Jennifer Bullard's 'jab-wear' launches new line of casual hats
By Linda Miller
Fashion Editor | Published: April 15, 2010 | Modified: April 15, 2010 at 9:18 am
One hat turned into two, then three, then a business.
Jennifer Bullard's hat that she made for herself caught the attention of friends and others who all wanted one. They asked for hats like hers that showed off a hand-painted design with a sprinkling of crystals that glittered like fine diamonds.
'Jab wear' hats by Jennifer Bullard include hand-painted designs with a sprinkling of crystals.
Almost before the paint could dry, she was in the hat-making business. “I started taking orders, doing home shows and trade shows. Someone asked if I wholesaled. Then I did the Dallas market, and it just exploded,” she said.
It's no surprise jab-wear hats caught on so quickly. These aren't bad-hair-day hats. The cadet style is flattering, the hand-painted designs add interest and detail, and they make a statement.
Her first hat featured a cross, but she's since added collegiate logos, fleur de lis, five-point crowns, sports themes and custom orders. New designs are in the works. Details include fraying, distressing, Swarovski crystals and fabric backing. The hats sell for about $45.
“I'm creative, but I don't consider myself artistic,” she said.
Maybe not like her parents, who were painters, but Bullard always has enjoyed arts and crafts. She made jewelry for herself. As a fashion model, she got to wear beautiful clothes, often put together in creative ways. She also was crowned Mrs. America 1990.
All that creativity and love of fashion bubbles over into jab-wear, an Edmond business she started in 2007 and now is ready to take to the next level.
“I've kept it really small just because I like doing hands-on,” she said. “We hand-paint every emblem, so that's time consuming.”
The hats are sold in several stores in Oklahoma, as well as in California, Florida, Texas, the MGM Grand spa in Las Vegas and from the Web site, jabhats.com.
“I feel like I've just barely touched the surface,” she said, confident in her conviction to grow the business.
“My goal is to make it a million dollar business. I know that I can. I really feel that I'm going to take it there, it's just that it's new to me, and I'm trying to learn slowly so I don't make big mistakes. I'm trying to do everything right,” she said.
“I'm just trying to get there slowly because I plan to do this forever. I don't want to jump in and make rash decisions or irresponsible decisions or get greedy. I want to know that everything is quality. I have not even marketed my business. It's all been word of mouth.”
Building the business is important, she said, but it also means stepping away from some of the painting that she finds so relaxing. She hopes to start marketing this summer when she's set up to handle an influx of orders.
“I love what I do. I do it because it's a passion. I don't consider it work. The biggest compliment in the world is for someone to like and buy something I make.”
Her hat business also allows her to follow another passion, helping others.
“I've got a heart for helping children and people in Honduras,” she said. “I just got back from my 14th trip. My husband and I adopted two girls, Heidi and Cely, from Honduras.”
She and her husband, John Bullard II, also are sponsoring a young Honduran woman who will be going to UCO.
“A lot of the money I make goes to mission work. I'm working on special designs right now so 100 percent of profits will go to a ministry called Seeds of Change, which helps orphans try to get adopted into the states.”
That's why Bullard wants the business to grow.
“It's not that I need or want anything,” she said. “The more money I make, the more I can help others and help these kids in Honduras and everywhere. We need the help here, too. I look at it as a ministry, an opportunity to help others.”
She's not ready to the take the business worldwide yet, but she is gearing up to give more women the opportunity to buy her hats.
“These hats are for all ages, from a 10-year-old to women in their 60s and 70s. They wear them while playing tennis and golf, and on motorcycles. The hats have become fashion statements, and the crystals jazz them up. All backgrounds and ages buy the hats. That's what's so neat,” she said.
“Look for the jab on the back, and you know it's one of mine.”