Eighteen-year-old Mike Brown sits on his couch in the San Diego apartment he shares with four others skateboarders, surrounded by bags brimming with balls of yarn.
Hours pass, skate videos play on the television before him, and Brown remains seated, crocheting beanies.
Countless boxes filled with his handmade beanies, in a full array of colors, are scattered about the apartment. On a chair near the kitchen, a friend of Brown’s, patiently struggling with two needles, is attempting to learn the art of crocheting a beanie from him.
Brown crocheted his first beanie last October, after realizing he couldn’t find a beanie exactly like he wanted, and seeing one that a close friend had made. His friend taught him the art–and Brown went home and crocheted all night and all morning until his beanie was done. An employee at the nearby Coronado skatepark, Brown wore his first beanie to work the next day. He immediately earned admiration from friends and park customers alike. That same day, he crocheted another beanie at the park for someone who had admired his, and sold it for ten bucks before he went home. “It took me all day to make,” says Brown. He adds, “The same guy has bought a couple more (beanies) since then. Whenever he’s in town, he stops by the park to skate and buys a beanie.
“It’s cool–the first guy to ever buy one from me still comes back and gets them.”
Not long after the almost immediate general interest in his beanies started to develop, so did a buzz about them. Ken Lewis from Hangar 18–the shop that Brown skates for–soon discovered that he was making beanies. “When Ken (Lewis) found out I was making them, he said, ‘You’re making beanies, and you’re riding for the shop, so why don?t you try some out on consignment?’ So I brought three into the store, and they sold right away. I went back a couple of days later with ten more, and it all went from there.”
Other San Diego skate shops were quick to catch on. “A friend of mine started managing Soul Grind,” explains Brown. “When he found out that I made beanies, he offered to carry some just to help me out–but they started selling really well.” And Brown’s business has steadily grown from there. “I decided to take some into a new skate shop in my neighborhood (Overload)–and they started carrying them right away.”
Admittedly, Mike Brown makes one hell of a beanie. And the demand for his beanies has been growing so steadily in the past six months that he’s had to ask a friend to come and learn the ‘trade,’ to support the demand for an authentic handmade Brown Beanie.
Brown has even had to turn down orders–including one from a prominent apparel company. “They wanted to buy my beanies and put their tags on them,” he explains. “At first it sounded like a good idea–but when I actually sat down and thought about it, I didn’t want to do it.”
The buzz about Brown Beanies isn’t small. Kris Markovich grabbed four from Hangar 18–also his shop sponsor–when he saw them there earlier this year. “Markovich was so psyched when he saw those beanies on display, he grabbed four!” exlaims Lewis.
In fact, the Hollywood guys were all so psyched on Brown Beanies that the whole team–with the exception of Kevin Staab–is riding for Brown’s company now. It is, after all, officially a company. Brown registered it a week after the Hollywood team signed up to rock his beanies, and shop orders began growing noticeably.
Asked how he feels about his beanies creating such a buzz, Brown was quick to reply: “I’m excited. It’s very exciting because when it first started, people were talking about it, and that makes me feel good–that I’m creating something that people enjoy so much.”
In regards to the ongoing growth and expansion of the company, Brown is adamant about keeping his beanies at the grassroots level of skateboarding. “I like to keep it in skate shops and get it into as many skate shops as I can.
“Getting represented on the East Coast would be cool,” he adds.
>Keep an eye out for the Brown Beanies commercial in the Hollywood Skateboards promo video.
This eighteen-year-old entrepreneur is manufacturing and distributing hundreds of individually handmade beanies out of shoeboxes in his living room. His customers are satisfied, his team is stoked, and he’s grinning ear to ear.