CO-FOUNDER — LOVE YOUR MELON
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knew growing up that I wanted to run my own business. I poked holes in everything I could to try to improve things and thought up new ideas all the time. My parents inspired me to do more while congratulating me on my successes. I’m one of the lucky ones, as are many millennials.
I loved the University of Denver, especially skiing in the mountains. My freshman year of college was fun, but I felt isolated in a group of 18-year-old college students. I’ve always had multi-generational friends and family members, and a core group of friends that I grew up with. I moved back to Minnesota to be with them and to start something new. I knew there was more to life than skiing and studying.
I met my co-founder, Brian, in the hallway before the second day of classes at the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I had missed the first day of class so he showed me the ropes and told me about what was going on. I was about to ask the cute girl next to me to be my partner for the “Lemonade Stand” business project, but Brian grabbed me first and said, “Let’s do this.”
It was meant to be.
As native Minnesotans, we recognized the lack of stylish options when it comes to winter gear, and we saw the opportunity to fill that need with high-quality products that make a difference. We also knew from the very beginning that we wanted to focus on more than making a profit.
We chose to support childhood cancer patients because there are thousands of children in America with their lives completely disrupted and sometimes taken by this disease. In comparison with adult cancer research and support, pediatric cancer research and support is often overlooked and underfunded.
We saw an opportunity to make a difference.
There was an obvious fit between the beanies we were making and the needs of those diagnosed with cancer. Patients undergoing cancer treatment often lose their hair, and with our products, we are able to provide them with warm, comfortable, and stylish beanies to improve their experience during treatment.
At the time, I was still a student at St. Thomas. I knew I had to drop out as soon as we finished the class project; it was time to grow Love Your Melon beyond the classroom. I was inspired to get out of school and make things happen in the real world. It was a decision made with confidence knowing that Love Your Melon had the potential to grow and to change lives.
I knew we had a high-quality product to offer customers and that our cause was one that people cared about and wanted to support. Though dropping out didn’t feel like a risk, I had to borrow money and purchase large amounts of inventory when we weren’t always sure the growth would continue. To mitigate that risk, we only ever spent borrowed money on inventory so we knew that even if it took years of selling the product to people on the street, we could do that and pay back what we had borrowed.
Growing American manufacturing to meet our needs has been one of our main challenges. From the start, producing high-quality goods in the USA has been a priority for Love Your Melon. Since most companies today use overseas manufacturing, it does not come as easily, but we are confident we will find ways to continue to grow while providing products made in America.
I certainly would not be where I am today without the help of friends, family, and mentors. The best advice I’ve ever received on my entrepreneurial journey is, “be authentic.” It seems so simple and straightforward, but in order for a company to gain the trust of its customers, it must be authentic in all that it does. At Love Your Melon, we strive for authenticity and truth in all areas, including our photo and video shoots, storytelling, marketing, advertising, philanthropy, and product development.
Consumers are drawn to our products for both the quality and the mission. Every product is made in the USA with high-quality materials, which creates jobs here in the United States and emphasizes our value of community. The products are warm, durable, and fashionable, but they also have a clear mission and story behind them, which draws people in and invites them to be a part of something that makes a difference.
We give 50 percent of our profit to nonprofit partners in the fight against pediatric cancer, which creates a significant impact on pediatric oncology research and family programs, setting it apart from other apparel brands.
We also have Love Your Melon Campus Crew Members on college campuses all across the United States, allowing students to get involved in the cause by visiting local hospitals to deliver beanies and serving as brand ambassadors to their campus. In addition to Campus Crews, we also partner with celebrities and professional athletes who promote the Love Your Melon mission and products through their own social media accounts. The involvement of students and influencers allows for extremely wide-reaching and strategic promotion of our brand and its mission through word of mouth and social media.
When people ask me about my career path and how I took the risk of dropping out of college to start a company, the answer is that I really never saw it as a risk. I would throw that notion out the window completely. Life is about change. Change has kept me healthy, inspired me, and driven my success. At Love Your Melon, we are constantly changing.
When I am long gone, and my legacy is all that remains, I want to be remembered as someone who worked hard, designed great things, and brought people happiness through products and experiences. And also someone who liked to have fun along the way.