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Max Nelson Hood Hat Interview

max nelson

Max Nelson had a love for hats long before he started Hood Hat. He grew up in New York City and he was a Mets fan. In 1986, after the Mets beat my beloved Red Sox in excrutitating fashion, his mom took him to the store to get him a new Mets baseball cap. Back in the 80’s, there wasn’t the plethora of choices in baseball caps for any given team; you had maybe 3 or 4 designs to choose from. Another cap caught Max’s eye – a Montreal Expos cap. It was different than the others as it was made with Merino wool. Something about the way it was made got Max thinking he liked this better quality cap more than the others and he went home with a Montreal Expos cap instead of a Mets cap.

Fast forward to 2024 and Max has over 500 baseball caps and a successful business selling hats. He was on Shark Tank last week and I caught up with him via phone to see what the experience was like for him. That’s when he told me the story about the Expos hat. Since that day, he’s had a passion for high quality baseball caps – hence the large collection. It also led him to start Hood Hat. The story is he was doing a renovation project in the Brentwood neighborhood in Los Angeles and he bought a hat and got “Brentwood” printed on it. That set the ball rolling to start Hood Hat – but it really began that fateful day back in 1986.

Max Nelson In the Tank

Max told me his time in the Tank was only about a half an hour. “They condensed that to about five minutes that revolved around valuation,” he said. He told me there was a lot of talk about data science and Hood’s customer acquisition that was cut. As he was explaining what data science is (it’s the use of data practices from the fields of mathematics, statistics, artificial intelligence, and computer engineering), he said “now I know why they cut it out, as I’m explaining it to you, it sounds pretty boring!”

Max did share some insights into his exchasnge with Michael Rubin. Rubin asked him what was to prevent him from making a similar hat. Max told him “you’re selling $30 hats to people – they aren’t our customer.” He said Rubin asked him after the pitch about obtaining blanks for Fanatics, but Max hasn’t heard from him.

Price Point

There was a lot of talk about Hood’s prices, both in the Tank and online on show night. Max said “people who gripe about the prices aren’t our customer. We’re creating a premuim product in the headwear space that’s actually a better value. There are other premium hat companies out there selling $300 hats.” He says his customers are the same type of people who would spend $300 on a pair of sneakers. Nobody wants to wear $300 sneakers and a $25 hat, headwear is the next sneaker,” he said.

Organic celebrity love of the hats started when Jay Z recieved his Bel Air Hood Hat as a gift from his personal chef. His wife posted a photo of Jay Z wearing the hat on Beyonce.com and things blew up. Actor Ryan Reynolds and rapper Rick Ross also publicly proclaimed their love for Hood Hats after they recieved them as gifts. “Lots of people give them as gifts,” Max said, “because they’re such cool hats. We have a ton of reviews that say it’s best hat ever.” Max sent me a hat with my neighborhood on it, it is cool.

Advice

I always ask Shark Tank entrepreneurs what advice they have for people contemplating starting their own business. Max Nelson was no exception. The answers are very similar. Max said “listen to the voice,  do it, give it a shot. Get into action.” I had one more question for Max. He answers it over at The Hot Dog Truck.

 

About Rob Merlino

Entrepreneur, auteur, raconteur. Rob Merlino is a blogger and writer who enjoys the Shark Tank TV show and Hot Dogs. A father of five who freelances in a variety of publications, Rob has a stable of websites including Shark Tank Blog, Hot Dog Stories, Rob Merlino.com and more.

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