Jen Houghton went shopping at the outlets in Kittery, Maine for a hat for her baby. The hats she found either didn’t offer enough shade or were not very cute. I can remember my sister remarking about people who didn’t put hats on their babies, no matter what the season was. Hats weren’t a fashion accessory; they were a necessity.”
Jen decided she’d had enough. “After literally four hours of shopping, amidst a couple of diaper changes and feedings, I headed to the fabric store. My mind went wild with all the different fabric choices. It was the sales clerk who suggested I line the hat with cotton flannel. I know I raised my brow to her- thinking it would be way too hot for a young baby. She laughed and said that it would stay cooler because of how well the fabric breathes.”
Jen was very comfortable sewing, so she bought $150 worth of fabric and started making hats that were both cute and practical. “When I had finished six hats, I was so proud of myself. I ended up making two for an upcoming birthday party. I brought the other four to my friend, who then ordered six more for upcoming baby showers! ‘Aaggh!’ Was this a business starting? The same friend told a local store owner about the hats and she ordered 18 for her toy store. At this point, my dining room had ceased serving meals and was now covered in even more fabrics, trimmings and hats, made up in various stages. My background is in business development and marketing. Knowing it didn’t make sense to have just one account I was sewing for, I got six more stores within that first month. The Little Hat Company was officially started in June of 2006 with the original 18 hats being put on consignment at G’Willikers Toy Store in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.”
Jen then turned to the both word of mouth and the web to get an audience for her hats. “Thelittlehatcompany.com launched in September of 2006. We quickly became an international brand. Within the first month of the launch of the website, we shipped hats and our new Lovey Blankets, to five continents. It was thrilling and exhilarating. To get the word out, I sat down at my computer and wrote a short email telling friends and acquaintances that I had done it again – started a new business. I asked for their help in spreading the word by forwarding our story to people in their address books. I sent that email to 50 of my closest friends and family. Since then, our email database has grown to nearly 1000 names worldwide. People from South Berwick have taken ownership of, and pride in, our business. They have helped to spread the word about the hats to people they know.”
Although Jen has been asked to make hats for adults, she understands that having a specific niche can pay big dividends in the end. ‘We are The Little Hat Company,’ I often reply. Right now it is important that we cement our production process, marketing strategies, and operation management for the products we currently have. As we become more profitable, and gain experience in manufacturing and retail marketing, I am confident we will expand our product lines. It is important to make sure we are prepared for the growth and not buried by debt or silly mistakes.”
With the help of Hannah Bulger of Good Girl Graphics and Meghan Littlefield of Melange Studio, Jen created a theme for her website that matched her market and business style. The theme proved so consistent with the business that The Little Hat Company won Volusion’s Ultimate Seller’s Contest for March. Congratulations, Jen!
[tags] the little hat company, craft ecommerce, craft online store, etsy online store, etsy ecommerce, childrens hats, baby hats, start online store, ecommerce software, shopping cart software, volusion [/tags]