By the time Corinne Prevot graduated high school in 2009, she had already racked up $8,000 selling homemade hats she sewed at her parents’ kitchen table. Two years later, Prevot's Burlington, Vermont-based company, Skida, made $100,000 in revenue. That same year, Forbes Magazine took notice and recognized Prevot as an all-star student entrepreneur.
Skida started as the creative musing of a crafty 17-year-old girl, but Prevot's stripped-down business model and great love for the outdoors have powered her business to become one of the most successful headwear companies in the outdoor industry. Today, Prevot is 24 years old and running Skida full time, selling hats, headbands, and neck-warmers online and in some 200 shops across the country.
The lightweight hats, headbands, and neck-warmers are made of double Lycra layers, with fleece-lined options for colder days. Sized for kids and adults, Skida's products come in a wild kaleidoscope of prints that rotate often to keep the selection fresh. With names like carpe diem, sunrise, feeling peachy, and polka posy, both the men's and women's lines are reflective of Prevot's personality: bright, fun, and playful.
"Skida is all about mixing work and play,” says Prevot. “We're making it up as we go and it's energetic and positive and it's been a great experience."
Ryan Rubino, buyer and manager at Burlington’s Skirack, says he can hardly keep Skida's products on the shelves of his store.
"Sometimes we get the boxes in and we don't even have time to put the products out before people are riffling through them," he says. "It's like opening a pack of baseball cards and hoping you're going to find the card you're looking for. People don't just come in and buy one. They buy six or seven."
Rubino, who has worked at Skirack for eight years, credits the success of the brand to two things.
"Skida isn't just about the product, it's about the lifestyle,” he says. “Corinne and these women who make up the company embody the true spirit of adventure. These are young, rad, and adventurous ladies who make you want to go on an adventure with them."
An avid Nordic ski racer (she switched to downhill racing in her sophomore year at Burke Mountain Academy), Prevot looked for racing hats to keep her warm while maintaining breathability along the long Nordic racecourse. She was disappointed in the selection of knitted hats on the market. Hoping to inject some of her own creativity and personality into her headwear, Prevot spent $12 on a yard of bright pink Lycra fabric and created a handful of Nordic-inspired hats for her teammates.
Come race day, the handmade pink hats caught the attention of ski racers from other teams, one of whom approached Prevot looking for intel on where to find one herself. "I had a few extra hats in my bag, so I sold her one out of the back of my car in the parking lot," says Prevot.
Weekend after weekend, Prevot sold one hat here, a few hats there, until she had enough momentum to create a bare-bones website for her blog and online outlet. Things grew slowly, but at a sustainable pace for a high school student. Prevot and her mom, Margie Prevot, sewed and filled orders whenever they had a spare moment. The following summer, Alaska Pacific University placed an order for 65 custom hats.
"Skida isn't just about the product, it's about the lifestyle. Corinne and these women who make up the company embody the true spirit of adventure. These are young, rad and adventurous ladies who make you want to go on an adventure with them." --Ryan Rubino, Burlington ski shop manager
"That was our entire summer, me and my mom, making these hats," says Prevot. "I realized we needed a label--and a name. I remember sitting around the table coming up with names. My dad was in his chair, reading the newspaper, and he kept telling me to look it up to make sure no one else had it."
Paying homage to Nordic skiing’s Scandinavian roots, Prevot landed on Skida, the Swedish word meaning "to ski."
After graduating from Burke, Prevot attended Middleberry College, where she competed on the Division 1 Nordic ski team. During her sophomore year, Prevot realized Skida had outgrown her small apartment and she needed outside help to meet the growing demand for the bright and colorful products. Through the wife of a maintenance worker back at Burke, she tapped into a network of local seamstresses who now stitch all of Skida's products. All of Skida's fabrics come from Los Angeles, New York, and Massachusetts and are cut in New Hampshire before being sewn in Vermont.
"We have such a neat connection to the greater Vermont community. Our seamstresses work from home in the northern part of the state, and it feels great to be supporting this local industry and really be a part of the community," says Prevot, who oversees packing and shipping from a converted woodworking studio in Burlington. "These women totally crank it out."
Last year, Skida Cashmere was introduced, using 100 percent cashmere made in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal, where Prevot has a long-standing relationship with one of the oldest and largest cashmere factories in the area. Three years ago, she spent four months living in Nepal as part of a college study abroad program where she conducted a research project on the country's cashmere industry. Last September, she returned to Kathmandu to meet with more than 300 Nepali men and women who produce Skida's line of pure cashmere hats and scarves.
"Even though these cashmere products aren't made in our backyard, it's local in the sense that this has to all be organized in person, face to face. This is an industry authentic to the area and a product they make really well," Prevot says.
Stateside, Skida's vision for social outreach mirrors the one-for-one model pioneered by the popular shoe company, TOMS. The Skida [+1] campaign gifts hats to chemotherapy patients. For every order placed with a Plus One promotional code, Skida will donate one hat to select cancer centers.
Last year Prevot brought in Caitlin Mitchell and Sarah Micioni to help maintain the momentum of her rapidly growing business with a following that has expanded to all realms of the outdoor world. Careful to leave time for her own outdoor adventures, Prevot is committed to seeing the brand continue to grow. This week, the Skida team--three women all under the age of 25¬--are traveling through New Zealand to reach out to Kiwi retailers just beginning their winter season.
"Skida products are pretty seasonal, but our summer is their winter," says Prevot. “So why not chase winter instead of trying to make bathing suits?"