Two Raleighites grow their living room-launched custom hat company into a 20,000-customer business.
Whether it’s part of your signature look or just a way for you to hide your day-three hair (we’ve all been there), hats are as much an expression of your personal style as the clothes you wear. But for Raleighites Brian Cox and Scott Alexander, they’ve taken this accessory and turned it into a thriving career, producing 1.5 million hats since launching Custom Patch Hats in 2018. It’s cap-tivating, really…
“This was supposed to be a side hustle… maybe some extra beer money,” says Alexander. “We decided to take the biggest bite we could, and we’ve never stopped doing that.”
Speaking of beer, that’s how the pair met. In 2009, Alexander was bartending at West Raleigh dive bar The Goat, and Cox liked to sip a cold one every now and then, and the rest is well… hat-story, if you will.
Before we get too far ahead (get it), a little backstory. Prior, Cox was a freelance designer working on a Georgia brewery’s branding who needed hats. After getting a steep quote from an embroiderer, he decided to take matters into his own hands, borrowing a sewing machine and stitching designed patches onto hats. Following that successful sale, he took the idea to Alexander, who was, at that time in 2018, managing The Bison Bar.
“Scott and I bootstrapped this from our living rooms with $500 in our bank account,” says Cox, noting that they now have a team of over 70 people, 20,000 customers worldwide, a Downtown office on Harrington Street—plus a production warehouse on Capital Boulevard. Additionally, a new, larger production warehouse is currently under construction.
The company’s success can be traced back to the fact that it prioritizes building personal relationships with customers who work back-and-forth with just one of Custom Patch Hats’ designers throughout the entire process on a custom-made patch (be it embroidered, woven, leather, etc.), style of hat (Richardson is its main supplier), quantity—and voila, it’s hats in hand in nine weeks or less.
From local businesses like Sir Walter Coffee to huge companies like Amazon, Alexander says they’ve gotten great feedback from their customers. “What people really kind of harp on… is that human touch,” he says. “It’s something we really stress from the very beginning.”
And that human touch is arguably a Midas touch as the brand’s popularity has no doubt proven… “Walking through the airport in any random city, you see something that came through our door,” says Cox.
That positive response of seeing people wear their product everywhere will only grow, as they have no plans to slow down production anytime soon. “I’ve actually lied to my wife about having to be here early just because I enjoy coming here,” jokes Alexander. “I love this. I love this job.” Hats off to them! custompatchhats.com