A Startup With Animal Instincts
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Entrepreneur: Alexander Mendeluk, a sometime-actor with bit parts in the Twilight movies (he's the one Kristen Stewart kneed in the groin).
"Aha" moment: Mendeluk sported the bobcat to a Hollywood party in 2009. "The entire place just stopped," he says. Soon, a gaggle of girls began petting the hood and "I was, like, 'Ohmigod. This could be something cool.'"
What possessed him: In film school at the Art Institute of Portland, Ore., Mendeluk was looking for a way to truly stand out, so he and a designer friend came up with the idea of a bobcat hood. Mendeluk began making them for his friends and noticed how cool it looked when his crew all wore theirs at the same time. A tribe was born.
Startup: Mendeluk partnered with friends Chase Hamilton, Ashley Haber and Marley Marotta, and Hamilton put in $10,000 to create prototypes and pay for a booth at February's Pooltradeshow in Las Vegas, where the brand officially launched.
Payoff: Between the e-commerce site and 40-plus accounts in the United States, Canada and Japan, "we are moving thousands of units." The hoods' popularity has prompted manufacturing to expand from Los Angeles to include China. Seventeen styles are available, from a $69 brown bear ("brave, curious, gentle") to a $129 red fox ("adaptability, diplomacy, wisdom"), paws included.
2011 and beyond: A line of kid-sized hoods and a new tribe across the pond, when Mendeluk's brother, a former ad man with Leo Burnett, opens a Spirit Hoods office in London.