In what seems like no time at all, Ben Lancaster took Aviate from idea to the big time. Now in dozens of retailers all across the US, Aviate makes hats and shirts that lets people rep their town via its unique three-letter airport code.
We had a chance to ask Ben a few questions about the company's growth, being from the South, and where he's taking us when we visit him at the HQ in BHM.
Batch: Why hats? What's up with a ballcap that gave you your aha! moment?
Ben: Everyone likes a quality hat to wear (I stress “quality"). For me, a top notch hat is one that is deep fitting on the head so that it looks good and maintains the quality. People like to wear hats that are comfortable and fit well, and everyone is always looking for the next best hat, be it a man or woman. So picking a hat to be the first Aviate product to roll out was an easy choice.
Batch: What's the farthest place you've sent an order?
Ben: Aviate has shipped to every state except Alaska. We just made our first shipment to Hawaii back in late January! International shipping was just made available the first of February and we had an order to a United States Military person based in Germany and then we had someone from originally from France that is currently living in Great Britain place an order for LaGuardia (LGA - New York). This bodes well as we plan on releasing Heathrow (London) and Charles de Gaulle (Paris) sometime in 2016!
Batch: Is there something about the South that helps your brand thrive?
Ben: I think there is a general overwhelming sense of pride for loving to travel, being where you are from and longing to experience new places, no matter where you are from. From the South, West Coast, Midwest, East Coast or Northeast - people take pride in representing places they love. Helping people represent that love is what we do!
Batch: What's the big dream here? How big can Aviate get?
Ben: I'm not going to give all the secrets away, but we are opening a store in the Avondale area of Birmingham in a new development called Box Row. The store will be called something different other than Aviate and will carry other “nontraditional” brands that you don’t really find in the South. The feedback that Aviate has received over the last 8 months has been tremendous. People from every major city are reaching out to us wanting products every single day so we are doing out best to keep up.
Batch: Can you tell us the best or your favorite airport you've ever been to?
Ben: There are several! I'd say Birmingham (BHM) because it is my hometown and sipping on some Good People Brews before my flight is awesome; Las Vegas (LAS) for the “you never know what you are going to see” and the drinks; Atlanta (ATL) for the great places to eat and drink; Tampa (TPA) for the sunny skies and Shula’s Steakhouse; Baltimore (BWI) because I had flight canceled because of a huge snowstorm and myself and 5 friends got stranded for 36 hours and had one of the best times bar hopping until the next morning.
Batch: If we hang out in BHM, where are we going for a fun night?
Ben: We would start at The Garage off of Highlands downtown for some drinks, then head to a new place called Sky Castle in the Lakeview area for food and drinks. Next up would be The Collins bar that is a great upscale cocktail bar and then finally end the night at Marty’s which is the best late night spot in the city with the best patty melts and live music you have ever heard!