“They don’t make hats like they used to. Handcrafted, bespoke hats have become a luxury of the past.” That’s Jon Akers of Kansas City Hatters, and he’s turned that entrepreneurial thinking into a business, specializing in, you guessed it, made-to-order turn-of-the-century style headgear. But Akers doesn’t just ape the aesthetics, he incorporates precision technology to achieve a perfect fit for his clientele.
Of course, all this hands-on machine work is extremely laborious, not to mention that Akers is a stay-at-home father, so one might say that his time is even more precious than most small business owners. That’s where Quickbooks comes in, removing the distractions and enabling Akers to concentrate on his passion.
He launched his business in a distinctly contemporary fashion: crowdfunding. “I didn’t start making hats thinking it would become a business. I chased it as a passion project, and I questioned if profit would even be feasible, but I determined that crowdfunding would be the best way to not only get financial backing, but valuable feedback before officially diving in,” says Akers.
About a month after launching his Kickstarter, the Quickbooks team contacted Akers (along with several other entrepreneurs), explaining that they recognized his drive and wanted to get the funding over the finish line. They invested more than enough for him to meet his goal and Akers was slinging fedoras, Panamas, Stetsons, bowlers and the occasional ten-gallon in no time at all.
But the Quickbooks team didn’t stop there, equipping Akers with a free subscription to the accounting software, a new computer, financial advisors to lighten the load when tax season rolls around. They continue to support him to this day, placing him on a flight to NYC to participate in and learn at a Dell-sponsored small business panel earlier this month.
“The Quickbooks team have been genuine partners. They came to me with a no-strings-attached approach and they still help me out with media awareness,” said Akers, at the DellSmallBiz panel. “Head shapes are like fingerprints in that no two are the same, and you can immediately feel the difference in materials in a quality hat. I’d say the Quickbooks team believes in this just as much as I do.”
Considering his initial success with the system, he assumes that he’ll get back into crowdfunding again, though he's got no plans to burn out the business in a chase for scale. Akers has a passion for slow and steady growth and an appreciation for quality over numbers, things we relate to at Airows immeasurably, especially in the early years when launching the publication.
A full Kansas City Hatters website is arriving imminently, with Akers planning a brick-and-mortar in the namesake city by the end of the year. Conquer local first, then the rest of the world.