Justin Bastarache: Specialized in Maritime-themed Dad Hats

CapTen, pronounced “Captain”, is a Canadian startup specialized in maritime-themed dad hats. As indicated in our name, we donate 10% of our profits to a non-profit organisation committed to removing trash from our precious oceans. We’ve combined our passion for hats and our desire for corporate responsibility to bring CapTen to life. We strongly believe that nowadays companies must contribute to society before turning a profit. Indeed, we encourage others to support businesses who think alike.

Tell us about yourself?

I made my first website for fun when I was 15 years old and I haven’t stopped since. I’ve done multiple side gigs that involved selling things online, from video game accessories to clothing to website services. At the time I didn’t really care about the product, but more how to market it and sell it online. This led me to start my bachelor’s degree in marketing and business technology. Throughout these experiences, I learned the importance of the environmental impact of my projects. For example, I had no idea that the fashion industry was one of the biggest polluters out there. That’s when I naively wanted to make a change (with no prior background in fashion or ecology), by reinventing a classic accessory: the dad hat. I figured that if we could find a way to make it more eco-friendly, it would be a nice baby step forward for the planet.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Surround yourself with experts in their own domain. You always want to be the dumbest person in the room. It sounds harsh, but you want to learn from the best to elevate yourself.

What problem does your business solve?

We want to make the classic dad hat accessory more ecological.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

Ironically, fast-fashion brands like Shein, Zara or H&M push me to try to change the industry. My current focus is headwear (the dad hat for now) because it is unisex and one-size-fits-all. The most viable way to make an impact is to develop a blank ecological dad hat and offer it to distributors. We also want businesses to contribute further with society by providing the appropriate ressources whether it be donations or working hands.

What is your magic sauce?

Our next generation of dad hats (planned for 2023) will have a visor made of biodegradable plastic, with the rest of the hat being cotton. We ultimately want to entirely eliminate plastic from our product, but for now, biodegradable plastic is our baby step towards improving the fashion industry. Current competitors will either make their hats out of cotton (which is a natural fabric) or from recycled polyester (which emits micro plastics). Whether it be cotton or polyester, all of their visors are made of regular plastic. Let’s not forget that we donate 10% of all our profits to ocean-cleaning efforts, as indicated in our name (Ten).

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

We want to become a reference in ecological blank clothing. We’re starting with dad hats, but plan on expanding the product line. For example, two years ago we introduced a merino-wool blend beanie lineup. We also have our own line of embroidered hats on our website for purchase to further spread the mission of cleaning our oceans.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Manufacturing in the fashion industry is so broken, complicated and unregulated. They don’t want to change the way they’re making their products because it’s profitable and it works for now. Getting enough volume to convince a supplier to make the hats with our secret sauce is the hardest part yet. We initially wanted to develop the plastic-free dad hat right off the bat, but realized we would have to commit to baby steps first to build our reputation with suppliers, hence the biodegradable plastic.

How do people get involved/buy into your vision?

We would love to collaborated with like-minded individuals and corporations for custom headwear. We’ve worked in the past with artists, musicians, influencers, events and businesses to make custom dad hats and beanies. If you prioritize the environment over profits, we’d love to chat!

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