Jackie Priess of Jax Hats shares about her new Missoula shop, and the connections that have brought her this far

First of all, I would like to say that this lady is a superhero. From her company slogan, "Saving the world from ugly sweaters," to the way she taught her husband to sew (WOW!), and everything in between: getting her product into nine shops across Montana (six of those in Missoula!), selling and shipping worldwide through Etsy, and participating in the People's Market starting this Saturday.
Adrienne Priess, Photo by Shauna Dasher 

Her daughter Bethany is a powerhouse too, a recent graduate of the UM Business Marketing program (woo! heyy!), and joined the Missoula Business Women's Network and is now helping her mom to expand Nationally. How cool is that? 

Jackie started off on Etsy and although she has her own website for Missoula handmade hats, she allows Etsy to be her one source of sales. "It is so easy and foolproof," she says, "I have had my Etsy site for 4 years, and have learned so much just by trial and error.  I didn't have my first sale for 6 months, so I felt pretty discouraged, but I found that you have to list frequently on this site to be located by a buyer, so when I discovered this piece, I began 'working' my site and the sales started happening."

  • Many artists I have interviewed shared that learning to list more frequently was the epiphany that got them on the right track with Etsy. My advice to get started with this: make sure you are making an extra $2 outside of labor and raw materials for each of your items. Now, you can re-list 10 of your items (one at a time, at prime times) until you make your next sale. When you make that sale, you'll be making that $2.00 back you spent to re-list your items, and can consider that a cost of advertising. ~LS

Jackie has had experimented with ads on Facebook, "...with little or no discernible results.  I have also tried the various Etsy.com special listing ads, but never seemed to result in sales for me.  At this time, face to face contact when I do local craft shows with repeat happy customers seems to be my best marketing tool." Still, her business Facebook page has helped her to build her fan base and sales. 

  • Remember getting as much exposure as possible has been recommended over and over by local businesswomen on this blog as a rule of thumb, so there must be something to that! Network and build relationships with other artists and shops in your local community. Jackie sites "Vault Denim" and the group at Upcycled (517 S. Higgins in Missoula) as being two connections that will take her to the next level.~LS

I love my job! What Jackie Priess loves most about her work:
Each of my hats is made from recycled clothing, and each is unique and different.  I love how no two are the same, so I don't get bored doing "assembly" work.  I love making the buttons from polymer clay that gives each hat the signature "JAX" look.  I love how so many people LOVE the hats and come back for seconds and thirds.  I have several people that own at least 10 of my Jax Hats!  I love how this has afforded me opportunities for a creative outlet with a financial gain.  It has been something I have been working toward for over 30 years with many stalls in moving forward as I became a mom and worked full time.  When I realized how many people were delighting in the hats I create, and started concentrating on these instead of the clothing line I was making, I took it to the next level.  
About teaching her partners and future plans:
When my husband was laid off 3 years ago, I taught him to sew!  He has become an integral part of my team and has learned to tap into his own creative side, helping design not only the hats, but also a new jewelry line.  This winter we partnered with 2 other artists and opened our own store in Missoula called "Upcycled" located on the "Hip Strip" close to Betty's Divine.  We opened on Jan 15, and it has been very successful selling locally MT made crafts made from "upcycled" materials.  We are anticipating that it will continue to grow this summer, possibly tripling in revenue.  My husband works at the store allowing me to continue working my job that provides the benefits.
 Advice for the aspiring businesswoman:

Define your product - try not to do it all.  Find what you do best and make it to the best of your ability.  Put your signature touch on it and make it not easy to duplicate because of this touch.   

Crafts people are usually multi talented and very likely ADD -  we want to do it all!  When you are displaying your wares at a craft sale and have too much variety of stuff it ends up looking more like a garage sale, and makes buyers confused.

More info on how to find and connect with Jaxhats!:

Jax hats can be found at JaxHats on Etsy or Jaxhats.com. Connect with their facebook page Jaxhats as well as Upcycled and Jackie can be e-mailed directly at jaxhatsmt@gmail.com or jaxonsjazz@hotmail.com.

Find Jaxhats every Saturday at People's Market in downtown Missoula starting May 7th and ending Oct 15th from 9:00am - 1:00pm.  This is located on Alder St - 2 blocks south of the Farmer's Market by the XXX's (not the market under the bridge).  Visit Jaxhats at Upcycled 517 S Higgins, Missoula, MT or find Jax Hats at Rockin Rudy's, The Green Light, the Artist's Gallery, Sorella's, Apricot Lane in the Southgate Mall, or Freyed Sew in Helena, Cello in Bozeman, or Fawn in Kalispell.


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Thanks for reading!


This is the third installment in my original series: "I Love My Job: Stories of Real Missoula Business Owners" Read more about this series and how to be featured here. Thanks for reading! It's easy to get Songbird's Branch delivered to your inbox. Just see the "follow by email" button on the sidebar! Never stop learning, growing, and reaching. 



~Laura

Content by Laura Gabriele