SBA Case Study: Happy Feet Plus

SBA Case Study: Happy Feet Plus


Company Name: Happy Feet Plus

Introduction: Happy Feet Plus, is a local Tampa Bay business and their efforts to manage the organization to the triple bottom line.  Triple bottom line management includes people, profit and planet – all three factors are equally important to running an organization towards a long-term sustainable goal that adds value to its community, environment, customers and employees.

Happy Feet Plus began as a single shoe retailer store in 1985 in Clearwater, Florida, founded by Jacob Wurtz originally from Ottawa Canada.  Wurtz had been a natural health advocate since 1975 and had a passion for nature, a commitment to the environment, and the desire to help people through taking care of their feet as an integral way of taking care of their bodies.  Also a founder, Jane Strong had strong entrepreneurial skills and joined up with Wurtz on his mission.  Due to their passion and dedication, Happy Feet Plus has grown over the years with nine store locations within the Tampa Bay area and Ft. Myers, Florida and an online store.  Jane is a member with the American Business Woman’s Association and in 2007 was named the Business Woman of the Year by the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce.  Jane was also recognized as 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.  The stores and online site are committed to offering quality shoes, sandals, boots, clogs and accessories that provide excellent support to the feet and body, as well as featuring shoes that have a reputation for environmental awareness.

Sustainable Practices and Initiatives (Planet)
When it comes to the planet/environment triple bottom line management aspect, Happy Feet Plus shines even more for their efforts and accomplishments to date.  All nine store locations have onsite recycling programs, recycling paper, plastics, glass, metals, electronics, inks/toners, and styrofoams.  All employees are thoroughly trained about the recycling programs and have to participate in them.  The stores utilize large windows and glass blocks for natural sunlight, to reduce electric powered light consumption.  The electric lighting that is minimally used is from full-spectrum/energy-saving florescent lighting.  All locations have automated temperature controls to minimize HVAC usage, as well as energy star appliances and automated lights that turn off when the store is closed. 

While all of the stores are managed as environmentally efficient as possible, it’s the Largo/Clearwater store and corporate headquarters location that is most impressive.  The Gold LEED Certified building has fans and lights powered by solar panels, a system of gutters on the roof that collect 2,000 gallons of rainwater that is retained in an underground cistern for landscape irrigation, double-paned energy-saving windows, and a high-efficiency heating/cooling system.  Over the past few years the electricity bill for the 3,000 square foot building has average $300 per month, which is about a $1.00 per square foot.  This is 50% less than any of their other store locations.  Additionally, the building was constructed with insulated concrete forms that are an energy-efficiency rating of R-54, compared with typical ratings of R-19 to R-25 for typical single-family houses. The building initially cost 10% more to construct with these environmentally green perks but Happy Feet Plus has recouped their investment quickly with the energy cost savings.  Non-volatile organic compound (VOC) flooring was installed in this store, as well as low-VOC interior paint.  As Happy Feet Plus has updated and opened more stores, these locations have also utilized the non-volatile organic compound flooring and low-VOC interior paint.

Economic Impact (Profit)

Happy Feet Plus has been a profitable organization over the years.  The website accounts for about 20-25% of total sales according to an article in the Tampa Bay Business Journal – this percentage has or will likely continue to grow as internet shopping becomes more popular.  It’s also estimated through Reference USA that each store location does between $500,000 and $2,500,000 in sales per year.   As the company has grown, more stores were opened especially in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.  With the economic recession Happy Feet Plus has not expanded its store locations in order to keep operational costs under control, stay profitable through the slower economy and avoid employee layoffs.  Prior to the economic recession, Happy Feet Plus’s growth is impressive with the quick expansion of stores and hiring of employees. 

Happy Feet Plus dedicated much of its profits towards becoming a more environmentally conscious organization and reducing their footprint – no pun intended.  In 1997 Happy Feet Plus was in need of a larger corporate office.  They came upon a “government rehabilitation zone,” in Largo, Florida where there was a fifty year old cement building that was pretty bare at the point and in need of help.  Wartz and Strong recognized that the building had potential to become and energy-efficient space that could save them operational costs in the long-run if they were willing to invest money into making it green.  By 2002 Happy Feet Plus rebuilt the pace into the first Gold LEED Certified building before LEED was even well known or poplar. 

The organization is dedicated to using local suppliers where they can.  Many of the shoes are imported from Europe so it’s difficult to use local suppliers for the footwear, but in other aspects of the business they lean on local suppliers for business to support the community and reduce emissions in shipping of products.  They try to keep their supply chain as efficient as possible to reduce their footprint as well as monitor their suppliers to ensure they are doing business with other companies that have similar commitments to sustainability.  They also care very much about customer satisfaction, conducting regular customer satisfaction surveys within their stores and online site.  The feedback is valuable to their business and improving practices to better meet customer needs.

Community Commitment (People)

Within the community Happy Feet Plus is highly involved.  They are a sponsor of WEDU Public TV, educating and bring awareness to the community about healthy lifestyles and the importance of foot care.  Their support to the local station is an investment that helps the community.  Additionally, Happy Feet Plus holds shoe recycle programs periodically and donates shoes to local charities.  The founders are also highly involved with other green efforts, universities and organizations within the local community, donating their time towards environmentally sustainable business efforts.  They also hire within the local communities where the stores and corporate headquarters are located. 

Happy Feet Plus employees receive thorough training from their initial hiring and on through their career with the organization.  Employees receive opportunities for advancement within the company and are well compensated when comparing to the retail industry.  Employee satisfaction is very high and can be seen in their very minimal employee turnover.  Many employees have been with the company for over fifteen years now and when employees have had to leave for personal reasons and such, many return. 

Happy Feet Plus has an ESOP (an ESOP occurs when a business is owned in whole or in part by its employees) program that all employees participate in.  The ESOP program gives employees greater motivation and tends to increase employee dedication since they are working together towards a common goal of having a successful organization.  Employees are also offered 401K and healthcare coverage.  The company is dedicated to providing employees with a work-life-balance, recognizing the importance that business and family are both important to an employee’s life. 

Workplace equality is another area that Happy Feet Plus excels at.  Co-founder Jane Strong has been recognized for her entrepreneurial efforts and being a successful female business leader.  Thus, as a minority business owner she stresses equality in the workplace and women’s advancement inside and outside of the organization.  They are an equal opportunity employer and have continued since 1985 to commit to diversity within the company.  Additionally, Happy Feet Plus is a strong believe in corporate responsibility reflecting this both in their mission, strategies, and daily operations.

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