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Trending in Texas: For Dallas brand Hari Mari, flip-flops aren't just for kicks

After entering the shoe industry with no experience in the field, Jeremy and Lila Stewart's footwear brand can now be found in 1,000 retailers across the country.

DALLAS — Texas is open for business! Whether a company is native to the Lone Star State or just got here as fast as it could, we want to know: What makes these businesses tick? Why are so many of them calling Texas home? And how do they plan to continue to expand in the years to come? This is Trending in Texas.

Many say that life is better in flip-flops. Hari Mari co-founders Jeremy and Lila Stewart undoubtedly agree.

To hear them tell it, the flip-flop business isn’t just for kicks. Rather, it's a large and growing industry.

"Most people don’t know that," Jeremy Stewart says. "It’s a $26 billion a year industry. About $16 billion of that is here in the U.S., and a large, large portion of that is in Texas and in the southeastern states."

Seeing an opportunity to carve out a niche in the flip-flop industry, the Stewarts co-founded Hari Mari in their hometown of Dallas, Texas.

Theirs is a footwear brand that focuses on color and comfort -- something the Stewarts had trouble locating themselves while shopping for flip-flops upon returning to Dallas after some time spent living in Jakarta, Indonesia.

"We moved back from living abroad, and we'd worn out those pairs [of flip-flops] we owned, and went shopping for new flip-flops and noticed that -- literally -- the same pairs that were hanging there [in stores] in 2007 were the exact same pairs hanging there in 2010," says Lila Stewart. "Jeremy was looking for something elevated [with] a pop of color -- [it] didn’t exist. I was looking for a leather sandal that didn't destroy your feet and [have] the break in period process -- that also didn't exist."

They also noticed that the companies producing those flip-flops weren’t Texas-based brands.

"Every brand on that wall was a surf brand," Lila says. "That didn’t resonate with us. We’re not surfers."

In that moment, the Stewarts saw an opportunity -- despite having no prior training in the footwear industry.

"We just kind of jumped both feet in to figuring out how to do it," Jeremy says. "It was a challenge. It was educational, but ultimately, we wanted something to do together."

A decade into their operations, Hari Mari recently added it's 1,000th retailer. It credits the competition within the industry for allowing them to grow.

"We were swimming hard against the current when it started, but now I think the other brands in existence in the marketplace actually allowed our brand to grow," Jeremy says. "We have a lot of brands that are below us in price point, and we have a few that are above. I think, specifically, for those few that are above, they really allowed Hari Mari to draft in behind them."

Hari Mari started with a multi-use space for its warehouse, company offices and storefront. Over time, though, they had so many people visiting their centralized location that they chose to expand and open their first retail store within the city they call home.

"We had so many customers from the Dallas area come out and shop with us," says Hannah Sumers, Hari Mari’s Director of Operations. "That's why we built our retail location here on Knox Street to give our customers that easy access to shop in-store for our products."

Adds Sumer: "We're definitely bursting at the seams, for sure. Now we’re in the stages of relocating our warehouse right now."

As Hari Mari has grown, its product offerings have expanded to include different lines of boots, shoes, slippers, hats, sweatshirts and more.

With a wide array of products to ship throughout the country, Hari Mari sees many benefits to being based in North Texas.

"Dallas is a great city for business, a great city for small businesses," Jeremy says. "We’re centralized in the United States. We can ship to both coasts. It's just a really business friendly city and state to work from. We're super proud to be based here. We're super proud to have founded the company here. And we hope that, in some small way, Hari Mari can play a part in the larger story of increasing Dallas' viability as an entrepreneurial hub."

Whether a company started in DFW or relocated here at some point along their journey, if you know of a business headquartered in the North Texas region that you believe is Trending in Texas, we'd love to hear from you! Please e-mail us at trending@wfaa.com for coverage consideration.

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