For this Birmingham brand, success depends on a thriving company culture

Aviate Birmingham Hats
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When it comes to successful business stories, one of the biggest trends for 2018 is improving company culture. Just ask the Birmingham-based apparel brand Aviate.

To this young and enthusiastic team, capitalizing on creativity and energy translates to rapid business growth.

A recent Duke University survey of 1,400 organizations about the importance of culture in business found that 92% of the CEOs and CFOs surveyed said that improving culture would increase their organization’s value.

The Aviate team from top left: Jordan Hovater, owner Ben Lancaster, Randall Porter, Dena Sukar, Maddy Perry,Cassie McCay and Jennifer Frudaker
Like A Boss

Aviate  owner Ben Lancaster started with 100 airport-code inspired BHM caps and sold out in two days.

What started two-and-a-half years ago as a single offering has blossomed into a retail niche like no other. Along with the hats are shirts, cocktail glass sets, socks and more, featuring over 150 distinctive airport codes.

They’re known from L.A. (LAX) to New York (JFK), and even celebrities like country music singer Keith Urban have been spotted representing the place they call home (Nashville International Airport AKA BNA), via an Aviate cap.

It’s no secret that this fashion accessory is popular way beyond Birmingham, but the thing to note is what makes them tick as a company: their company culture.

Aviate Birmingham Hats
Photo by Kristina O’Quinn for Bham Now

Talk to the cozy team at Aviate and you’ll find a common thread. Their earnest enthusiasm doesn’t come across as concocted. These guys actually value one another!

 “I’m a people personthat’s my heart,” said Creative Director/Designer Maddy Perry. “Since I’ve been at Aviate, the people here have helped me grow as much as I have because we are all so completely different. Personal life, at work how we all doing things is so unique and so different.

“I can actually, honestly say since I’ve started this job, there hasn’t been a single morning where I’ve hated to go to work.”

Aviate Birmingham Hats
Photo by Kristina O’Quinn for Bham Now
BHM: The Lifestyle

All that employee energy is buoyed by their customers. They feed off of each other, and it shows. When one of their customers uploads a stunning selfie featuring the brand, they are quick to share. This exchange of mutual enthusiasm is contagious, and that’s what makes their branding successful.

“Our whole brand is based on user-generated content,” said Director of Brand Communications Randall Porter.

“We love to produce the content provided to us by customers. It continues to help build our fan base, and everyone likes being reposted on our social media.”

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Tribe Of Travelers

Marketing Director Jordan Hovater started out as an Aviate intern and worked his way up to a full-time position right out of college.

Hovater wants to own his own business one day and says that his time at Aviate continues to fuel his entrepreneurial goals.

He’s absorbed all aspects of business basics as an Aviate team member and believes that a dedicated digital marketing plan is key to growth. He also noted that Aviate’s consistent social media presence is thoughtfully curated to include everyone.

“Online or in person, it’s up to you how you want other people to see your brand,” Hovater said. “If you are smart about that, and you know what people enjoy and what people can get behind, portray that to them.”

Wholesale Coordinator Cassie McCay agrees that their brand is a way to  acknowledge the traveler in yourself, as well as other travelers. It’s all about that digital embrace.

“I feel like our product represents a very large idea, which is: Get out there. Challenge yourself. See new things. Grow!” McCay said.

“It’s great because even though Aviate started in Alabama, we are seen throughout the world. Our hats have been across the world. We’re now in Canada, Bermuda, and it’s just all about the community.”

Aviate Birmingham Hats
Photo by Kristina O’Quinn for Bham Now
People Are People

All that creativity and energy isn’t saved for the drawing table. Aviate employees match that in-house sense of urgency when it comes to their retailers, too. Their clients are the tribe VIPs.

“We have to remember that each client’s business is their livelihood,” said Director of Wholesale Jennifer Frudaker.”

“If I can help solve a problem, then yeah, I want to do that. If we’re out of stock with an item they carry, I’m there to help, find or suggest a new one.

“One of my goals this year is to give my clients more face time. We’re a new company, even to this day, people are taking a chance on us. In the retail world, we’re only two-and-a-half years old, and that’s pretty young. Our customers deserve to see the face behind the email!”

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