D. Moss LLC
2226 N. Prospect Ave., Milwaukee
Innovation: Peekaboos Ponytail Hats
In 2003, Danica Lause was up north with her family on a winter break from the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse. She was knitting a hat for the first time, and she accidentally left a big hole in the top of it.
Lause, assuming it was garbage, threw it on the ground. But then, with her family teasing, she picked it back up and jokingly put the hat on, sticking her curly mop of hair through the top.
“Looking back, I can’t believe I wore that in public, because it was pretty shabby and ridiculous,” Lause said.
But as she wore it around back at school, people kept asking her to knit one for them. So many orders came in that her hands were going numb from all the knitting and she had to take a break.
In 2007, that “mistake” had turned into a business based on Milwaukee’s East Side. Lause’s company, D. Moss LLC, sells Peekaboos Ponytail Hats and matching scarves.
The design of the winter hats has evolved over time. Today’s most popular design incorporates two holes (to accommodate different ponytail heights) that are hidden beneath twists of cable knit. There’s also a fleece lining inside the hats, which are now manufactured in Asia.
There’s a patent pending on the designs. D. Moss has differentiated from competitors through the hidden openings and the cable knit.
In 2012, D. Moss was busy enough that Lause had to quit her full-time job in chemistry at Milwaukee-based Materion Advanced Chemicals to focus on the company’s growth.
Right now, Lause has two temporary fall/winter employees and a group of family volunteers that help her perform quality assurance, tag, polybag and ship the products. But she’s already placed her production orders for next season, and plans to hire a full-time employee and two to four part-time employees to help keep up with demand.
“Overall, it’s really taught me to change my mindset because I can’t do it all anymore…and it was very hard for me to let go and trust other people,” she said. “It’s a healthy transition to finally learn that employees can be just as good as you if not better.”
D. Moss sells thousands of hats and scarves through boutiques nationally, on its website and through Amazon.com. Lause plans to begin approaching larger stores and expanding its reach soon.
The company is based in an 800-square-foot space at 2226 N. Prospect Ave. in Milwaukee, but will likely move to a space double the size in 2015.
“We’ve doubled our quantity every year for the last five years,” Lause said. “I plan to keep it based at least somewhere near Milwaukee in the long-term.”
Peekaboos are starting to gain some national attention. The hats were featured in the December issue of Better Homes & Gardens, and they have twice appeared on the Today Show.
“I think it really gave the company some credibility, both for the shoppers and against competition,” Lause said. “And kind of a fun goal for me – I’d really love to see it on a celebrity someday.”