When you pull out your wallet, do you think, “This wallet is really innovative”? If the answer is “no,” then you don’t own a Flowfold.
Charley Friedman started getting innovative with wallets back in high school when he spent his summers working as a sail maker. When his old leather wallet fell apart, Charley made a replacement wallet with scraps of sail cloth and realized that this new wallet was better than any leather wallet.
That was the beginning of what would become a business that now sells more than 20,000 wallets annually and continues to add new products to its line, including tote bags and travel portfolios.
Friedman officially launched his business in May of 2010 with his friend Devin McNeill after graduating from the University of Maine.
“I was making the wallets for gifts and people kept asking for them. So we started the business,” Friedman said.
“People like our wallets because of their thin and slim nature. They also like that they are vegan, waterproof and made in the U.S.A.,” said Friedman.
DiamondFiber, a composite made with carbon fiber, or Kevlar, is the main material used in Flowfold products.
Flowfold has averaged 100 percent growth annually, making it impossible for Friedman to continue to make the products himself.
Today, Friedman and his team of four focus on product design, development, marketing and order fulfillment in their company headquarters on Peaks Island. They have partnered with a manufacturer in Lewiston, where workers stitch their products.
“We are proud of the fact that we are now supporting other Maine businesses and a local workforce with our products.”
One of the reasons for Flowfold’s rapid growth has been its use of social media.
“I grew up during the rise of social media so it comes naturally to me. The power of word-of-mouth marketing is amplified through social media,” said Friedman.
He pointed to the brand’s core following on Instagram using the hashtag: #flowfold and favorable Amazon reviews.
Friedman soon will return to the place where it all began, the University of Maine, to share his experiences at the Black Bear Business Conference on Friday, April 24, in Orono.
The conference will showcase entrepreneurship in Maine and feature successful entrepreneurs sharing their stories and lessons learned to help inspire others.
“I’m excited to be heading back to where it all started. I was one of the people who used to go to those events to learn from other businesspeople. It’s nice to be able to give back and share what I’ve learned,” said Friedman.
Those lessons Friedman has learned?
Make good use of social marketing to expand beyond Maine and energize word of mouth about your product.
“If you can bring in money from out of state on a year-round basis and not rely on the seasonality of Maine, you will have a steadier revenue stream,” Friedman suggested.
“Keep your money and business in the state whenever possible,” he added.
Innovation is important to growing a business.
“We are always looking for ways to use the latest technology and materials while remaining true to producing a product that offers consistent high quality,” said Friedman,
Friedman said he is proud to be doing business in Maine, where there are challenges but also opportunities.
“We have a very tight-knit and supportive community in Maine and people are eager to help you become successful – so take advantage of those resources,” he said.
Finally, Friedman advised anyone with a business idea to “Just go for it and see what works. Start small and do more of what’s working, less of what isn’t.”
PHOTOS COURTESY OF FLOWFOLD