Something as simple as three letters on a hat quickly became so much more in the hands of Ben Lancaster and CJ Adams. For millions of travelers, the three-letter airport codes assigned to major cities instantly evoke the memories of journeys past, the anticipation of adventure ahead, or the satisfaction of heading home once business is done. Aviate is built on this idea.
Aviate began with the original BHM (Birmingham) hat in March of 2015, and has since grown to sell over 150 products representing over 100 cities across the United States. It all started with a small batch of 100 hats. Those sold out in less than two days, and Ben Lancaster knew they were onto something. They began with cities they had connections in, including Atlanta, Nashville, and Sarasota, Florida. As the idea grew, soon it was just Ben managing its growth, and he was still working full-time managing community newspapers in Gadsden.
By August, instead of filling orders from his screened-in porch, Ben was filling orders from 400-square-foot office. He was working constantly, and living on three or four hours of sleep a night. One day, he looked up and realized that the business was really making money. He quit his job immediately.
He now manages Aviate full-time and, despite the huge growth, has a small team of five others working alongside him. Each brings something unique to the table, and each has their own quirky bio on the Aviate website. Their Homewood office is travel-themed, open, and inviting. Ben and his business exude a feeling of relaxation and community.
Aviate now represents just about every major city in the United States. The original Aviate hat comes in several color options, all of which feature the classic white, block-lettered city abbreviation. And if hats aren’t your thing, they make t-shirts with the same abbreviations.
Even with Aviate’s tremendous growth in such a short time, Ben isn’t finished yet. Seeing an Aviate hat on someone walking down the street always makes him smile, but he can’t help but think, “How can I turn that one person into ten people?” and strives daily to create a better and better product line. He also follows his own business’ motto strictly: “Play hard. Travel often.”