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The U.S. economy still may be in rough shape, but many small businesses are thriving, including Aspen, Colo.’s Heidi Hat, a cold-weather-hat- and yoga-wear company run by mother-daughter team Heidi and Kelly Wade.
What started as a hobby for the Wades has grown into a steadily growing business based in Aspen. About a decade ago, they designed and created a pillbox hat when they saw the need for more fashionable head-warmers on Aspen’s slopes. Both women have “always been artistic and creative and into fashion,” said Kelly. “Our line is inspired both by haute couture and runway looks, and living in a mountain town with an outdoorsy atmosphere. We tried to combine those and create our own look — bridge the gap between the Prada people and the Patagonia people.”
Business picked up when Gorsuch, a Colo.-based high-end ski-wear company, picked up Heidi Hat and started selling its hats and other accessories, like printed headbands. When the Wades noticed a scarcity in fashionable hot yoga apparel, they created their “hot shorts,” which now rank among the company’s best sellers. Kelly, a certified yoga instructor, said the company has “grown organically. It started as a hat collection and has grown into a full athletic-inspired collection.”
The Wades contract a few people like seamstresses, but for the most part, it’s just them. In 2012, they found a showroom space in downtown Aspen where they’ve been able to display their pieces year-round. Their business is split almost evenly among wholesale, retail, and e-commerce. Their biggest challenges have come from trying to keep their business growth as natural as possible. “We don’t have investors, and we haven’t taken out loans,” Kelly said. “More business-savvy people have told us to take more risks in order to grow; we’ve had to find the balance between taking risks and doing what makes sense for us.” They have contracts with about 50 stores and studios around the world, from California to Maryland to Thailand. Their fabric comes from New York, and Kelly makes biannual trips to the city to gather inspiration from the fashion industry and meet with the supplier.
Though they aren’t big risk-takers, the Wades believe in staying true to their mission. Their pieces are manufactured in the U.S., and though their prices might seem high ($76 for a pair of hot shorts, $64 for a beanie), they’re determined to stay local. They also align with 1% of the Planet, a non-profit focused on making positive environmental change. “We could manufacture in China and make our clothes cheaper, but that’s not what’s important to us,” Kelly said. “Obviously, everyone wants to make a profit, but we really want to stick true to what our brand represents and what we believe in.”
Staying local can be a challenge for small business, but the Wades say it’s worth it. “We have a really loyal fan base that supports and loves what we do,” Kelly said. “They understand our price points. It’s rewarding to get emails back from people who have worn our clothes and love our stuff. It’s fun to connect with our fans.”