How Being a Party Animal Helped SpiritHoods Grow Its Business

It's hard not to notice the furry creatures on hipsters' heads that have been popping up on Facebook feeds and music festivals like Coachella and Burning Man. While they may seem like they were picked up at some craft store or children's shop, SpiritHoods are actually the creative brainchild of co-founders Alexander Mendeluk, Chase Hamilton, Ashley Haber and Marley Marotta. The founders launched the company in 2010 at the fashion-centric Pool Tradeshow in Las Vegas.

So how did the bunch build its playful product for a cause into a fashionable movement? I sat down with Mendeluk to learn more. Here is an edited version of that conversation:

What attracts people to wearing SpiritHoods?
Besides the obvious -- that is, we make a fun, unique, quality-designed product -- we give a portion of our profits to support endangered species through the company's PROBLUE label. I also think our products bring people together and allow for a unique form of self-expression.

How did you initially build awareness about SpiritHoods?
There was a lot of guerrilla marketing...a lot of late nights, celebrity closet discos and porch jamming sunrises. Basically, we were able to get the hoods on trendsetters by using the connections we already had through friendships. Ke$ha took the hoods on tour and that really helped the momentum. Soon celebs like Bruno Mars, Snoop Dogg, the Kardashians, Vanessa Hudgens, Pink and many more were wearing our hoods. We also built up enough awareness to get the attention of marquee brands like Disney's the Muppets and surf-brand Roxy to partner with.

But honestly, the product speaks for itself. Once people started buying it, and their friends saw it and experienced it firsthand, it really spread like wildfire. That's something I feel like any good product should do... speak for itself.

How did social media play into generating that awareness and help build sales?
We never fail to pay attention to our online community. Facebook alone drives half of our online traffic. That’s where we can communicate directly and engage one-on-one with our customers. We respond to their questions, we give them behind-the-scenes glimpses at new products, we hold contests and giveaways and give them news that's unique. We don't rehash the same info that's on our website or newsletters.

How do you engage consistently on social media?
With social media, it's really about connecting with fans on a personal level. It's about finding content that relates to the brand and to our community. People don't want to be sold to, especially on Facebook. Save that type of content for e-mail marketing. Find content that is relevant and engaging. And once you find something that works, keep it up on a daily basis.

How are you taking advantage of offline events to drive revenue and engagement?
Our product naturally got sucked up into the music scene and one of the best times of the year for us is festival season. This is when SpiritHoods hits the road and travels to where the music is. We go to festivals like SXSW, Ultra, Electric Forest, Lightning in a Bottle and Coachella. It's here that we get to engage with the public one-on-one and truly communicate our vision for the brand and translate our love for the product.

What's next for the company?
There are many people out there who have been wondering whether SpiritHoods will disappear, whether it’s a fad or a simple trend. Like us or not, the answer is we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

This coming fall and into spring 2013 you are going to see a whole new SpiritHoods. We've created new built-in washable speaker technology, so you can plug in your phone or device and have surround sound music or take calls in your hood. We've also expanded our SpritHoods Kids line into toddler and infant styles and have begun preparing for the launch of 'Team SpiritHoods' our new collegiate-licensed collection. Picture 30,000 sports fans wearing their favorite team mascots on their heads. It's all magic happening.

Related: A Startup With Animal Instincts

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