In 2008, former bank employee Denise Dunn dreamt of having a six-monthly job while raising her two young children, never imagining she’d become an innovative entrepreneur, especially one that would change the mighty Aussie thong. On reflection, maybe it was destiny, as our comical wedding invitation created by a friend showed the bride and groom wearing thongs.
“During pregnancy, I craved comfortable and open footwear, and as much as I loved wearing thongs, they provided no foot support,” Denise said. “That’s when I had my light-bulb moment, and Slappa’s Thongs were born.”
Slappa’s Thongs are made in a closed-cell injection mould. This means they are all one piece and each thong moulds uniquely to the wearer’s foot shape for a tailored fit. Made from EVA foam, combined with built-in arch support they provide superior comfort.
They’re ideal for people with knee, back and foot problems such as plantar fasciitis and heel spurs, and are now sold by podiatrists, physiotherapists and chiropractors around Australia.
Denise’s designer thongs are also sold by 150 stockists nationwide she has a massive online trade and has exported to retail stores and markets in New Zealand, with deals just reached in the United States. Produced in an array of bright colours, Slappa’s are comfortable, practical and lightweight. “I’ve been selling Slappa’s at Mindil Beach Markets since 2010, our business has grown through word-of-mouth there, the market visitors are our best advertisers. Mindil is a great place to promote our thongs and catch up with new and existing customers who come to the markets every year especially to purchase Slappa’s. Children from six-years-old to grey nomads are wearing them. However, getting to where we are today hasn’t been easy.”
Denise initially spent millions of hours on the internet in search of suitable manufactures. In nine years, she’s had five different manufacturers. “While I’d find what I thought were ideal manufacturers at trade fairs they didn’t produce what they’d originally promised in the samples,” she explained.
“A friend who now lives in China said I needed to oversee each production physically. So, for the last seven years, I’ve traveled to China twice a year to oversee production and quality control. I have a good understanding with my latest manufacturer and I now only travel once a year. But it’s been a huge learning curve, even though I have years of financial acumen and extensive market research, import, export and cross-cultural communication experience.”
In 2016 Denise was an NT Telstra Women’s Business Awards finalist for the Entrepreneur Award. “Even though we operate from our Darwin home, the business is more than full-time. The self-contained flat under our house is now the office and where we pack the order. We no longer can fit all our stock at home and now lease a storeroom. My husband and a full-time staffer are also crucial to our operation.”
Under the NT Government’s Business Growth Program Denise received grants for website production, social media, marketing advice and guidance on employment from Darwin-based business consultant Megan Lawton of Vivid Advice, “The NT Government assistance has made it easier with employing staff and freeing me to pursue growing the business.”
Originally from South Australia, Denise’s banking job took her to Darwin, Alice Springs, Melbourne, and back to Darwin. “My husband and I travelled all around Australia, but this will always be home now. It’s a great place to raise a family. I also can’t imagine creating Slappa’s anywhere else but here. Family members came up with the name, and it suits our Territory lifestyle. While our business could run cheaper interstate, we love the lifestyle here, and work/life balance is ideal.”