Zachary Quinn’s class project led him to drop out of college—not because it bombed, but because it went so well.
An entrepreneurship course at the University of St. Thomas required sophomores Quinn and Brian Keller to create a company. They wanted it to do good and also make products in the United States, and they settled on making soft-knit cotton beanies. For every beanie sold, they would give one to a child with cancer.
Their professors didn’t believe they could sell 200 hats in one semester, never mind have a successful business. The hats sold in two days.
That was in 2012. Quinn quit college to focus on the business. They found a knitting mill in Portland, Ore., to knit the beanies. When that mill hit capacity, they switched to Minnesota Knitting Mills in Mendota Heights.
Quinn and Keller bought an old bus, outfitted it with bunk beds, and crisscrossed the country, dressing up like superheroes to give beanies to kids in the hospital. Love Your Melon has diversified into caps, headbands, T-shirts and sweatshirts, mittens, gloves, scarves and blankets, all made in the U.S.
Quinn is CEO, while Keller is chief revenue officer and runs advertising and online support. In 2016, the company reached $21 million in revenue and had donated 50 percent of its profits of more than $2.6 million to nonprofit organizations fighting childhood cancer and supporting families with sick children. It has also donated more than 110,000 beanies to patients and their siblings.
Quinn believes the company’s commitment to manufacturing its products in America has contributed to its success. Customers like to buy American-made products, and quick access to products makes it easier for the company to respond quickly to the market, he says.
Love Your Melon is moving into wholesale apparel and custom monogramming. Its headcount should reach 28 by year’s end. The company’s products also support 120 manufacturing jobs at factories around the country.
Quinn also predicts that revenue will more than double this year.
“The year before, we went from $5 [million] to $21 [million], and this year we project to do $45 [million], conservatively,” he explains. “Growth in e-commerce can happen extremely quickly, and we have more money to spend on advertising.”