Entrepreneur's baseball caps a hit right off the bat
By Alastair Lee Bitsoi
WINDOW ROCK, July 18, 2013
He looks for animal prints, tribal designs and other various cultural styles currently trending in the fashion world. After handcrafting his creations with his mother's sewing machine, he posts his apparel on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, where he attracts most of his consumers.
A quick glance at his Profound Product Instagram account shows a growing demand of pocket tees, tank tops and now baseball shirts, all designed with a custom pocket.
"I like creating a different style of clothing or create a different style to help people discover their own style," said the 19-year-old, whose Navajo roots are in the Four Corners region.
Benally established Profound Product in August 2012, after noticing how a Facebook friend had "liked" a baseball hat with tribal designs on the brim, and then began using YouTube as a source for ideas.
He didn't anticipate his very first tribal-print hat would be a hit and hip on the Arizona State University campus, where he is studying digital culture and media processing. Benally began seeing a demand for hats from his peers.
"It was mostly to do it for myself, but once I started school at ASU a bunch of people started asking me to do their hats," he said. "From there it started into a business."
Asked how he came up with the name "Profound Product," Benally said he liked the meaning of "profound," which, according to the Merriam Webster's Dictionary, means, "having intellectual depth and insight" or "characterized by intensity of feeling or quality."
When Benally gets orders for baseball hats, which range in cost from $10 to $60 plus shipping, it requires meticulous sewing machine skills he had to learn to produce a better-quality product.
"I figured out how to use a sewing machine," he said, while chuckling.
The sewing machine belongs to his mother, Janise Benally, and was stored away in a closet, he said.
"I now do everything by sewing machine," Benally added.
He also uses the culture of ASU, YouTube and Instagram as his platforms to keep on track of what's trending in the fashion world to develop his customized products.
"Me being Native and living in a city, I try to mix tribal with urban wear," he said. "I also try to stay on top of what's trending right now."
Snapbacks, strap backs, buckle backs, Velcro backs and fitted hats are the various types Benally customizes with his selected prints. It takes him about an hour to redesign each order of hats, he said.
To redesign a hat's brim, Benally disconnects the original brim by cutting the fabric off the hat. Then, he chooses a design that matches the color of the hat and hand sews the design onto the brim of the hat.
Not only does he redesign the brims of hats, he also designs custom pocket T-shirts and tank tops.
His expansion into the T-shirt and tank top markets happened in part because of people asking if he works with T-shirts. Then came the tank tops, and now the baseball T-shirts, which are scheduled to be released by the fall.
"All the T-shirts are custom-made by order," Benally said. They cost $18, plus shipping, and come in black or white in various sizes for men and women.
To date, he has shipped his products all across the U.S. including to Los Angeles, Florida and Massachusetts. He also recently shipped an international order to France.
"It's all over right now," Benally said, adding that the extra money he generates supplements his college funding. "Mostly all of my orders are scattered."
The best way to place an order is via Instagram at @ProfoundProduct or by email at email@example.com, Benally said.
For consumers, like Oklahoma-based Seth Roubideaux, Benally's customized apparel is a "different type of wear."
"When it has that Pendleton design, it makes it more personal for natives," Roubideaux said. "It targets a lot of young people and I can see why a lot of people want to buy it."
Roubideaux has had an LRG, or Lifted Research Group, and Memphis Grizzlies hats customized with tribal Pendleton designs from Profound Product.
"It's something pretty sweet and you can't find it in stores anywhere," Roubideaux added about his two specialty hats. "I dig it."
Benally's father, Dino Benally, echoed similar thoughts. After all, he's seen his son balloon into a street-wear designer from doodling as a child, art and photography classes, and, ironically, from boredom.
"He kind of gets bored," Dino said. "That's when he started customizing hats."
Though Dino doesn't wear the street gear yet, and perhaps never will, he supports his son's new venture 100 percent.
"The T-shirts have really taken off the last couple of weeks," Dino observed. "The hats have kind of slowed down for a while."
Dino also added that he didn't know how Profound Product would take off, until he started seeing the consumer demand of the T-shirts.
"He's always looking outside the box," Benally's father said. "He's always been like this growing up."
Since the last year, Dino has seen his son's products evolve into "professional-looking" merchandise.
"This is just starting off for him," he said. "He'll have a broad range of products pretty soon."
According to Dino, Benally's work has caught some attention among the athletic world through "word of mouth" and from high school classmates attending college out of state. Some members of the ASU baseball team and other jocks, including an athlete who attends California State University Fullerton, for example, have placed orders with Profound Product.
"He's got a bright, bright future ahead of him. His mom and I know he will do well," Dino said. "If it's not this, it's going to be something else. He always has something up his sleeves."
Benally does have something up his T-shirt sleeve - it's eventually being the CEO of a street wear company.
"When this first started, out I thought this would be just something for fun," he said. "But now, I am thinking of making it into a bigger street wear brand."
Benally is Bii Bitoodhii (Deer Spring People Clan) and born for Tábaahá (Water Edge People Clan). He has one brother, Loren Benally, 20, and one sister, Grace Benally, 12.
Contact Alastair L. Bitsoi at 928-871-1141 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.