Retail Therapy: New Fresno State grad starts hat company with heart

FresnoJune 7, 2014 

Buying a new piece of clothing can be a mood booster, but now there's an entire hat company centered around a positive vibe.

Just Be Dope is a line of hats and a few T-shirts created by Nigel Burton. The 23-year-old graduated last month from Fresno State with a degree in mass communications and journalism and is making the business his career.

"Just be dope" is a phrase Burton often says to his friends.

"The meaning behind Just Be Dope is to just be yourself, whether you're old, you're young, you're nerdy, you're smart — don't worry about it," he says. "Be your fun, upbeat, loving self."

It's about "accepting people for the way they are — just be dope with that," he says.

Burton started selling the hats last year. They feature bright florals reminiscent of Hawaiian shirts and colorful camouflage. Each has a rectangular patch with the words "Just Be Dope" in front. They run from $25 to $40.

Burton's sister lives in Los Angeles and originally connected him with suppliers there. He later began designing hats and taking custom orders for clients including sororities and fraternities on campus.

Just Be Dope has developed a presence on the Fresno State campus. Burton and a few others registered as a student organization and held several events, including food drives and a fashion show that featured poetry and dancing. You can see Burton's video recap of the event on YouTube. (Warning: the cover song has lyrics that may be offensive to some.)

Students and others are buying the hats. He's sold more than 600 total.

By the end of the semester, you could see at least one Just Be Dope hat on campus every day, says Reggie Holman, Burton's roommate and part of the Just Be Dope student organization at Fresno State.

Burton's personality and the brand go hand in hand, Holman says. Just Be Dope is about "standing out, but in a way that doesn't make you stand on top of other people to do it."

Burton is from San Diego and will spend the rest of the summer in Fresno before moving to Los Angeles to be closer to the fashion world.

He'll focus on getting the hats into stores, including in Fresno, and stepping up production. He wants to beef up his website and do more events on other college campuses. For now, the hats are available online at www.justbedope.bigcartel.com. You can follow his company's progress on his Facebook page, Justbedope.

"My plan is to go full force with this business," Burton says. "It's something I've fallen in love with."

 

The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6431, bclough@fresnobee.com or @BethanyClough on Twitter. Read her blog on www.fresnobeehive.com.

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