Running a company while keeping your day job
Two years ago, 37-year-old Ashley Hightower (AH) and 36-year-old Tasha Nembhard (TN) launched Corporate Headquarters, a company that sells satin-lined, knit hats—or beanies—on their site, shopcorphq.com. According to their website, the company name came from the idea that although they work “in industries far more important than a beanie,” they hope that one day “these hats will become our corporate headquarters.”
MSR: What inspired you to start your business?
AH and TN: It kind of became like a creative outlet for us to find our own passion. We saw a need out there for a simple outerwear beanie hat that was also satin-lined, to protect your hair.
MSR: What made you think of beanies?
AH and TN: Well, we both wear a lot of beanies. We’ve been friends for a long time, and we’ve been going through our own hair journeys and stuff like that. That’s definitely important to both of us. We saw that this [product] wasn’t really out there. So we’re like, “Let’s create our own.”
MSR: How does your business impact the community?
AH and TN: We’re new. We are hoping to have a bigger impact soon. But right now, we see our product as something that can benefit our community as a way to protect their hair.
Men can protect their expensive haircuts with this product. A lot of people in the Black community spend a lot of money on our hair. We’re big consumers of hair products and hair care. And this is just another product to help that investment.
MSR: What do you consider your main product?
AH and TN: I would say our black beanie is definitely the most popular. But I feel like it all depends on the person and their style. We have three colors right now—black, tan, and orange. But black is probably the top seller.
MSR: What’s been your biggest challenge so far?
AH and TN: I feel like it’s the technology—figuring out how to do our own website, email, and just navigating that world. This is currently a side project for us. We have full-time jobs, so we love to throw all our time and energy into this. But it has also been difficult finding the time to do both.
MSR: What are your full-time jobs?
AH: I work as an executive assistant in education.
TN: I’m a contract manager for a health insurance company.
AH and TN: So, our jobs are not related to what we’re doing. I feel like we’re just trying to find our own path. And it’s one way that we’ve gone and it’s exciting.
MSR: What’s been the most rewarding part of owning your business?
AH and TN: I feel like getting to spend time together. We’re best friends. We’ve known each other for over 15 years. It’s been fun just to collaborate, because we can both lean into our strengths. She’s [Ashley] definitely more creative. I’m more the analytical behind-the-scenes person.
It’s been just great to work together and explore this vision. It’s been fun putting our skills together that benefits us.
MSR: What’s your vision for your business?
AH and TN: Right now, we just have the three colors of hats. So, I know we definitely want to do more colors. We already have some in mind that we want to explore. There’s definitely been demand for kids’ hats. So, we definitely want to get into that market. Then we can kind of see where it goes from there.
My big dream would be to partner with major league teams. Getting a licensing deal with them would be awesome. We’ve only been selling for the last couple of months. I feel like we’re still really trying to find our footing and kind of where we want to go.
MSR: What did the process look like for getting to where you are now?
AH and TN: We took a lot of classes. We went through this apparel mentorship class to really learn about the apparel world. Because again, both of our backgrounds are not in that area at all.
It was good to just learn and to figure out the next steps. These are things that we wouldn’t have thought about on our own. From there, we just took a business class. By then, we finally were like, okay, we need to do this. We need to put our ideas into an actual product.
We reached out and found these consultants and worked with them to design and find an ethical manufacturer to do all the sourcing and make the product. And now we’re here. That part probably took about a year going back and forth with designs and manufacturing, and then it takes time to ship the product.