How my kids and I reimagined the hat

A trucker hat has always been a staple in my wardrobe, but I rarely find a hat I like. I wanted to see if I could make my own hat based on my specific requirements. When I was indecisive about a patch for the front of the hat, my kids suggested that if the patch were interchangeable, then I wouldn’t have to decide. As a product guy, I thought that was interesting, so I did some research on how to make an interchangeable hat.

My first thought was to look at Velcro. The problem with velcro like the kind you might buy in a hardware store is that one side is fuzzy and as you continue to use it, the material gets fuzzier and degrades.

This is typical “Hook and Loop” velcro you might find in a hardware store.

As I researched and tested different fabrics I learned that most velcro-receptive fabrics quickly lose their form, a process known as pilling. Ultimately I found an anti-pilling fabric that was high quality, super comfortable like cotton, durable and velcro-receptive. My kids wanted emoji patches so we had samples made.

The Prototype

Hatjoy was born in May of 2016. The name Hatjoy combines the word “hat” with the “Tears of Joy” emoji, a patch we manufactured in the first run.

The first batch of patches

We shortlisted and launched with 15 emoji patches and 3 different hat colors. I felt the emoji patches would really help promote self-expression so we designed the design with a white front panel that acted as a blank canvas.

The first batch of hats are ready!

Who Cares?

With one hat style and 15 of the most popular emojis, we devised a simple, two-pronged strategy to see if anyone cared. My kids posted selfies on Instagram to get reactions from others in their age demographic.

I was already active on Product Hunt and could reach a social media market. Emoji products had already performed well on Product Hunt and as the summer was quickly approaching, the timing seemed right to launch a hat product. We launched on Product Hunt in the last week of May 2016 and it was featured in the Top 10.

The Product Hunt community really liked the product

Market Focus

From our initial launch, we were able to determine where to focus. My kids saw adoption from a younger demographic, while I saw adoption from an older millennial demographic.

From The Hat To Instagram

One of the things we did for the hat was stitch in our Instagram username right into the hat itself. As more people began wearing the hat and other people asked where they got the hat, they could point them to the inside label.

@hatjoy on Instagram

Pop Up Stands

The lemonade stand is a classic example of a kid’s first venture. The concept was already familiar to my kids so there was little education required. They set up pop-up hat stands by giving friends free hats and patches in exchange for letting them sell on driveways in high-traffic locations. As their school season ended, summer camp was just around the corner, and these pop-up stands were well timed and effective.

Wholesale vs. Direct To Consumer

I had zero knowledge of the wholesale consumer goods market so wholesale wasn’t part of the plan, but it seemed to find Hatjoy through my kids. You see, all of the local kids clothing boutiques were following my kids and their friends on Instagram to see what was trending. As my kids promoted Hatjoy on Instagram with their friends, local stores contacted us and wanted to carry the product. I realized that at the stage we were at if we could take pre-orders for a large quantity of hats, the economics could be more predictable. We ended up signing up 10 local retailers and used these pre-orders to negotiate incredible production rates. I also snagged the domain Emojihats.com on GoDaddy for $5. Considering we’re in the business of making emoji hats (see what I did there?) I think it was $5 well spent.

Lessons Learned So Far

When I was a kid I delivered newspapers (Remember newspaper delivery?). I learned a lot of things from that experience including time management, accountability, and the basics of service delivery. We’ve seen some early traction, but if we ultimately fail than that’s OK. This has been an opportunity to teach my kids some of the fundamentals of starting a venture with a product they like and helped create. I was able to capitalize on their interest in making something for an audience they were able to connect with. I hope when they get older, they can remember this time in their life as a learning experience the way a I remember my time as a newspaper delivery boy.

☞ I’m a Product Designer and currently wears many hats as Co-founder of AI Customer Service company, Janis.ai while making hats with my kids at Hatjoy.

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