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The war between your hat and sunglasses is over! Notch is Here!

The war between your hat and sunglasses is over! Notch is Here!

Author: Paul Cunningham, founder of Notch

 

To be completely honest, I didn’t really set out to solve a problem or create a product. I was just sitting on the couch one Sunday watching golf and had one of those proverbial “light bulb” moments. I can’t tell you which PGA golfer it was but he was wearing a hat with a pretty good curve on the brim and a pair of sunglasses, but something wasn’t right. You could tell they weren’t really getting along with each other because the brim of the cap was being pushed up by the rims of his sunglasses. Because of this interference between the two, his hat was cocked up on his head a little bit and it looked neither comfortable or fashionable. 

And that’s when it hit me…. Why not just notch out the bill?  In a flash of inspiration, my brain had solved a long-time struggle that I’d had as a wearer of baseball caps and sunglasses. I too liked to wear a cap with the brim curved (I couldn’t pull off wearing a flat bill even if I wanted to). And because I encountered the same problem this poor guy did, I would usually just choose between wearing a hat OR sunglasses. Or if I did wear the two together, I would wear my baseball cap backward, which sort of defeats the purpose.

 

I bolted off the couch and grabbed one of my Titleist hats and a pair of scissors and made my first prototype. And to my amazement, it worked!  I’m a pretty normal guy and I figured if this worked for me and I liked it, other people would too. Why not?  It was very practical, and it solved a real problem.  I knew right away I had something, so my wife and I spent the next several days scouring the internet to see if we could find a product like it out there. We didn’t. With cautious optimism, we contacted a patent attorney and paid him to do a patent search for us. It seemed like forever until we heard back but it only took about 4 weeks for him to inform us that they did a thorough search and although they found about a dozen existing patents that had tried to solve the same problem, there was nothing on the record like my idea. So, we filed an emergency patent application immediately and started our journey with Notch. 


A lifelong goal was achieved for me when our patent issued in May of 2015. I had always wanted to hold a patent and the fact that our patent turned out to be a successful and profitable product has made it that much sweeter. 


At Notch, we like to say, “The war between your hat and sunglasses is over.” Our patented notches eliminate the interference between a baseball cap and sunglasses when they’re worn together. It’s a first world problem for sure and it’s not a problem for everyone but many, many people fight this issue and they’re so happy when they find our product! 

 

We’ve learned a ton about developing and taking a product to market. We started with just 5 styles and have since added another 38 styles based on market trends and more importantly, feedback and requests from our customers.  What has been really fun is watching my former community in the military embrace the product. We have many active duty and veterans from all branches of service wearing Notch hats including some Navy SEALS and other SF guys. And as we grow, we’re discovering and entering new markets all the time. 

 

I sometimes lament the fact that I didn’t get a degree in business, but hindsight is always 20/20.  And I now see that my time in the Marines, my degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona, and my 10 years in real estate all helped to prepare me for this adventure in ways I could not have anticipated.  Each new stage of growth brings with it a new set of challenges to overcome but I love a good challenge and the opportunity to be stretched and learn something new is a blast.  That’s not to say that we have not had our share of missteps and mistakes.  I’ve made plenty of them and I’m pretty sure I’ll make plenty more. The main thing is to learn from them and allow them to make you and your company better and more stable as you grow.  It is impossible to avoid risk when starting and growing a company, but I always try to only take very calculated risks and only take those that, if not successful, will not sink the entire business.


One such risk we took at the very beginning was to start giving back before we had even seen a profit.  My wife and I decided early on that we wanted to do something with Notch that we had done all along in our marriage; give. We wanted to make sure that every Notch hat we sold meant that something special was going to happen for one person.  So, against the advice of some, we decided to give away part of the profits of each hat from the very first hat we sold. We had been inspired by other social entrepreneurs and saw Notch as an opportunity to do good on a much larger scale than we could on our own.  So, we did some research and found the Children’s Hunger Fund. They are a Rockstar charity organization that feeds kids here in the US and internationally. And to date, our customers have helped provide over 330,000 meals to kids in need.

 

When I first had the idea, I had no clue how much time, money, and energy it would take to get where we are now. We just celebrated our 5th anniversary as a company and who knows what the next 5 years will hold but I’ve learned that I don’t really need to know. We’re going to just keep cranking out the world’s greatest and most innovative hat, providing world-class customer service to our customers, and figure the rest out as we go. Is there any other way?





www.notchgear.comAbout the author:

Paul Cunningham is a Veteran of the US Marines and lives in Yuma, AZ where he was stationed. He and his wife Terra founded Notch in 2013 out of their garage.

Follow Notch on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

 

 

 

 

Category: The Industry

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