We create hats built for good times and that are unlike anything else on the planet.
Founded in late 2013, we have grown from a 2 person team working out of a living room to a 12 person team in a warehouse. With no outside funding, investors or famous influencers, we have grown to a community of over 100,000 strong, being worn around the globe.
We stand behind our product, put our customers first, and are working hard to build the greatest brand we can.
Thank you for being part of this journey with us.
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I went rafting down the mighty Toutle River with some of my closest friends. I was too young to have a license, but I had a raft and that was almost as cool. Halfway down the river, our raft capsized and my khaki quilted Burton hat (my favorite at the time) fell off into the murky waters of the Toutle.
The next time we faced that river I was determined not to lose my hat again. I took the shoe-laces out of my shoes, cut a small hole in the side of my new hat with a pocket knife, and the first Findlay Hat was born. I called it my water hat, and I wore it every time I went to the river or lake.
"Dude that hat is so sick! Where did you get it? You made it? If you made more, I would buy one!"
So I decided to give it a shot. I pulled everything I had out of my bank account...about $1400...and put it into our first run of hats.
We knew nothing about sourcing headwear, in-house production, shipping or running a business that sells physical goods. But after a heavy amount of research, we were finally able to pull something together.
We launched on December 1st, 2013
We almost named this company "Action Hats"...but that just didn't sound right. Around the time we were looking to name the company, my grandpa, Harold Findlay, was on his last leg of life.
My middle name is Findlay, named after him, and he was always an inspiration to me. I enjoyed our family name, not to mention the "F" & the "Y" go well together on a hat.
With my grandparents permission, we moved forward with naming the company Findlay Hats. My grandma always jokes about when the royalty checks start coming in for her! I have worked out a deal where she gets free hats for life. My grandpa died shortly before our launch, but I am happy to have his name live on.
We launched in late 2013 in our living room on a floating home. We had a small handheld grommet press, a sewing machine, a camera, computer, and about 80 hats.
From there, we dedicated every day to building the best company we could. We worked out of the living room for almost a year before we moved out of the floating home and into a real house with a two car garage. That garage was perfect for us. Enough space to work out of, store inventory and grow.
As we slowly grew, we re-arranged the garage to maximize efficiency. The commute was a dream - wake up, walk down the stairs and into the work station. However we did tend to get a little cabin fever during the rainy winter time.
Nationwide Roll Out
Somewhere in this process, we were picked up by the largest action sports retailer in the world, Zumiez. They saw our active community and unique product and gave us a shot. This opportunity gave our garage based brand a chance to be seen around the country, in close to 200 of their stores.
We made a point to travel to as many of these locations as we could. We wanted to share the product knowledge and meet the teams that would be selling Findlay Hats. These trips were amazing experience, but we made a handful of friends we still keep in touch with to this day.
When I do something, I tend to hyper focus in on it. Findlay was, and still is my life. The majority of my waking hours are spent on some level of work; brain storming ideas for growth, talking with the Findlay Force, organizing our marketing & advertising channels, fixing the embroidery machine, putting out the countless business related fires that we encounter daily and more.
Needless to say, running this company consumes me and there is not a lot of time for breaks. Back in 2016, my family invited Sarah and me to take a vacation to Rome for ten days. I was hesitant at first, as I had not taken a vacation anywhere close to that long since Findlay Hats started. I had enough trust in our two person team back home to hold down the fort, so we decided to go.
On our second day, we were taking a tour in a small van when I noticed someone walking about three feet away from the van wearing one of our hats. I told our guide to stop. I jumped out of the van and chased the guy down and took this photo with him.
It was surreal to run into one of our hats on the other side of the globe. It was that moment that the scale of what we were doing became very real to me. I had adrenaline pumping through my veins for the rest of the day.
The Reddit Hug Of Death
That night, I decided to post the photo of what just happened on the "Front Page Of The Internet" AKA Reddit. In a matter of minutes, the post started gaining traction. People were interested in our story and liked our hats.
Soon, we had thousands of people on the website making purchases. We sold out of almost every hat we had in stock within a couple of hours, and had a back log of hundreds of customer emails & questions. All of this was happening while I was running on zero sleep and jet-lagged to the max, not to mention, thousands of miles away from the garage.
When it was all said & done, the photo had been seen over 2.9 million times that evening. Our website did more traffic in one day than in the entire previous year. We ended up getting a couple of months' worth of sales, all in a 24 hour period.
Lucky for us, we had our guy Nick back in the garage and he handled the situation with grace. He was able to pack & ship a handful of orders on his end, and I was able to order the inventory and manage customer service on my laptop.
This mini viral photo elevated our brand to the next level. Not only did it give us the funds we needed to invest in our 4 head embroidery machine, but it introduced the Findlay Force to hundreds of thousands of people from around the world.
Our First Assembly Line
We survived the Reddit "Hug Of Death" and were able to keep that momentum. At this point, we had a slow but steady amount of orders coming in and our demand with Zumiez was so high that we needed to hire on some extra friends to come in and help us out. The result was our first Findlay assembly line and it was an amazing thing to see.
