Reaching $2,000/mo With a Comfortable, Environmentally-Friendly Hat

The Story of Snappies

Hello! Who are you and what are you working on?

Hey! My name is Burly Vinson and I’m the founder of Snappies, a hat brand that creates a unique kind of snapback hat. I got tired of the cheap plastic straps found on traditional snapbacks, so I created a hat that uses leather and brass instead of the usual plastic straps.

I also create Snappies hats out of hemp, so they’re more lightweight and durable than regular cotton caps. The vision is to create a hat that’s all around more comfortable than what’s being offered by most brands.

A large part of the Snappies brand is geared towards living different and exploring the outdoors. We’ve partnered with nonprofits so proceeds from each hat go towards planting trees and fighting deforestation. In our first year, we’ve been able to help plant thousands of trees. It’s exciting to have customers love your product, but it’s great knowing that each new customer is helping Snappies make an environmental difference.

Brochaco-At-The-Lake

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

My personal background is in marketing. My experiences working in a marketing department taught me a lot of helpful skills that I was able to transition over to my side business. Because my day job was building websites, creating graphics and working on PPC campaigns, I think it was a natural progression that I’d use these skills to start my own side venture. It started with me playing with hat designs and working on patches I thought would look cool on a snapback.

As for the focus on hats, I enjoy wearing them - so coming out with my own hat brand doesn’t seem too surprising. I’ve never enjoyed how the plastic straps in the back of hats can dig into your head; it seemed like a cheap solution that most brands use.

Just start. Take the leap. One of the biggest mistakes is analysis paralysis.

So, I decided to see if I could create something better. I knew I wanted to create something unique but still have that familiar “snap”. Once I toyed with the design and came up with something I was happy with, I rolled with it. I didn’t really do any market validation. Honestly, I was just trying to create something I’d like to wear.

I landed on hemp for the hat material because I knew it would be more lightweight and breathable than cotton. From my experiences hiking and backpacking, I figured the more lightweight I could make the hats, the better.

Describe the process of creating the initial product, and how you launched it.

Creating the initial prototype took a bunch of tinkering. I liked the idea of snapback hats, but I thought I could create something more comfortable than what was out there.

My first prototype was just a standard hat that I attached a piece of leather to and punched some snaps along the side. As simple as that sounds, it was harder than I initially thought. I had never worked with fabrics or leather - I didn’t even know what kind of materials to even start experimenting with.

In the end, I went to a local leather shop to find the right materials and ask around for tips. It was my first attempt at designing a physical product, but it proved the design could work. During prototyping, I was able to narrow in on what worked and what didn’t. How thick should the leather be? How many snaps are adequate for sizing? What hat sizes would fit the majority of my future customers? These were all questions I had to keep in mind while also creating something people would see and want to wear.

whole-new-kind-of-snapback

Once I was done successfully creating a rough prototype, I had to find a manufacturer. Because my hats are more custom than your typical hat, I initially had trouble finding a manufacturer. Domestic manufacturers were cost prohibitive and samples I received from overseas were lacking in quality. After speaking with and receiving samples from multiple manufacturers, I found one that met my quality standards.

A mistake I made early on was not being super granular with the design specifications. Assuming a manufacturer would use the correct materials or size it correctly cost me unnecessary sample expenses. Some samples would come back with less-than-desirable leather or cheap metals passed off as Brass. I was only able to get a suitable sample after speaking with a manufacturer at length and using previous samples for reference.

Once I had the sample squared away and my first order on hand, I threw together a website. This is where my previous experience in marketing helped me out. I have experience with building websites, creating logos, and shooting products, so getting everything ready for my online shop wasn’t too difficult. From there, Snappies was live.

How did you get your first customers, and what have you done to grow the business to where it is today?

My first customers came from Instagram. I didn’t really do anything crazy or out of the box here. I’d share photos of my products, interact with early fans of my page, and try to like or comment on people who I thought were interesting.

Slowly but surely, fans - and customers - began to grow. Instagram is a great platform to get exposure, but these days it’s really hard to stand out. Eventually, it’ll end up like Facebook, where organic reach is virtually killed.

I would have started sooner. They say the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and the second best time is today. I believe the same goes for creating a business.

My main source of traffic and customers comes from Facebook ads. For visual products, I think it’s the cheapest and most effective way to get your brand out there. It takes a lot of tweaking, but once you have something that works, it’s worth it. The key is following the numbers. The devil is in the details. Conversion rates, impressions, relevancy scores, etc are all things you must track constantly. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Facebook ads, it’s that just because an ad worked in the past doesn’t mean it’ll work indefinitely.

My other piece of advice with Facebook ads is to create warm audiences instead of cold ones. Instead of targeting people based on interests, create lookalike audiences based off of previous customers. Set up retargeting campaigns for website visitors. If you take this approach, you’ll have higher conversions at a cheaper cost.

There’s already a lot of really useful and free guides online for how to tackle creating ads. I would avoid paying for any class or “guru”. Just throw something out there and see what sticks.

If you could go back, would you do anything differently?

I would have started sooner. They say the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and the second best time is today. I believe the same goes for creating a business.

Other than that, I should have bought more initial inventory. I have a problem of being conservative on my orders and then running out of product way too soon. It’s a real momentum killer.

Where you are at now and what are your plans for the future?

This year, I’m looking to get into more physical stores. I’ve had a lot of success online, but a brick and mortar presence will really help with exposure. I have new products coming out in the coming months and I want to continue expanding the brand and reaching new audiences with a larger selection of kickass hats.

What tools do you use for your business?

For my online shop, I use Shopify. It’s a great turnkey solution and you can create professional looking stores with minimal effort.

MailChimp is my go-to for a CRM because you get a slew of features for free if you have less than 2000 signups.

If you’re just starting out don’t forget to have Google Analytics up and running. Check it frequently to get an overall look at how you’re doing online (where your visitors are coming, average session duration, etc).

I use Instagram to engage with my audience and tell our story. Facebook is primarily used as an advertising platform.

What’s the most influential books, podcasts, or websites for your business and why?

Reddit was actually very helpful starting out. There’s a lot of great subreddits (r/entrepeneur, r/ecommerce, r/smallbusiness) where you can ask questions and learn from others already doing. At the end of the day though, you can only read so much. Things will only start to happen once you take action.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Just start. Take the leap. One of the biggest mistakes is analysis paralysis. The biggest lessons you’ll learn will be from doing, not reading. Even if you initially fail, you’ll learn a lot and can use those lessons on your next venture.

Where can we go to learn more?

Check us out on our website snappiesco.com, and find us on social at:

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