Love Your Melon has been around for a decade, selling its distinctive hats to style mavens while donating cotton knit beanies to kids with cancer. To step up its customer experience, it's setting up build-your-own-beanie experiences, including pop-ins at six Nordstrom stores. Brian Keller, co-founder and chief executive officer, explains what it hopes to accomplish.
D2C Insider: First, tell us a little about Love Your Melon.
Brian Keller: We started in our college classroom to make a difference in the lives of children battling cancer. We came up with the idea of these beanies, initially for kids. We've scaled and evolved. Since we started, we've given away $9.4 million in donations to pediatric cancer and 250,000 beanies to children undergoing cancer treatment.
D2C Insider: You're working with Tenspace, a storefront in Columbus, Ohio, for a new immersive build-a-beanie experience, and Nordstrom. What's the goal?
Keller: Consumers are looking for an experience–they want to interact and get to know more about a brand personally. We're trying these two different approaches, hoping to figure out the most scalable solution to, you know, bring this concept to life without a ton of upfront investment.
D2C Insider: What's the approach with Tenspace?
Keller: It's a space that introduces people to internet brands and has worked with companies like Olipop. It provided all the upfront costs to build and staff the store. We worked with the team to build out the concepts and design so that customers could come in and get the whole picture and understanding of the brand and the mission.
And they can see us create a product that's personalized to them. They can pick their color, pom color and custom patch and see it all get sewn together right in front of them.
The concept has been successful. Revenues have increased each week, which is not typical for a pop-up. And our conversion rate is 32%. This is a model we could replicate going into next fall and holiday.
D2C Insider: How is the Nordstrom approach different?
Keller: We've worked with Nordstrom before, doing pop-ins with our Disney and Smiley Face collections. But there was no experiential component. And when we pitched them this idea, they loved it for the holiday season.
Nordstrom has its own tailor team on staff -- they'll be there to sew the beanies together. We don't even have to send our sewing machines.
It's a unique alignment. Te pulled it together quickly, and we'll be in five U.S. stores, plus one in Vancouver. And we've got unique patches: Disney, Star Wars and Peanuts, some only available at Nordstrom.
D2C Insider: Your company was acquired earlier this year by Win Brands, which also owns Gravity, which makes weighted blankets, and Homesick, a fragrance company. What's that been like?
Keller: We're at about $20 million in annual sales. We reached a point where, to grow and have a larger impact, we needed help in different areas of expertise. Win is a great partner with a high level of knowledge, not just in D2C but from an omnichannel perspective
D2C Insider: Why the focus on pediatric cancer?
Keller: We wanted to start something that mattered.
The beanies are 100% cotton because acrylic fibers can be itchy. And when we started, beanies weren't that prevalent, especially thick, cotton, stretchy ones. We found this huge audience that gravitated toward the look and colors, as well as mittens. And they like our mission.
D2C Insider: This is a tricky time for D2C brands. Venture funds are drying up. It's very expensive to acquire new customers online. And it's challenging to get into retail. If you could go back and give yourself advice 10 years ago, what would it be?
Keller: I wouldn't go back and do it any differently because everything we learned along the way contributed to where we are now. And we have done a great job of keeping the mission at the forefront. We're very transparent about where we're giving the money and its impact.
One of the biggest parts of Love Your Mellon is that everybody can make a difference. Cancer affects a wide range of people. And anyone can make a difference by buying a beanie.
D2C Insider: How do you distribute the funds?
Keller: We have a grant process focusing on three pillars: research, family support and therapeutic experiences.
D2C Insider: And the hats?
Keller: We have a network of about 196 pediatric oncology facilities, and we communicate regularly for beanie giveaways. That's separate from our financial giving.
D2C Insider: Have you done a Build-a-Beanie event at a hospital so kids can customize their hats?
Keller: Not yet. When we do, it will be similar to the model we're using at Tenspace. We had planned one for 2020 and then had to postpone because of the pandemic, so it's definitely in the cards.