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How to Start a Hat Business in 2024


The New Year marks the time for setting new resolutions. While some make it a goal to hit the gym more regularly, others decide to launch an online business.

Out of thousands of possible trending products to sell online, hats are one of the most untapped opportunities in the custom clothing and accessories market. So, if your 2024 resolution is to open up your online hat venture, this complete guide on how to start a hat business is for you.

How to start a hat business in 7 steps

Starting a successful hat business isn’t easy. It’s an ongoing process with many small yet crucial steps you should take to start seeing the first results. 

While it’s tempting to skip some stages and go straight to creating a hat design or building an online store, every successful business starts with choosing your audience, niche, product style, and production partner.

Knowing your target audience and product niche is the first step in building any business, including your online hat business. Without this knowledge, your efforts may go unnoticed, leading to a struggle to drive sales. 

Define your target audience

Being clear on who you want to reach allows you to customize your product according to the needs of those actively looking for it.   

To identify your target audience, start with demographics like age, gender, education, occupation, income level, geo-location, family size, and other measurable characteristics that matter. Then, assess your audience’s psychographics—activities, interests, opinions, values, and needs. 

Choose a niche

When you’ve collected all the possible information about your target audience, it’s time to narrow down and create a representative buyer persona. 

A buyer persona is a fictional profile of your ideal customer that represents a niche and combines the most important traits you’ve identified and discovered based on your market and audience research. 

A niche is different from a target audience. While your target audience is a broad group with shared pains and desires, a niche is a smaller, more specific subgroup within your target audience. This subgroup shares certain traits that increase the likelihood of buying your product.

Choosing your target audience is important so that you can pick a niche idea with the lowest competition and a demand gap to ensure higher profits and more customers.

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Probably the most thrilling part of the process is choosing your product. Avoid making this decision in a rush or only following your own interests. Yes, you’re the heart of your custom hat business, but your primary focus should be on your future customers. 

Go back to the previous step and analyze all the information you’ve discovered to pick the hat style you’ll sell. What is the preferred style among your audience? What do they crave? What does the current supply lack? As there are a lot of hat styles, answering these questions will help you narrow down your focus.

Snapbacks

Snapbacks used to be favorites among professional athletes and sports enthusiasts. With time, they became a casual, everyday wardrobe element favored by all. 

a man wearing a hatSource: Printful

Snapback’s distinguishing features include a flat brim, structured, high profile, and an adjustable snap closure in the back. Together, these elements create the perfect firm-fit cap. It’s ideally suited for your custom embroidery designs. 

This hat style became popular in the 90s and is still considered the king of the hat world, appealing to a broad audience.

Trucker hats

The trucker hat got its name thanks to its first wearers: truck drivers who received this hat as a promotional item. 

a woman with a pink hatSource: Printful

This one-size cap has breathable mesh paneling for better ventilation, adjustable snapback closure, structured form, and a curved bill.

The trucker hat is perfect for custom embroidery designs and casual headwear for active people.

Dad hats

With their distinctive name, dad hats continue to be one of the top headwear choices. This slightly frayed hat style was invented in the 1970s and named simply by coincidence—back then, it was mostly worn by middle-aged men.

a man wearing a black hatSource: Printful

This loose-fit hat style has a worn-out, laid-back look and a relaxed style variation of a classic baseball cap. It comes with a curved brim, an adjustable strap, and (usually) six smooth, soft panels. 

This hat style is appreciated by many as it’s super comfortable and versatile. 

Bucket hats

Once worn by fishermen and farmers, bucket hats have evolved into casual fashion for men and women across different age groups.

a woman wearing a hat and glassesSource: Pinterest

These laid-back, unstructured hats with wide brims provide comfort, a good look, and excellent coverage from sunlight, making them an excellent choice for warmer seasons and outdoor activities. 

Beanies

Nothing could be cozier and more comfortable on a stormy autumn or winter day outside than a beanie. A beanie is a knit, snug-fitting cap that provides comfort and coziness for colder climates and seasons. 

a woman sitting on a step wearing a green beanieSource: Printful

Usually, beanies are made of wool, acrylic, cotton, cotton blends, or fleece (polyester). They can also come with pom-poms, brimmed cuffs, and other additional styling features. 

A beanie is the go-to choice for lower temperatures due to its warmth and practicality. In addition, this hat style is great for customization as it has a large, customizable surface for big designs. 

Visors

Visor hats are known for their versatility, offering sun protection, enhancing your style, and ensuring comfort.

Their open-top design ensures optimal ventilation for outdoor activities on warmer days. 

a girl with long hair wearing blue pants and a hatSource: Printful/@eldiariode_marlen

These hats come with minimalist wide brims that offer full coverage and protection for the face, ears, and neck, creating an ideal canvas for your embroidery design. 

Once you’ve chosen hat styles for your business, it’s time to decide on a business model for your clothing brand. If you don’t want to deal with production, packaging, and shipping, consider a print-on-demand or dropshipping partner that would take care of these things. 

While dropshipping isn’t the same as print-on-demand, they both represent a fulfillment method and a business model when a third-party supplier handles your inventory. 

One of the main differences between these business models is the type of products you’re selling online. Usually, with dropshipping, you sell ready-made products, but with print-on-demand, you’re free to make custom designs and customize your products to your customers’ liking.

