Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Freshman’s small business ‘Custom Crown Hats’ flourishes

Allie Castaneda
Sidney Tillotson, founder of Custom Crown Hats, smiles after creating a hat in her studio on Thursday.

In a cramped dormitory, Sidney Tillotson sat on her carpeted floor surrounded by strips of multicolored felt and a hot glue gun. With a desire to start a side hustle, Tillotson embarked on selling her personal cowboy hat collection. 

Tillotson’s cowboy hat business, Custom Crown Hats, has grown from her freshman dorm room.

Tillotson, a business freshman, created Custom Crown Hats in May 2023 on her closet cleanout Instagram account. Tillotson buys plain cowboy hats from wholesalers and customizes them based on customers’ requests. 

“I love hats. Even before I started doing hats, I had probably about five cowgirl hats,” Tillotson said. “I come from a really country background.”

Going to vintage shops since she began to drive at age 16, Tillotson began unofficially collecting old Stetson hats, which she repurposed, decorated and sold to friends online for $45. In May of 2023, Tillotson received an Instagram comment that changed everything.

“Someone had commented ‘you got to start a business out of this, this is so good’ and that sparked my interest,” Tillotson said.  

Tillotson contacted wholesalers to source supplies. The first company required her to buy $1,000 worth of stock. She said she ordered felts and silks in bulk on Amazon along with branding irons from The Heritage Forge.   

“I used a lot of my savings and I didn’t know if it would come back at that point,” Tillotson said. “It was a risk.” 

In the beginning, Tillotson said an order-to-order basis made creating hats in a dorm room easier as she could manage her stock. 

“After I got mine, my roommate got one,” Anne Blanche Peacock, Custom Crown Hats customer, said. “And a lot of my friends have decided that they want to look into getting one.” 

With college girls as the main clientele, Custom Crown Hats has sold its products to customers across six states.

“I wasn’t trying to make it into a business, it just happened and I kept taking those next steps,” Tillotson said. “I didn’t set goals. … My goal was to just keep up. I had so many orders to meet.”

Tillotson said she took orders through direct message, but this prolonged the process and made her dependent on the response time of customers. Over the last month, she worked on creating a website that features a “create your own” button that customers can use to order online. 

“Decorating was really fun. I first put in the hat color and style I wanted, then she ordered it,” Libby Tate, textiles and apparel freshman said. “For styling, I got to pick from a bunch of different branding options, ribbons and feathers.”

Tillotson took coding classes in high school, giving her the knowledge to run analytic tests and to use different domains for a website. Through these analytic tools, business picked up, followers increased and her website launched. 

“I’ve loved that fun financial freedom that comes from owning your own business,” Tillotson said. “I always wanted to make my own money. I want to work. I’ve always had that drive.” 

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