Bates Entrepreneurship Spotlight: Olivia Cuneo

Bates College is filled to the brim with unique individuals who are excited to share their creative minds with the community. This week I talked to first-year Olivia Cuneo about her small hat business that has historically kept the skiing community of Vermont warm and protected on the cold New England winter days. 

Cuneo grew up in Vermont, and attended ski academies that helped her find success in Nordic Skiing. Being a part of a ski program is an incredible opportunity, especially as the snow begins to fall, and coaches bring their teams along as they chase the courses that have been blanketed with the most snow. One of these snow-chasing adventures is how she began her business. 

Her junior year in high school, she was at a ski camp. She explains that there were two houses for her team: one house where the coach enforced no rules, the athletes were allowed to eat junk food and watch TV whenever they were not training, and one house where the coach enforced a strict 1-hour of screen time a day, no sugar, and no movies. Cueno was in the “strict” house. “If we wanted something to do, our coach essentially forced us to crochet.” And this ski trip thus marks the beginning of Burr Head.

Cuneo figured out that she was “actually pretty good” at crocheting hats. After that ski camp, she decided to make some for her family as Holiday gifts, and eventually figured out that she could make a profit off of her craft. One of her coaches also had a hat company which sold warm winter hats for $25. To introduce a little competition to the niche market, Cuneo decided to start the price of her hats at $20 to those who asked, and began to get more demand for her cozy, warm product. As the hats became more popular, people asked for fur pompoms, different patterns, and unique colors. At one point, the demand for fur pompoms was so high that she had to order them special from Europe. 

Through her Instagram page (@burr_head), run by her roommate at the time, people could DM their order. The order included specific requests, where they chose color, pattern, and a pompom. Cuneo had four hat patterns that she was confident in, and was happy to create hats of any color. 

Her well-crafted hats were sent away in a well-designed package to people across the world, including her biggest order that shipped to Austria! Her junior and senior years at high school where incredibly successful for her company. Cuneo tells me the best part about selling her hats is seeing them on people who she does not know. She loves to see her hats keeping the ski-moms warm on the slopes or the side of the Nordic course as they cheer on their athletes.

“I don’t really like crocheting, so I frantically finish a hat and get excited about adding the small details at the end.” The final parts to her product include a pompom and a small wooden tag sewn onto the side that has the name “Burr Head” engraved. Cuneo tells me that she wants to share her hats with the Bates community and start to crochet again. As the Maine winters kick up the cold a notch, she is excited about keeping our campus warm!