Two University of Richmond alumni are taking advantage of the blooming Richmond startup scene and building a company using the resources and expertise gained while on campus and in the real world.

Having known each other at UR as student athletes, BJ Scott, ’13, and Charlett Stevenson, ’16, reconnected early in their careers through mutual friends in New York City. BJ, who studied sociology while at Richmond, was working for BuzzFeed at the time when Charlett, a business student, moved to the city to pursue sales and real estate.

“We connected through our shared interest in startups and new product ventures,” BJ said. “As we started to bounce ideas off of each other, I began to realize I wanted to build my own company. Charlett has a mind for business development and I enjoy the creative aspect of the industry, so our respective strengths were a natural connection.”

For the next two years, the pair would meet to talk through ideas of new apps and potential business ventures. During the discussions, one thing became clear—both BJ and Charlett wanted to build something unique to help service clients, while also enjoying the freedom to build their own products at the same time.

In 2017, all their work came to fruition with Hat Factory Design Lab, an interface design organization for innovative companies around the world. “We are able to help companies with app development all the way from consultancy to design implementation,” Charlett said. “But we also have an innovation center where we work on our own products and services, one of which will be hitting the app store in 2019.”

The name Hat Factory came about because the founders were required to wear many hats for their clients. “We love to build products for clients, and ourselves, and that requires adaptability.

We’re working on design and strategy, and our small team has a lot of talents. We offer a lot of services to ensure we’re with our clients every step of the way, and that’s important,” BJ said.  

As the partners started out, BJ as CEO and Charlett as COO, they quickly realized the need for mentorship and support in their endeavor. “We became involved in the Richmond startup community and were introduced to Startup Virginia,” BJ shared. “We reached out to them before they even finished the facility hoping to become a member. Even though we NYC was our base, we knew the future held a move back to Richmond. Our roots are very deep here and we wanted to support the local business network.”  

Both Charlett and BJ credit their time on campus with the foundation they needed to find success today. “As a student athlete, I learned how to communicate in the right way regardless of the matter you’re discussing,” Charlett shared. “One of my final classes was with Dr. Marquardt. The course focused on conceptualizing a company and building the business strategy behind it. That prompted me to think about the potential of my own venture,” Charlett said.

This fall, Hat Factory will launch two in-house products—Bridal Book, a digital bridal planning tool, and a media company with the intention of becoming a hub for remote workers.

Of his time as a student, BJ shared, “Wearing multiple hats at Richmond—a challenging course load, Division 1 sports, and a personal life—it was hard to do well. But the lessons I learned and challenges I overcame helped get me to where I am today.”

You can learn more about Hat Factory here.