A hat is born – Stacey Keller’s journey creating the Ponyback hat
Stacey Keller has spent most of her career as a high school business teacher, but in 2018 she took a leap of faith and changed focus, putting all bets on a single idea, the Ponyback hat.
The idea for the Ponyback hat sparked from Keller’s own struggles with fitted hats.
“We were at Lids picking out the boy’s hats for the season, and I considered purchasing a fitted hat for myself. However, in the hot summer months, I keep my hair up in a ponytail or bun because of the heat, but with a fitted hat this is not a possibility. I left Lids that day with no hat,” said Keller.
“The following week, we headed out on vacation. I had an old snapback that I wore and cursed at for the whole week.
“When I went out on my runs, I was hot as my long hair hung in a braid on my neck. When at the beach, I was annoyed when wearing a messy bun that I had to rearrange my hair to wear my hat.
“But I also appreciated it when I could throw on my hat with my down hairstyle and still look cute.”
So, one day, while her children were napping, Keller began experimenting with a fitted hat, her sewing machine, and some magnets from her children’s toys. In a single afternoon she was able to develop a prototype.
“I quickly realized that what I wanted, was a quality fitted hat, that could provide the functionality of a ponytail hat, but that could have a closable opening,” said Keller.
Unlike other ponytail hats, which usually have a hole high in the back of the hat, Keller says her idea for a hat offered more flexibility. The long opening along the back seam means you can place your ponytail where you want, and when you want your hair down, the magnets close the opening seamlessly so there’s no unsightly hole.
For the next two years, Keller spent her spare time patenting her idea, getting it manufactured and turning it into a sellable product.
As Ponyback prepared to launch its product in June, it saw a positive initial reaction as pre-orders began streaming in. Keller attributes her initial success to the support she received from Rural Oxford.
“I’ve been honestly blown away by the community support.”
“It’s pretty powerful to promote your product here through word of mouth rather than if I was a nobody who knew nobody in say Toronto. Like what connections do you have?” said Keller. “It’s so nice being a part of a rural community because I feel like people have a greater connection to you. So, you have a ton of people who voluntarily support you and your idea just because you live here.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented some setbacks such as forcing Keller to cancel her product photoshoot, Keller sees it as a blessing in disguise.
“This delay required a lot of patience, but also provided time for me to learn and develop my skills and knowledge.”
“I took a photography course online, I bought camera lens and lights. I figured it out. I learned photoshop and editing. It’s funny… because of COVID-19 I had time to learn all this.”
In Keller’s eyes, the pandemic does not compare to the internal challenges she faced on this journey.
“I’m most proud of having the courage to start and trying a crazy idea,” said Keller. “Other things about the journey have been hard, but I think believing in that vision and that excitement that I first had and following through on it – all the other challenges I had to overcome don’t come close to the courage it took to show up for myself.”
Someday, Keller hopes to open a Ponyback location, whether it be a warehouse or a store front. For now, Keller says she is optimistic to see where her new business goes.
Ponyback is a recipient of our Rural Oxford E-Business Grant, which was utilized to create an e-commerce site where they can sell the Ponyback hat. To learn if you are eligible for the grant or to apply click here or email Crystal Van Rokel at firstname.lastname@example.org.