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Our Year in Review: 2023

As we get started to dive into 2024 I took a moment to look back at where this journey began nearly a year ago and how far it has come.

In January, on my 30th Birthday I decided to "do something crazy" and open a hat design company.

I asked neighbors for discarded hats I could practice on, I bought several off of facebook marketplace and started playing around with different designs thinking I would just be someone that embellished already made hats.

I ran several ideas past a mentor with SCORE and she helped immensely.

I soon realized I didn't have to capital or the space to hold inventory for a hat bar.

I decided that if I was going to be in the hat and design industry I needed to know every single component that went into making a hat. How could I be an expert if I didn't know the blood, sweat, and tears that go into producing a hat?

In February I registered to become an LLC and the real journey began!

I took an online business course that March, gained my EIN, and opened a business banking account, all while working full time in education and volunteering my time at several rodeos across the state to provide sports medicine coverage.

In May my husband and I drove from Houston to Albuquerque, New Mexico so I could take a two day workshop with a self made hat maker, Jessie. It was intense, we completed three hats in two days and I learned everything from blocking and shaping to how to make a high end interior sweatband and how to stitch it in place by hand. I also shaped my first heart shaped crown, something that took a ton of patience and help but turned out beautifully. Now it's my most requested shape in custom orders!

In June I returned home and purchased my very first batch of raw rabbit felt "capelines" and started practicing making hats completely by hand. Then the start up costs started creeping in, needing new hat blocks for different customers, the tools to work leather, a sewing machine, pyrography equipment, a real computer, and the list kept growing.

By the end of the month I attended my first event as LWx Custom Hats!

I traveled by myself to the Austin area and set up a table at a gorgeous location in the Hill Country. My goal for the night was to just make a sale, whether a hat, or some of the small items on my table.

To my surprise I had three custom orders by the end of the night and multiple sales.

I was so elated, I really didn't think I could do it! It made me feel like taking it slow and setting myself up for success in the long run by having all my "ducks in a row" was going to be the best plan. I filled my calendar with other events nearly every other weekend and fulfilled my first custom order to a client by the beginning of August.

By October I had received my first 5 star review on google, a dream come true for LWx!

I've had a few set backs along the way, clients changing their minds after a design is finished, struggling to block felts for larger head sizes (literally needing my husband's muscle), and even ruining a few felts along the way. I've had to be owner, social media manager, marketing, sales division, set up and tear down, accountant, web designer, and hatter all while continuing to be an excellent employee at work and a wife to my amazing husband who supported every step I took.

To sum up 2023 I've learned valuable lessons and I am still learning every time I pick up one of my tools to start a design. I am not profitable or breaking even, costs to produce my products are still high, and I battle the silent recession just like the rest of the retail industry. I am determined though, I know that one day this dream will turn into a hit business and take off!

In 2024 I am looking forward to another course in hat design this March, partnering with more supply companies, doing collaborations with other brands and hopefully breaking even, ha-ha! 😃 I want to thank everyone that believed in my business and supported it this year, y'all are the best!

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