If you’re looking for a reliable print-on-demand partner for your online hat business, consider Printful. As of 2024, Printful has fulfilled 77M+ items for customers worldwide. 

But you get more than just that. With Printful, you can choose from multiple hat styles, colors, and customization options. You get a free, built-in design tool with advanced settings and complete design freedom to make the most out of your hat designs.  

Plus, you can connect Printful with your online store in a few clicks! 

Creating your embroidery design is one of the most creative steps of the process and yet—one of the hardest ones. 

To stand out, your design needs to combine what you love, what customers want, and what competitors lack.

Start with research 

Both your business and your design start with research to identify customer needs and design trends. 

This is crucial for creating custom hats that your audience loves. Complement your research process by analyzing your competitors. Find out which designs work and how to stand out by looking at their best-selling hats.

Get inspired, but don’t copy

To help yourself through this creative process, use all the possible and relevant sources of inspiration. 

Go on social media and visit ecommerce platforms like Etsy, eBay, or Amazon, check portals like Pinterest, Behance, or Dribble, or even visit a museum to get inspiration from art and illustrations. 

You can come up with a design for your hat in many ways. The only rule here is to be authentic and avoid copycatting original pieces. 

Decide which design tool to use

Sooner or later, you’ll need a design tool to turn your idea into reality.

While options like Canva or Adobe Photoshop allow you to create designs and later upload them to a print-on-demand service, there is a simpler alternative. Many print-on-demand services provide built-in design tools to streamline your creative process. 

a black hat with a circle in the middle

Source: Printful

For instance, Printful offers customers a free Design Maker—design software that allows you to design custom hats within an easy-to-use, intuitive interface. The Design Maker has a mockup generator, a vast library of pre-made elements, and many powerful features to personalize your design.

Next, develop your brand identity, including your name, logo, and key details, to ensure your business stands out and is easily recognizable. These assets will be the core of your business identity as they appear on your website, products, packaging, and more. 

Choose a logo style and colors

It’s crucial to choose a logo style that represents your brand values and personality. As the most significant visual element of your branding, your logo should reflect the desired effect you want to have on your audience. 

Don’t overdo your logo with details—make it simple yet easy to remember. 

Pick 2 to 3 dominant colors (contrasting hues) and use them consistently throughout your offline and online presence.

Logo examplesSource: Printful 

Pick a catchy name

There are infinite ways to create a brand name. Whatever you choose, make sure your brand name is unique, catchy, and easy to remember. 

Here are some things to keep in mind while choosing your brand name: 

  1. Your brand’s values

  2. Your target market and competitors

  3. Linguistic screening and testing

  4. Availability of the name

You can also use the help of AI-based brand name generators to develop a name for your business. 

The next step is to create your online store—a digital postcard for your products. 

There are many ways to do it—you can use a marketplace like Etsy and eBay or set up your independent store on a platform like Shopify or WooCommerce.

Choose the platform depending on your goal, budget, needs, the level of customization it provides, and whether the setup and maintenance of the store correspond with your technical skills.

Whatever your choice is, there are some general things to consider for a great-looking and functional store.

Reflect your brand in your store

Representing your brand name through the domain and store name isn’t enough. Ensure your brand is reflected through every detail of your store from top to bottom (if your chosen platform allows it)—from the layout to visual storytelling, colors, fonts, and copywriting. 

Consider whether you want to have a product-first or a brand-first store and what design elements could support your focus best while maintaining a clean, user-friendly, and SEO-optimized website.

Polish your product catalog

Then, it’s time to start adding products to your catalog. 

Add highly-quality images and use detailed descriptions that include keywords you want to rank for on your product page.

Then, add details like a size chart, product recommendations, and quality badges to enhance the user experience and gain customer trust. 

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To generate more sales from your business, you need to spread the word and promote it. 

Thankfully, in 2024, with social media and other digital marketing channels, it’s easier than ever. The best approach here is to evaluate your resources and different marketing strategies to plan your next steps accordingly.

Develop a marketing strategy

If you’re a marketing newbie, promoting your products might initially seem overwhelming. That’s where a clear, well-developed marketing strategy helps. It’s a step-by-step plan to identify your unique value proposition, reach your audience, position your brand effectively, and grow your business.

Create your marketing strategy based on information about your competitors, audience, and your brand. Consider what works for others, what your audience prefers, and your goals and resources.

Start with tiny wins and scale with time

Sometimes, the quickest wins are the ones with the most significant impact. 

Think about a small thing you could improve right away to help you make your business more visible to a larger number of people. 

You can start with a tweak like optimizing your website performance and visitor shopping experience, setting up brand social media accounts, and adding customer reviews and trending product features to your site.

Then, you can go further and scale your marketing efforts (in no particular order): 

  • Develop your personal brand on social media 

  • Offer a freebie to grow your contact list 

  • Start email marketing and promote your newsletter on social media

  • Run a paid ads campaign 

  • Collaborate with industry leaders and influencers

Conclusion

If you want to sell hats online and launch your ecommerce business, start with proper market research and move gradually to the next steps of the process. Another important thing is to 

access your initial resources and evaluate your choices as you make them—from your printing partner to your online store setup. 

And last but not least, believe in yourself and your hat business—every new endeavor is hard in the beginning, but it gets easier and more rewarding with time!  



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