheer, beautiful simplicity. "I just woke up in the middle of the night and thought it would be a great idea," says Stefani.

The idea, however, was the first and only easy part about Zipz. To connect the interchangeable cores and soles, Stefani went through a multitude of fasteners -- buttons, snaps, etc. -- and finally settled on zippers from YKK, best known for their sturdy clothing and luggage closures. An art director was hired to oversee the design process, which, due to the laborious process of attaching the zipper to the shoe, was no easy feat. But with all the kinks worked out, Zipz is taking off, especially in Europe. "They just love the product," says Stefani. "They think it's great."

Closer to home, Disney has approached Zipz to design customized shoe covers for specific programs; and Beach Feet, makers of sheepskin boots, have partnered with Zipz to create interchangeable boot heights.

From Zipz's own line, camouflage patterned high tops, heart decorated flats and vivid turquoise slip-ons stand out, but stay tuned for the work of Girls, Inc. They've got some ideas of their own for Stefani.

For more information, call (866) 947-9123 or visit www.zipzshoes.com. Zipz are available at Bellini Maternity & Kids at Irvine Spectrum, (949) 753-0588; or buy online at www.shoebuy.com.

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