In April 1999, a desire to bring the coveted Australian secret to maintaining beautiful, healthy skin stateside, led Stephanie Carter to launch the Boulder, Colorado-based Wallaroo Hat Company. Each year, Carter collaborates with a design team to create a line of stylish crushable, washable, wide-brimmed, UPF 50+ fabric hats available in ultra-fashionable and colorful styles and patterns.
After earning her undergraduate degree in French and Spanish from NYU and her J.D. from the University of Denver law school, Carter spent eight years practicing law. Now, Carter spends the majority of her time navigating the growth and evolution of Wallaroo Hat Company, while continuing to practice law on a pro-bono basis.
As a small business owner and active community member, Carter’s company has donated thousands of dollars in products to the American Cancer Society, The Shade Foundation, The Colorado Melanoma Foundation, Airline Ambassadors and several other non-profit community organizations devoted to skin cancer prevention.
Carter is a Boulder native, where she resides with her husband and three children. She is an outdoor enthusiast, avid traveler and philanthropist.
THE CARTER STORY
During a trip to Australia in 1998, I learned the Aussie secret to sun protection: crushable, washable, wide-brimmed, UPF 50+ fabric hats available in ultra-fashionable and colorful styles and patterns.
Armed with the motivation to make a difference in people’s lives, I knew that I had to bring this innovative form of sun protection to the United States in way that merged fashion and function. In 1999, Wallaroo Hat Company was created and operated out of a home office and a small garage in Boulder, Colorado.
19 years later, Wallaroo has grown from our initial staff of two to 14 people, working out of our Boulder, Colorado headquarters. Wallaroo has 35 sales reps around the nation and 10 Distributors around the globe. This growth has allowed Wallaroo to expand into many styles for men, women and children!
Along with being able to provide innovative and long-lasting sun protection to everyone, my greatest reward as an entrepreneur has been giving back. Since inception, Wallaroo Hat Company has donated a portion of our annual sales to The Skin Cancer Foundation — totaling over $40,000 — and we have also been able to donate products to the American Cancer Society, where it is distributed to people who need it the most.
From the beginning, Wallaroo’s mission has been to design hats that are high quality and offer long-lasting sun protection. I am proud to say we have been fulfilling that mission for almost two decades and it wouldn’t be possible without a staff driven by delivering unparalleled customer service and support from Wallaroo customers around the world.
You wake up in the morning – what’s the driving passion?
Making a difference in people’s lives motivates me and knowing that I have a chance to make a difference in the world of skin cancer prevention drives me. In the United States more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year than all other cancers combined.
What do men and women chiefly look for when considering a headwear purchase?
Most people want a hat that makes them look attractive and keeps them protected from the sun. At Wallaroo we pride ourselves on our ability to capture people’s attention through our hats that merge fashion and function by delivering long-lasting protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays and innovative features that make them washable and easy to pack for travel.
What’s the biggest mistake men and women make when contemplating a purchase?
When it comes golf, people make two mistakes. First, many prefer baseball caps, but unfortunately, they don’t provide good sun protection because they leave a lot of skin unprotected. Another common mistake is that people tend to purchase hats that aren’t the right size, shape or color for their features. We offer customers a size and fit guide that helps to answer these questions and our Customer Service Representatives are also a great resource if customers have questions.
Wallaroo hats was one of the first to provide hats with a UPF rating. How far along today is the marketplace today.
We believe skin cancer research, education and prevention is the most important thing we can do for ourselves and for our customers. Since our inception in 1999, Wallaroo has been a leader in the sun protective hat industry because of our mission to create styles that are high quality and offer UPF 50+ protection. Over the last 18 years we have seen a large increase in the amount of foundations that are recognized worldwide for educating the public about the dangers of skin cancer.
Biggest pet peeve is what?
When people think they look bad in hats! If you can get people to try on a few hats and see how great they look and explain the benefits of sun protection as well — you can always turn someone into a hat wearer. That always makes my day!
You’ve been active in spreading the word about the dangers associated with skin cancer — what’s been the reaction now versus what it was when Wallaroo first started doing business in 1999?
As the popularity of social media has increased we see more Wallaroo fans posting pictures in their hats. We are thrilled to see this and also understand social media has become an information source for many. People are definitely more aware of the dangers of skin cancer, but there is still a need for more education. Along with posting images on our hats social media we share articles about skin care awareness and prevention. You can now follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
The major golf organizations — USGA, R&A, PGA of America, PGA TOUR, LPGA — are all seeking ways to attract players to the game. This is especially so for Millennials, women and minorities. If you were advising them what would you recommend be done?
Golf is an expensive sport. I would recommend increasing the amount of work with organizations, like The First Tee, that are attracting more potential golf enthusiasts by working with local communities to coordinate more affordable, or even free, clinics that make the game more accessible to younger players.
So many companies routinely tout customer service. What’s your definition for the term and the approach taken at Wallaroo?
At Wallaroo we stand behind the high-quality hats we create 100%. Our customer service representatives know the products inside and out, are always willing to talk with customers about size and colors and take the time to suggest what styles would look best on them. We believe a happy customer becomes a lifelong customer who will continue to purchase products and most importantly support our brand. We are very proud of our brand and the loyal following and support from Wallaroo customers around the globe!
You can change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
Golf takes too long for most people today. We all live such busy lives, and we run out of time for 18 holes of golf! One way to make the sport shorter more enjoyable, user friendly and a better source of exercise would be developing more walkable 9-hole and par 3 golf courses.
Best advice you ever received? What was it and who from?
Use “Other People’s Money”- the real business of finance. When I started Wallaroo Hat Company 19 years ago, I needed a loan from the bank to launch our company. Without the support of the bank we would never have grown from small garage with 2 people to a staff of 14 and 35 sales reps all over the country and internationally without the bank loan!WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?