Graduation is an important time in a young person’s life, said Rashawnda Wright, noting students should look and feel their best on perhaps the biggest day of their educational careers.
After watching her daughter, Myayla, struggle to wear her graduation cap atop her big, curly hair, Wright was inspired to come up with a solution.
In April 2022, she — along with the Cap Creations team (her daughter and husband, Ryan) — launched Grad Cap Remix, which is a three-piece system that inserts inside the cap and helps it fit securely over any hair style.
“We’re passionate about everybody being comfortable on a day that they worked so hard for,” Wright said.
Within six weeks of launching, she shared, Olathe-based Cap Creations — a GROWKS portfolio company and a Kansas Small Business Development Center Emerging Business of 2023 — sold more than 2,000 Grad Cap Remix units. In January, sales started picking up rapidly, leading the team to shift its packaging and shipping to a fulfillment center. The family venture is also working on forming a partnership with one of the larger cap and gown providers in the country, Wright said.
“If you think back to a year ago, I don’t think we realized we would be here,” she said.
Although Cap Creations has worked with some local school districts — including Olathe and Kansas City, Kansas — most of their business comes via social media, Wright added. Cap Creations has one TikTok video with 38 million views, another with almost 10 million, and two with 5 million.
“Our biggest challenge is timing, because a lot of the kids don’t know they’re gonna have a problem until they get their cap and gown,” she noted.
That’s what happened with Myayla — who is now Cap Creations social media content manager — in spring 2020 before her early-pandemic graduation from Olathe North, Wright recalled.
“While we were stressing on whether or not there was going to be a graduation ceremony, they finally got their caps and gowns, she put it on, and hated it,” she explained. “She was like, ‘This is terrible.’”
They searched online for something to buy to help the cap fit better, she continued, but they couldn’t find anything and ultimately just folded the cap down and glued in a headband.
“It ended up looking like just a flat piece of cardboard sitting on all this curly hair,” she said. “It worked, but it wasn’t the best. So afterward, we kind of were just thinking, ‘Well, you can’t be the only one with this problem. There’s lots of people with lots of hair and different types of hairstyles.’ We thought it was beyond time that people have something more than just a DIY craft hack; something that they can actually get their hands on and purchase.”
Wright — who recently completed the NXTUS 2023 Customer Traction Cohort — and her COO husband spent about six months crafting the Grad Cap Remix three-part system — which is patent protected — before taking it to a protyper to be finished.
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“It has an outer ring that provides shape and structure,” she explained of the system, which is manufactured locally. “Then you fold the cap material down over that and then the inner ring snaps into it, which will hold the material down and then it also provides a track for the customized headband. So when they put it on, they can adjust it to where it fits them best. Then the whole unit allows the cap to sit on top of the head, so they have a distinguished graduation look and don’t stand out or draw any extra attention.”
Although it was originally intended for those with curly, textured hair, Wright shared, the team has realized Grad Cap Remix has a much broader appeal.
“We’ve had a lot of people that have responded in our comments, like, ‘I’ve got a big head. It doesn’t fit me,’” she said of the traditional graduation cap. “People with bangs, women with makeup — all these different issues started coming up on how the cap just doesn’t work with them — sensory issues, cochlear implants. Some people with straight hair just don’t like the way it looks.”
For Wright, she noted, the testimonials of how helpful Grad Cap Remix has been is her favorite part of the business.
“It feels good to get those messages back,” she added. “Some people were extreme, like, ‘It was a lifesaver. Then some were like, ‘I had no idea what I was going to do with my hair for graduation, and this made it so much easier for me.’”
This story is made possible by Entrepreneurial Growth Ventures.
Entrepreneurial Growth Ventures (EGV) is a business unit of NetWork Kansas supporting innovative, high-growth entrepreneurs in the State of Kansas. NetWork Kansas promotes an entrepreneurial environment by connecting entrepreneurs and small business owners with the expertise, education and economic resources they need to succeed.