How two millennials created an apparel brand to fight pediatric cancer

By Small BusinessFOXBusiness

Female entrepreneur inspired to create military-inspired clothing, accessories

Military Apparel Company founder Eve Baum on the military-inspired clothing and accessories and some of the company's custom items.

The summer is officially here. While many Americans are dreaming of sun and sand, Zachary Quinn has sweaters, shawls and scarves on his mind. The co-founder and president of Love Your Melon is gearing up for the busy cold weather months.

Continue Reading Below

It's June, but the Love Your Melon staff of 35 workers is hard at work. From beanies to blankets, product and design teams are preparing collections and merchandise releases through the spring of next year. The apparel company's content team is also creating material for online advertising, social media and their website. Guiding them along with way is Quinn and Brian Keller, co-founder and CEO of Love Your Melon.

Almost seven years ago, Quinn and Keller began making warm winter hats as part of a college entrepreneurship project. Their assignment was to start a business and turn a profit by the end of the semester. The classmates weren’t satisfied with just making a profit. They also wanted to make a difference.

MORE FROM FOXBUSINESS.COM ...

“We talked to the local children’s hospital and they told us people would knit these hats for children in the hospital,” Quinn said. “It would be great because children needed them when they lost their hair to cancer treatment. Because of the lack of uniformity in the handmade hats and cleanliness issues, they needed a brand to come in and give away hats. That’s how we created the one-for-one program that Love Your Melon started has. Every hat we sold, we gave another one away to a kid in the hospital battling cancer.”

A year and a half later, Love Your Melon reached its goal of giving a hat to virtually every child in the country with cancer. Now it donates 50 percent of its net profits to nonprofit partners fighting pediatric cancer.

“At the beginning, we were thinking about giving away money or other philanthropic things that we could do,” said Quinn. "Then we realized we could give away half of what we made and keep people warm in the cold Minnesota weather. The kids in those cold hospital rooms also needed them. That’s where we realized the cool tie-in and how customers could understand the impact they were having.”

Love Your Melon’s annual revenue reached $32.5 million in 2018. Quinn said he expects the company to bring in $35 million to $40 million in revenue this year. The growth has come without any investors. Quinn and Keller have financed the business with loans.

“We had to learn all of the experiences ourselves,” he said. “We didn’t have much guidance -- that’s a very interesting place to be. A college student turning into a business owner. But we had lots of mentors and guides along the way.”

Quinn said he and Keller complement each other in ways he never expected. Quinn said while Keller offers more of an operational perspective as CEO, Quinn considers himself the creative leader.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX BUSINESS APP

As the visionary of the company, Quinn said he is constantly looking for ways to diversify Love Your Melon’s operations. In addition to hats, the company sells sweaters, caps, socks, headbands, pillows and shawls. Stay tuned for kids, dog and knitwear collections. The company is also looking to increase distribution beyond e-commerce and expand advertising channels. Quinn said he’s excited at the prospect of bringing in new partners, while still staying true to Love Your Melon's mission.

“To be able to sustain the business, this is what we are focused on now,” he said. “To be able to get more people involved in helping fight cancer as well as work with us to create these cool products, that’s our goal.”

Linda Bell joined FOX Business Network (FBN) in 2014 as an assignment editor. She is an award-winning writer of business and financial content.  You can follow her on Twitter @lindanbell