Not many 14 year olds run their own business, but for Matt Benedetto, that’s when it began. Benedetto went from a small-time hat crotchetier to being the owner of a multinational company before he came to St. Michael’s as an undergraduate.
The big time
Benedetto’s company, EC Headwear, targets the ski and snowboard industry with a line of stylish hats. Benedetto used to call the company East Coast Headwear, but now that he sells his product around the world, he shortened it to EC Headwear. He primarily sells beanie hats, but has expanded his line to sunglasses, T-shirts, sweatshirts and gloves, he says.
“I use to crochet for fun and other kids wanted me to make them hats,” Benedetto says, “and then I got on the Internet.”
The young business major must work hard to balance coursework and operating EC.
(Photo courtesy of Joe Tyson)
Benedetto first started advertising on newschoolers.com. It was thanks to this Web site that EC Headwear really got going, says Peter Benedetto, the brother of the young entrepreneur.
Though it is Matt’s business, Peter says the two occasionally exchange ideas concerning new lines.
“Even when he was little he knew how to make money, holding garage sales and selling lemonade,” Peter says.
Although Matt sells most of his products through his own Web site now, winter sports outlets have also picked up Benedetto’s line. A number of these stores contacted him in order to sell his products, he says.
“Stores in eight countries, Canada, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Czech Republic and the United States, sell my line,” Benedetto says.
Jibij Pro Shop in Boulder, Colo. has been selling EC Headwear for three years now.
“Matt is pretty in tune with what the kids want,” says Josh Bryant, owner of Jibij Pro Shop. “We always sell out of his line.”
Benedetto also advertises his products through the sponsorship of eight professional skiers, who in turn, wear his products.
“Stores pick up on what kids like”
Before attending St. Michael’s, Benedetto worked from his home in New York. He ran the business out of his bedroom and the family’s barn, where he kept most of the inventory, Peter says.
Benedetto won an entrepreneur scholarship from Andy McKelve, the creator of monster.com. He was one of several teenagers who created his own business and earned a $40,000 scholarship.
The door to Benedetto's office in Dupont Hall.
(Photo by Megan Davin)
Once Benedetto started selling his products online, he had manufacturers make the items so he could focus on the design aspect, he says.
“My first line I threw together really quick, and I based it off all of the styles of freestyle outerwear so that your hat could match your jacket,” Benedetto says.
Benedetto keeps up on the trends for the upcoming season to keep his product in tune with what the consumers want.
“I am on newschoolers.com all the time, which has over 100,000 members,” Benedetto says. “I read all the forums to see what different things kids are looking for, like hats to go under the helmets, and hats to wear to the mountain.”
Benedetto now has an office on the North Campus of St. Michael's in Dupont Hall, which the college allows him to use for the business.
From lemonade to ski gear
Even with his experience, Benedetto says he is learning a lot of the technical aspects of running a business through his business administration major at school.
“It’s the perfect area to promote my products because there are so many mountains and skiers,” Benedetto says of the smaller school atmosphere. “I actually sponsored the St. Michael’s Ski and Snowboard Club before I even came here.”
This year Benedetto has given at least 40 hats and 20 pairs of sunglasses to the club, says Chris Bishop, president of the Ski and Snowboard Club.
EC Headwear also sponsers several
professional riders who wear Benedetto's gear.
(Photo courtesy of Matt Benedetto)
“All of the hats and sunglasses Matt has donated are very stylish, Bishop says. “And everyone really seems to love them.”
Senior ski and snowboard member Caity Courcier owns many of Benedetto’s products.
“I love the hats, they are warm, have bright colors, and are affordable,” Courcier says.
The club has handed out, raffled, and created unique competitions to give out the donations at events such as the Jib Fest.
“We had kids try to pick up pairs of sunglasses off the snow with their mouth while standing on one foot,” Bishop says.
However, so it switched to a contest to see who could chug Red Bull out of a shoe the fastest, Bishop says.
Benedetto says he might hire someone to help out with the business. He is looking into working with a ski rep that could promote his products to ski shops in the area.
“Burlington would be a sick place to stay around,” Benedetto says. “Even if EC Headwear fades out, I think I have established myself enough to stay in the field."