Reverend Georgette Morgan-Thomas has loved hats since the time she was a little girl growing up in Mobile, Alabama. Now the proud owner of well over one-hundred hats, Reverend Morgan-Thomas is sometimes not recognized without her fancy head-wear. Having worked for community services, charities, and churches in Harlem, New York, for decades, Reverend Morgan-Thomas served as Director of Harlem Housing for Goddard Riverside Community Center which proved to be a challenging--yet ultimately very rewarding--experience. She retired from that position in and is now using her leadership skills more than ever for business…specifically, the hat business.

In 2015, Reverend Morgan-Thomas purchased the S&S Hat Company in Pennsylvania. Despite having been in operation since 1923, the company’s profits were falling, and its business was failing. After the factory was sold via an IRS auction, Reverend Morgan-Thomas took over, renamed it “American Hats LLC.,” and started hiring designers to create hats of various shapes, sizes, and colors…most of which are flamboyant, joyful, and utterly unique--akin to abstract art or “wearable sculptures.” Moreover, retailing between $90 and $400, they are quite affordable.

Hats, fashion, style, and business

Hats are gaining popularity once again in the world of fashion, and Reverend Morgan-Thomas is eager to use her factory as a training ground for young people who wish to make a career designing and/or building hats.

In fact, the company has even delved into the business of making hats for dolls and are hoping to partner with toy companies in the near future.

Since she purchased the company in December of 2015, Reverend Morgan-Thomas has made incredible strides which she largely attributes to the input of her staff of ten--a group of employees that she treats like friends and family.

"I love wearing hats, and I know what looks good, but I didn't know anything about making or producing them," she stated in a recent phone interview. "I'm so thankful that I inherited a wonderful staff that has been working here for years. They helped me figure out how much ribbon to order, explained how the machines worked, and other insights about the daily operations of the factory, which was greatly helpful.

When I got here, there were a lot of repairs and renovations to do so it was truly a labor of love."

Reverend Morgan-Thomas redecorated the factory to make it roomer and brighter which increased morale. Now, four days a week, production runs from 7 am to 2 pm and, since being rebranded "American Hats LLC.," the company has filled more than 5,200 orders.

Although Reverend Morgan-Thomas experienced a learning curve when it came to managing a factory, her skills as a manager are superb, stretching back to her days as a Civil Rights activist when she organized marches in North Carolina and the second March on Washington. After earning a college degree and moving to New York, she worked in the mental health field, advocated against gun violence, and organized public events to teach children peaceful conflict resolution tactics.

She eventually became the chairwoman for Board 9 and, through connections from that position, she secured an article in a July 2017 edition of the prestigious New York Times about her hat company.

"I wanted the article to convey how this factory is about more than just making hats," she declared. "It's about training people and creating jobs and earning income. I'm a big believer in vocational schools, and I'm planning to open one for hat-making right here. We need to train young people to build things. If we want to have things we need to know how to make them."

Reverend Morgan-Thomas has always had an artistic flair to compliment her managerial skills. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, she owned a hot dye transfer business that enabled the customization of T-shirts and similar items.

She also sold musical records from her store--all while working by day as a mental health counselor, a field she had joined while making her way through college.

More recently, via American Hats LLC., Reverend Morgan-Thomas has been able to embrace her creative side once again; she has personally designed approximately two-hundred stylish hats in the current collection.

"I can't make the hats but if I tell my staff what I want they will stand there and assemble it before my eyes," she explained. "They are very talented, and I'm usually pleased with the results."

Reverend Morgan-Thomas admits that making people happy is a huge job perk. Although the factory initially focused on women's hats--which still make up the majority of the orders--, she has also branched out to offer men's.

"I want to make sure the guys can get a good hat too," she declared. "Although the women's hats are more flamboyant. My personal favorite is one called 'Goddess' that has gold leaves and a white flower. It’s the first one that I thought up the design for."

Doll attire, jobs, and the company

The idea of making doll hats occurred when Reverend Morgan-Thomas was discussing grandchildren with one of her master sewers who mentioned that she made hats for her granddaughter's dolls. Reverend Morgan-Thomas loved the idea and is now actively seeking ways to evolve this delightful, yet niche, market.

"Our hats fit American Girl dolls, but they can be made to fit other kinds of dolls too," she said. "I'd love to partner with a toy company to see what we could do.

I'd even consider branching out into attire like dresses."

Expanding the company's reach is a major goal for Reverend Morgan-Thomas who is currently in business talks about possibly getting big-name stores like Neiman-Marcus and Nordstrom to carry their creations. Right now, the hats can only be ordered via the official website or made custom, in any color or size requested, via direct communication.

"Getting some of our standard offerings into a department store would help us increase demand, and it would help me stabilize the business even more," Reverend Morgan-Thomas stated. "I'd also like to see hat shops come back. If we could revive the need for those kinds of stores, it would be fabulous for us and for many people who could earn a living that way."

Reverend Morgan-Thomas is hopeful that her company will become a family business.

Her only child, a law school graduate, and CEO of the company, named Robert, actively assists in managing her schedule. She is currently keeping journals for her young granddaughter.

"I hope she takes over the factory one day, reads my journals, and acknowledges that it was a struggle to start the business but so worthwhile," Reverend Morgan-Thomas declared. She also noted that she recently reached out to Sean Combs to see if celebrities might be interested in wearing styles from American Hats LLC. Moreover, a "trunk show" to display their offerings is being planned to coincide with the next Kentucky Derby--a huge event for sporting fancy hats. At Philly Fashion Week in 2017, several designers featured the hats in their collections.

Having a hat featured on an episode of NBC's "New York Live" and a segment on “The Megyn Kelly Today Show” has also helped to increase the public's awareness of the company and its wares. The brand will also be vending at an event known as "ARDX Foundation 2017 Women's Wellness Celebration" in Virginia and showing off approximately ten hats at an event called the “Virginia Full Figured Fashion Week.”

Reverend Morgan-Thomas has lived a life of charitable good-will ranging from her time working in housing programs to her willingness to give her own hats away to people who admire them. She views American Hats LLC. as a means of helping people even more--by teaching them applicable skills and providing steady paying jobs.

"I believe in investing in people," she said. "If you have a little faith, and a lot of hope, you'd be surprised how many wonderful things can happen.”