Daniel Jones was working as a physiotherapist when a lightbulb moment sparked an idea that turned into a thriving business – and could change the way Australians wear thongs forever.
The Melbourne entrepreneur had a stream of clients come through his practice wearing flat thongs, which he said were a terrible choice of footwear – especially for those who are injured.
‘I recommended my patients wear orthotic thongs or runners, but it was really difficult to get anyone to take on the advice as no one wants to wear them in summer – and those on the market were heavy and cumbersome,’ Daniel, 37, told Daily Mail Australia.
‘I felt quite hypocritical as I was making recommendations that I would not follow myself – so I thought it would be great to create a thong that looked normal and offered legitimate orthotic support.’
Since developing the product in 2012 and launching in 2015, Daniel’s brand Archies Footwear has produced tens of thousands of arch support thongs that have become the summer shoe of choice for Aussies and elite athletes.
Physiotherapist Daniel Jones (pictured) was working in Melbourne when he noticed a ‘gap in the market’ for comfortable thongs that actually supported the feet
After noticing a ‘gap in the market’ for comfortable thongs that looked like a classic Aussie pair of shoes, Daniel decided to work on a product idea that would lead to launching Archies Footwear
Archies are the choice of thong by many of Australia’s professional athletes and are particularly popular among AFL Footballers, including Richmond player Dustin Martin (pictured)
From humble beginnings: Daniel and his small team started by selling the thongs at markets in Victoria and Queensland
Daniel said a major issue with standard thongs is that they have loose straps, which cause the toes to claw downwards in an attempt to keep the shoes on the feet.
‘When this happens the arch of the foot does not activate correctly, meaning you do not get the full protective support from the arch like you’re supposed to – leaving the food sore and vulnerable to injury,’ he said.
Archies Thongs are designed with a tighter strap that allows you to walk naturally, he said, and mould to the shape of your feet to increase support and prevent the knees from tilting inwards.
Unlike a typical pair of thongs that offer no foot support, Archies Thongs are designed to help improve overall body posture and alignment with a soft, lightweight foam padding material
Archies Footwear Thongs are designed with a tighter strap that allows you to walk naturally
Daniel first began designing the product out of clay in his grandparent’s shed.
After realising he wasn’t going to get the perfect design he wanted from clay, he started researching how thongs were traditionally made.
‘By chance, just as I started to research this, I treated an industrial designer at work who confirmed that an industrial designer was what I needed,’ Daniel said.
‘One of my best mates had a friend and was an industrial designer who worked in the automotive industry.’
Milly, who did the Computer Aided Design (CAD) work, assisted Daniel for six months to help create product prototypes.
The brand started from humble beginnings as Daniel first began designing the product out of clay in his grandparent’s shed
During the manufacturing process, Daniel was faced with several issues as the initial product designed would shrink several sizes if you left them in the sun, the straps would break easily and the material ‘felt like cardboard’.
‘In the early days, I was still working as a physio and travelling over to China where I could to try and make improvements to the product,’ Daniel said.
‘This was a really frustrating period because I was completely overworking myself and I had the makings of an incredible product I was super passionate about, but I just could not get it right for market.’
After flying back and forth between Australia and China, the product issues persisted so he moved the manufacturing to Thailand.
‘One of the most stressful things we did in Thailand the mold making. While the machines could make 90 per cent of the molds, the last 10 per cent of the molds (the parts that determined the strength) all had to be done by hand,’ Daniel said.
‘If this was not done correctly the thongs would break or be really uncomfortable.
‘There were far too many issues in the thongs to sell them to retailers. We somewhat fixed the breaking issue, but the thongs still shrunk.’
While managing to order a minimum of 3,000 pairs, Archies Footwear officially launched as a business in 2015
The shoes mold to the shape of your feet to increase support and prevent the knees from tilting inwards
After flying back and forth between Australia and China, the product issues persisted so he decided to move the manufacturing to Thailand
While managing to order a minimum of 3,000 pairs, Archies Footwear officially launched as a business in 2015.
‘As the thongs were not fit for retailers, we decided to sell them at local farmers markets and use the money made from here to fix the product issues with the eventual goal of getting them into stores,’ he said.
‘The markets were perfect as we could get around many of the quality issues by just matching the thongs to the person’s feet.’
Despite the teething issues, customers were ‘obsessed’ with the product and Daniel sold enough to keep the business afloat.
‘I still had absolutely no money at this point. I’m normally not at all tight with money, but I was totally and utterly obsessed with ensuring that every cent went back into the business,’ he said.
‘The thongs were doing well at the markets, so I then quit my job in Melbourne as a physio and moved up to my hometown of Echuca, Victoria to live with my Dad where we did all the markets in the surrounding areas.’
If it weren’t for the markets, the brand never would have got off the ground.
Despite all these issues, customers were ‘obsessed’ with the product and Daniel sold enough to keep the business afloat
Daniel would drive from Noosa to Townsville in Queensland to sell the thongs to customers at markets. He did this for a whole year
During the cooler months, Daniel packed his car full of thongs and drove more than 1600km from Victoria to Noosa so he could continue selling them at markets.
‘I did the market on Wednesday in Noosa, and from there on it was just go, go, go – it was literally a fight for survival on a weekly basis,’ he said.
He was also fighting a legal battle with another business overseas over the brand name.
‘I was prepared to do whatever it took to keep the brand going and while the business was surviving on a week-to-week basis, it never even crossed my mind to give up,’ Daniel said.
He made sure he sold thongs at nearly every market in Queensland and would make regular trips between Noosa and up to Townsville – often not getting home until 3am then had to wake up at 6am.
For 12 months he continued selling at markets all while contacting retailers in hope they would sell the thongs in stores.
‘I was prepared to do whatever it took to keep the brand going and while the business was surviving on a week-to-week basis, it never even crossed my mind to give up,’ Daniel said
Daniel continued to grow the brand for five years while living at home in Melbourne where he focused all his time on Archies Footwear
Daniel continued to grow the brand for five years while living at home where he focused all his time on Archies Footwear.
But of those five years, half the time was spent in China and Thailand improving the manufacturing.
He has now returned home to Melbourne this year at age 36.
Today Archies Thongs are claimed to be ‘most sought after orthotic thong in Australia’ and are stocked in over 2,000 stockist – including podiatrist, physiotherapist, chiropractor and osteopath practices as well speciality running shoe stores, such as the Athlete’s Foot.
Dustin Martin (pictured), who plays for the Richmond Football Club, has also become an ambassador for the brand
In addition to the success in Australia, the brand has attracted customers from the USA, UK, Canada, Europe, NZ and the UAE
Archies are the choice of thong by many of Australia’s professional athletes and are particularly popular among AFL Footballers.
‘We have some of the game’s biggest name players wearing them from Dustin Martin, Ollie Wines, Scott Pendlebury and Patrick Cripps to name a few,’ Dan said.
‘I remember at the Echuca hotel one night and I was talking to Ollie Wines and he said: ‘I’m glad you got Archies into the club, as I’m sick of all the boys stealing my pairs!’
Dustin Martin, who plays for the Richmond Football Club, has also become an ambassador for the brand.
In addition to the success in Australia, the brand has attracted customers from the USA, UK, Canada, Europe, NZ and the UAE.