Entrepreneurs

Why Bedhead Hats founder Richelle Ellis is giving away $100,000 of her products

Emma Koehn /

Bedhead Hats

Bedhead Hats founder Richelle Ellis and son Ty. Source: Supplied

When the son of Bedhead Hats founder Richelle Ellis was four, he suggested that her business should employ more up-selling.

He said, ‘When you sell hats I’m going to make some cards for you, and you can sell those cards to people when you buy a hat,'” she explains. 

“I’ve sat back and gone, that’s up-selling. Now, he has his own business.” 

It’s the entrepreneurial spirit of her son, now eight, that keeps Ellis thinking about new ways to show some of the good that can be done in business. Last week she launched a campaign to donate $100,000 of her baby and child sun hat products to those who could benefit from them, as part of a scheme encouraging her customers to “pay it forward”.

Ellis, who has a background in fashion wholesaling, started the Bedhead business in 2011 after recognising that working for major retailers felt “a bit hollow and empty”.

She noticed a gap in the market when she went searching for sun protection for her son Ty, who was like “Steve Irwin in a tiny child” and wanted to be outside all the time. Finding there wasn’t much protective clothing available for infants and very young children, she began development of a lightweight UPF50+ hat design for small heads.

Six years on, the product has evolved through customer feedback and new additions, and the business now has four employees. Sales have grown by 150% in the past year, says Ellis, who decided she wanted to do something to give back to the community.

As of last Friday, the company is donating one newborn hat for every order that’s made, with the customer able to choose to gift the item to an individual or to one of a number of charities working with infants and young children across Australia.

For businesses thinking about setting up similar campaigns, Ellis says the process has been about planning and collaboration.

“I sat down in China with my factory, and we worked out what we could do. It’s very much about working with your manufacturing,” she says, highlighting that because she has established good relationships, her manufacturers know her as “a human” and were keen to work out a donation structure that would work. 

Bedhead Hats, which is based on the New South Wales central coast, will be putting the word out to customers about the plan, with Ellis saying that as a small brand, a strong online presence has been invaluable for the company’s growth.

Online retailing has been the glue that has held our company together,” she says, explaining it’s been critical to have a “beautifully presented online store”.  

Getting the family involved

Social entrepreneurship is gaining momentum in Australia, Ellis says, and her interest in this goes beyond just growing the business.

She says her son has been able to watch the Bedhead Hats grow, and is conscious that the journey of the business “a source of inspiration to him”.

I feel like this [Bedhead Hats] is much more a dress rehearsal, because he’s so much more entrepreneurial than I am,” Ellis says. 

Ty has even launched his own business after a bit of pestering to get involved in the selling process, with Ellis helping him create his felt headband business, Fancy Bands.

Conscious that the younger generation is soaking up the business strategies she comes up with, Ellis says her goal for Bedhead Hats is to do something “a little more satisfying for the soul” than what life presented in the corporate world.

“My whole motive behind this was to be the change you wish to see.”

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is a former senior SmartCompany journalist.

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