Megan Bielefeld is a 17-year-old rider from Kansas who started her own business a year ago designing, painting, and selling custom-painted cowboy hats. Her business is called Rodeo Pride Hats. YR asked Megan a few questions to learn more about her innovative equine company.
Young Rider: What kind of riding do you do?
Megan Bielefeld: I’ve been riding western for about nine years.
YR: Tell us about the horse you ride.
MB: I own two geldings. Buddy is a 16-year-old American Paint Horse, and Montana is a 15-year-old Appaloosa. Montana is the horse I mainly use for competitions, and I plan to compete in more rodeos this year.
YR: What made you decide to launch Rodeo Pride Hats?
MB: I needed a project for a class in school and
thought I’d try painting a cowboy hat. When it
worked out, I decided I would try selling them!
YR: Are you an artistic person? Is art your favorite class in school?
MB: Although I’ve always enjoyed crafts, the funny thing is, I wasn’t into painting until I started painting hats. In the past, I’ve taken art classes in school, but I’m not enrolled in any right now.
YR: How do you come up with the designs?
MB: Normally the customer has an idea of what they want on their hat and I work with them to create a design they love. They usually have a favorite color, design or emblem they like.
YR: How do you actually make the hats?
MB: The process of making the hats starts with finding a design that the customer likes. This involves sketching a proof to give them. Then I start the most time-consuming step—painting the hat. Finally, I use a special sealant to coat the hat and seal the design, as well as to protect it from the elements.
YR: Do you work on other people’s hats or sell the entire hat?
MB: Customers can either send in their own hat or I can provide one in their size. I paint on either straw or felt hats.
YR: How do you advertise your hats?
MB: Social media plays a big role in the marketing of my hats. I mainly use Instagram and Facebook to promote the hats. I also sponsor several riders around the country who promote my business by wearing their hats at barrel races and rodeos, or in photo shoots, which helps my business out a lot.
YR: Who has bought them so far?
MB: I sell hats all over the United States and to people of all ages. The youngest person was 2 years old! A lot of my business comes from customers who see my work on social media and also by word of mouth.
YR: What’s your plan for life after high school?
MB: I still haven’t decided exactly what I want to do after high school. I’m interested in going into the agriculture field of study, and I’d also enjoy working with horses in the future! I’d like to find a college with a rodeo program, and take my horse to college with me to compete.
YR: Where do you see Rodeo Pride Hats in five years?
MB: I’d like to start having booths at horse and
agriculture expos across the state. I enjoy working out of my home, which is nice because I don’t have to pay for store rent. I’ve also considered displaying some of my hats in stores that sell western clothes. I’m excited to see where Rodeo Pride Hats takes me in the next few years!
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2015 issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!