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Monday, Jul 22, 2024

Huega House Hats a Hit with Consumers, Celebrities, Athletes

APPAREL: In 2 Years, Breaks $2.3M Run Rate

CARLSBAD – You can say, “Hats off!” to Jonathan Ruley and Jake Ryan regarding the success of their company, but the co-founders of Huega House would probably prefer customers keep their hats on.

Ruley and Ryan are the local entrepreneurs behind Huega (pronounced hue-guh) House, a hat brand named after the Danish concept of “hygge” – the appreciation of all that brings joy and happiness in life. Each hat includes the phrase “cherishing the little things.”

The baseball cap-style hats sold direct-to-consumer from the Huega House website come in several colors and designs. The caps draw inspiration from the vintage aesthetics of ’90s sports and automotive culture.

“We are passionate about the vintage aesthetics of our hats, drawing significant inspiration from classic racing and sports logos,” Ruley said. “Our color palette, particularly the two-tone natural hues, embodies an old-school vibe. These colors have been a cornerstone of our designs since the beginning, giving our hats a timeless appeal.”

Launched in 2022 with an initial investment of $10,000 from their own savings, the company has achieved a $2.3 million run rate with zero outside capital. In May, the company posted its sixth consecutive month with record sales, beating previous months’ sales.

Huega House reports that in the past five months, it nearly doubled its 2023 revenue of $589,645, grossing $941,553 year-to-date for 2024 (through May), up 59% from last year.

The company’s demographics are vast, but Ruley said their customer base is primarily men and women from ages 25 to 44, with women buying more than half of Huega House’s inventory. Its three largest markets are San Diego, New York City and Chicago.

According to Gitnux, a business insight website, the most popular hats in the United States are baseball caps, beanies and straw hats, with baseball caps the most commonly worn type of hat among all age groups. About 75% of men’s luxury hat sales in 2020 were baseball caps. Gitnux also reports that the U.S. hat and cap industry annually generates around $3 billion in revenue.

Past Success, Rapid Growth

Both founders are in their early 30s, and Ruley said their “diverse backgrounds, complementary strengths and valuable connections combined have allowed us to achieve rapid growth.”

Ruley spent several years working in marketing for Vizer, a social wellness app, and has a background in strategic marketing, driving brand awareness and sales growth, including more than $125 million in sales through paid media campaigns. He has extensive experience in D2C and B2B marketing strategies within the wellness and CPG sectors.

Ryan, a professional photographer, spent five years playing in the National Football League.

The two met through Jonathan’s sister, Jessica Ruley, who will marry Ryan this September.

“Jake was retired from football and he was looking for his next thing and I was looking for an outlet so we bonded over fashion, specifically hats,” Ruley said. “Between both of our skill sets and our networks we were blessed to have traction pretty much right off the bat and it’s just continued to evolve.”

Ruley said the company has been strategic with its spending, working to “make sure that we’re not just a trend or a fad.”

Designed and created locally, the products are manufactured overseas and later shipped out of Carlsbad.

“Our focus is on using premium materials that offer both exceptional feel and fit, all at a competitive price,” Ruley said.

Ruley said the company has faced its share of challenges, including time management, especially for the time when he was working at Vizer and handling the bulk of Huega House’s marketing needs. For Ryan, shifting from professional sports to the corporate world was his greatest challenge.

“(The shift) demanded a steep learning curve, not only in terms of business knowledge but also in understanding my own capabilities and limitations outside the football field,” Ryan said. “I had to acquire new skills, adapt to different challenges, and develop a deeper self-awareness to navigate this uncharted territory. I leaned on my creative side and brought all my ideas to life.”

Celebrity Sightings

The company boasts that its unisex hats have shown up organically on professional athletes including Aaron Judge, Shohei Ohtani and Josh Allen as well as a handful of celebrities like Noah Beck and Koe Wetzel.

Huega House’s hats have also shown up on TV, including on HBO’s Hard Knocks, The Pat McAfee Show, The Joe Rogan Experience and the NFL Network Super Bowl Pregame Show.

“Our defining moments include seeing Aaron Rodgers wear a Huega hat at a (New York) Knicks home playoff game, comedian Shane Gillis sporting our hat during his tour, Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen wearing one on game day and (Los Angeles) Dodgers player Shohei Ohtani wearing it on game day as well,” Ryan said. “These instances have significantly boosted our brand visibility and validated our products’ appeal among high-profile individuals.”

Earlier this year, Huega House launched two separate hat collaborations, one with Jake Cronenworth of the San Diego Padres (a limited edition cap which sold out in three hours) and the other with Kaged, an elite supplement brand.

Ruley said the company plans to take a deeper dive into a brand ambassador program and building long-term relationships with people aligned to Huega House.

Ruley said that while he and Ryan have achieved many of their initial goals, the focus now is on sustaining this growth, continually innovating product offerings, “and building a brand that resonates deeply with our community.”

Ruley said the company is comfortable where it is presently in the hat industry but has plans to expand and will consider looking for additional capital in the future to design and sell other apparel.

“We’ll get into maybe crew necks and sweatshirts most likely this fall and then at the beginning of 2025 we’ll have t-shirts, and then that’ll kind of be our core,” Ruley said. “With that our cost of goods will increase so we may need additional capital because of the product line expanding.”

Huega House
CO-FOUNDERS: Jonathan Ruley and Jake Ryan
BUSINESS: Headwear/Accessories
REVENUE: $590,000 (2023); $1.06M YTD (2024)
WEBSITE: huegahouse.com
CONTACT: juliana@eleven11mediarelations.com
SOCIAL IMPACT: Company works with RX3 Foundation, helping charities like Challenged Athletes Foundation, Boys & Girls Clubs and Project Sunshine.
NOTABLE: Company has an assortment of upcoming partnerships and celebrity endorsements, including a recently launched collaboration with the San Diego Padres Jake Cronenworth, and a collaboration with Kaged, an elite supplement brand.


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