Pilot Ball Caps

Pilot Ball Caps
Pilot Ball Caps .com

Pilot Ball Caps .com

Friday, August 29, 2014

Six years....already?

You know I don't post much.  Only when I have something that strikes me, moves me, or humors me enough to put fingers to keyboard do I bother to bore others. But this month marked six years of watching an idea turn into a hobby, and then turn into a small business.

Six years ago I wanted a simple ball cap.  I've always worn them when I fly, and we had just announced a merger between my company (Northwest Airlines) and Delta Air Lines.  New rules... new procedures... new uniforms. Being naturally nostalgic, I wanted a visible reminder that I was a Northwest pilot.  I searched the web for anyone who produced such a thing.  They didn't exist.  Anywhere!

A new solution was to have one custom made for me.  At that time I believe it would cost me about $35 for one hat! So like any good (cheap) pilot, I decided to spend $400 and have a bunch made. Now the only question was how to get rid of them.  Word of mouth and eBay worked for awhile, but I wanted a website. So with some help from Will Henderson and others, pilotballcaps.com was born. But you can't just have a website for ONE product. I really liked the hats that our manufacturer made, so I had Air Force and Navy pilot ball caps made. So now I had 5 designs, with more great comments from customers coming in weekly.

Now as I sit in our pilotballcaps.com office, I look around at the 40+ designs, most in different colors. Six years ago it was just for pilots, but now we have Aircrew, Navigator, Squadron and Airline hats. I'm surrounded by over 1500 hats sitting on the shelves, 100s of shipping boxes and everything we need to serve our customers. Most important are the hundreds of great aviation stories I get from my customers, and thousands of satisfied aviators around the world that are wearing our hats...that just kind of happened into being.

So Happy Anniversary to our fledgling business, and thank you to all of our (very) loyal repeat customers! We'll keep on "Selling the Best ball caps to the Best Aviators in the World...because everybody deserves a great ball cap!"
And this hat started it all!

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Military Family

Mom, Dad...what did you do when you were in the Air Force (Army, Navy, Marine Corps...)? What did you learn and what were your responsibilities? I was thinking about these questions as my wife Connie and I recently visited the BX and Commissary at Selfridge AFB not too long ago. If you were raised in a military family, or raised your family while you were in the service, there were certain expectations.  A discipline, instilled by commanders and peers alike, and filtered down to the kids.  Rules and respect were the norm. Sacrifice was just how it was.  Your choices were limited and endless at the same time.  There was one movie theater, but it could be in Europe, Asia, or Minot ND.  Friends changed with assignments, but there was that common thread that you shared.  Just like the servicemembers, the family had bonds with everyone in their situation. Rules.... responsibilities....discipline and caring for each other.

What did you do?... Well, I was a Pilot (Crew Chief, MP, Ranger....) and my responsibilities were X,Y and don't forget Z. You could get all of that from your last OER, OPR or Fitrep (insert any appropriate DoD Form number).  But that never tells the story, just the summary.  You were responsible for your job, and that of your squadron mates.  To cover them as they did for you.  And that extended to the family.  When Lt. Smith was deployed, Capt. Jones and SSgt. Johnson and their families checked in. Made sure lawns got mowed, carpools ran and babysitters were on time.  We cared for our own, and that always included the family.

What I learned as we walked around the Base Exchange was the difference in the families shopping. Broadly the same demographics as my own home town, they were...different.  Courteous, for the most part. The kids may have been thinking about throwing a fit, but it was always under control.  The parents didn't need to either yell or coddle.  A simple look, a quick and understandable explanation and it was over.  The kids weren't bugging for that candy or toy, as they seemed to know it wasn't in the budget.  If it were, they knew they would have it.  If they needed it, they got it.  And appreciated it.  Great lessons for all of us.

One of the many things that struck me was our walk to the car.  In the whole parking lot, there was ONE shopping cart.  You just didn't leave them for someone else to deal with. You (or your 10 year old) took it back and put it where it belonged...for the next family to use.  No trash in the lot, or in the carts.  There were rules, responsibilities and discipline.  And that's what I learned from my time in the service.

By Spud at pilotballcaps.com

Saturday, March 1, 2014

what my Pilot Ball Cap customers do for me...

It's been awhile since I've rambled on. We've had a lot going on, and still do but I was just thinking about what my customers do for me and thought I'd share it.

Since this business is more of a hobby, it allows me to be in touch with aviators from all backgrounds and experiences.  My guy Georgio, who flies ultralights in Italy (yes, I have pictures on our site).  Nails, who saved a Marine Corp unit under fire by VC...just he and his crew, his helo and flachette rockets (thus the call sign "Nails"). Stories about flying DC-6s and 707s back in the days when airline careers were legendary. A ball cap sent to someone's Dad who flew Lancasters for the RCAF and another to a Grandfather who flew Jugs and Mustangs for the Air Corps in WWII.  It's amazing who you get to know just from selling a few ball caps. George and Ike, both 'old fighter pilots', who have now passed on to fly west. I just wish I could hook up my Chaplain friend with their families! As he would say "Blessings from Father Jeff", but I still like to call him Padre! We have an ongoing list of folks who "checked in" with their call signs on our home page. Which reminds me that I've got to update that list again.

Back to the point of the story though.  Many of my customers become acquaintances, and some even become friends.  It usually starts with a note from me, thanking them for their order and maybe commenting on something I notice about their order or home town. The feedback I get for such simple observations is amazing, and our conversations begin. Since we're always looking to pass the word, I usually ask this of my customers, and sometimes they overwhelm me. Like Roger from Dallas who is a retired Delta pilot. He liked my hats and service enough to recommend our site to his group. The next day we sold out of Delta Captain ball caps and had to re-order.

We don't just get recommendations and great stories.  I've got standing invitations to visit from around the country, Germany, Canada and Australia. If I only had the time to get to those places (and NOT while having to work flying there and back).  Just this week I got the book "Steel Beach" signed by its author Jeff, who is a cancer survivor like my wife Connie. This gift was what brought me to write today! I've gotten USAF bag tags, patches from different units and even from the Gathering of Mustangs.  Hats, pictures, articles... these folks I call customers are just too much. Too kind.  I think it's just the common ground we all share. We've all been there, or know someone who has. Whether it's flying, or work, or just surviving your worst fear. I guess that's why I still do it. My wife says I enjoy it too much. She encourages me, supports and loves me...and understands when I take an hour (or two) out of my day just to communicate with folks I may never meet.

I wish to thank my wife Connie, who tolerates all of this, and really helps keep things moving in the right direction. And I thank you, my customers and friends. You make this business not only possible, but worthwhile.

Find us at pilotballcaps.com