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Digital Marketing Lets This Small Business Hold On To Its Hat

Thanks to digital marketing and e-Commerce, a former pastor’s hat factory is still able to delight customers during its busiest season.

In her Patriot-News op-ed, Rev. Georgiette Morgan-Thomas says she “never planned to be in the hat business” and was close to retiring in 2015. 

But her passion had other plans: she says she “couldn’t resist” after seeing that the “fabulous” S & S Hat Company in Philadelphia was closing. 

“People were going to lose their jobs, and the art form of hatmaking was going to be jeopardized,” she says. So, she took a risk, delayed her retirement plans – and purchased the factory.

In 2016, Rev. Morgan-Thomas started American Hats with her son, Robert. The transition wasn’t easy: she laughs, “I knew nothing about manufacturing!” The factory was operating on 90 percent wholesale – and just after buying the company, Rev. Morgan-Thomas’ biggest customer dropped. The brand-new business was nearly $100,000 in debt.

To help American Hats pull through a financial crisis, Robert offered a new perspective: focus on selling hats online to a broader audience with an interest in a wider variety of hats.

While initially reluctant, Rev. Morgan-Thomas branched into eCommerce, with a new website and Instagram page to boost sales.

Now, 45% of American Hats’ business is online.

Digital tools are proving particularly useful during the current COVID-19 shutdowns that have so broadly impacted small businesses. In her Patriot-News op-ed, she cites Google Ads and other digital services — including video platforms like FaceTime and WhatsApp that allow her to walk customers through her store remotely — as “instrumental” to American Hats’ growth.

She closes out the op-ed with the importance of investment in digital tools from a policy standpoint, writing: 

I hope our government will have learned just how much big tech companies and small businesses are tied at the hip, and will be mindful of that when considering new regulations that could hurt my business all over again. Over-regulating digital platforms and business tools, breaking up big digital companies or changing the rules that enable online reviews would be a big mistake, and I hope our Pennsylvania elected officials understand why.” 

Read the full piece here → 

Watch American Hats’s story on YouTube here →

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