During this period we also attended a few trade shows, sponsored a handful of events, went on some team trips and more. There is too much random good stuff and not enough space to add more, but if you dive through our old content on social media, you can see some of these good times. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram & Snapchat at @findlayhats
Aug 20, 2016
This was probably one of the top 5 worst days of my life. Sarah & I broke up after 4 years of dating. A half hour later, we got this photo sent to us showing that a major company had stolen our patent-pending lace technology and it was possibly in every single one of their 1200 locations. Bad day.
I rushed down to their local store and sure enough, they had 3 hats with our lace technology, one with our classic Mt. Findlay Triangle. The hats did not contain a pocket, and the laces were actually tied behind the grommet.
The good news is, Sarah & I are still friends & co-founders. It turns out we work better just as business partners. As far as the company that ripped us off, it looks like they have stopped selling our now patented technology, and are closing doors weekly.
Everything turned out okay!!!
14,000,000 Views & Counting
Have I rambled enough yet? We are going to gloss over the next year or so. We had some employee turn over, brought on my old friend Mac to help us out in the garage full time. Maddie had been one of our sponsored skaters from day one, and she had just moved to Portland and was looking for part time work, so we were able to clock her in as well.
May 2017 I was looking at our sales for the year, and realized we were actually performing behind where we were the prior year. This scared me. We had never had a down year, and could simply not happen. This fear fueled me to learn as much as I could on how to improve our sales, and the verdict was super simple. We needed to make an extremely effective commercial to welcome new people to the Findlay Force, and get that in front of exactly the right people.
After a bit of trial and error, we struck gold. This video is still active today and still introduces new people to our brand.
Out Of The Garage
In July 2017 we were bursting at the seams. We were able to bring on our friend and part time employee Savannah to help us out full time. We simply could not keep up with the demand for our hats. Our production and inventory had slowly filled into our living room & dining room, the garage was no longer an efficient place for us to work.
We lucked out and found a 5500 SQ FT space only a couple of miles down the road from us. The space needed a lot of TLC but we could afford it and jumped on the opportunity.
The next couple months were spent just cleaning up the place and slowly making it our own. We traded our four head embroidery machine for a fifteen head, laid down turf, built a mini-ramp and opened a show room.
As demand continued to grow, we needed to hire on more team members. We brought on Carol to help with production, Brett to help with sales & Monique for sales & customer service, Oliver to help with our laser cutter, vinyl cutter and general handyman needs. Cara made her way back to our team to help with video production & marketing and our long time, in house Graphic Designer, Alex, made the trek from sunny Arizona to live in Portland and work for us full time. This brought our team from four to 12 people in just one year.
2018 & 2019
With such a strong year in 2017, 2018 followed a similar path. We continued to upgrade our facility, equipment and team.
We got our first sublimation printer & heat press so we could make our own sublimated pockets in-house. We snagged our second 15 head embroidery machine to keep up with demand for our hats, as well as our second laser engraver.
We started to expand across the country into a handful of retail locations, as well as continued our relationship with Zumiez. We also got our official Australian Distribution setup for Findlay Hats Australia and had our first change to work with the X-Games as an official supplier of hats.
With so much good stuff, 2019 was also the most challenging year in business we have ever had. Long story short, our "growth phase" had dried up, and our expenses were becoming more and more difficult to keep up with.
Did we panic? OOOOH yeah! It was intense I am not going to hide that. Business can be a cruel mistress and things were rough. Despite the increased expenses and projected growth not happening in 2019, we survived. I lost some hair, and stressed a lot, but I am pleased to say that we had no layoffs, pay-cuts or benefits had to be removed from our team.
We reviewed our options and decided to make some key changes in the business. Instead of focusing on growth, we would just focus on maintaining what we already had. These changes included adding a new Premium Box to our website, simplifying the hat offerings on our website, and adding new, "Weekly Exclusive" hats, this helped us change our offerings to something new & exciting each week. 2020 started off strong for us, this was gonna be our year.
Yikes. Who saw that coming? In the early stages of the pandemic, we realized this was bigger than us, and we needed to use our equipment to help any way we could.
We did some research and found out that we could use our 3D printer & laser engravers to make medical supplies. We took out a loan from Paypal to cover the next 3 months of expenses, expecting a major loss in sales, and shifted our focus to making face shields and surgical masks to help where we could.
Through this, we made close to 20,000 shields and over 1000 surgical masks for medical facilities around the West Coast. Sourcing these materials at the peak of their demand was intense by itself, but then coordinating a team, working 24 hours a day in shifts for close to 2 weeks straight to finish these orders was an incredible amount of work. This is something I will always be proud of our team for accomplishing.
2020 and beyond
One thing we did not expect with the pandemic was online shopping would be at an all time high....as a business that is 80% online, we were positioned to benefit from this situation.
Somehow, our daily order volume started growing, and growing, and growing. Soon, we were well past our previous highs of sales. We had to go back into a phase of hiring new employees, investing in new equipment and more.
While demand was high, covid restrictions did for sure set us back, as the world felt the squeeze of slower supply lines.
In the middle of all of this, we found our dream retail location in downtown Portland. While timing could not be worse, we figured it was a worthwhile gamble that things would ultimately get better, and we took the leap of faith and opened our first retail space in early 2021.
And that brings us to today. We are still hungry as ever and still motived to building the best company we can. We got here by treating our customers right, working hard and having a unique product that we stand behind.
We will never forget our roots as we continue to grow.
Thank you for being part of this journey with us.