For Business

Brand spotlight: Neon Cowboys

This wearable tech brand is lighting up the festival world with neon Western apparel.

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The year was 2014. Desert winds swirled dust into the air as tens of thousands of revelers danced to headliners like Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, and Loretta Lynn. It was Stagecoach, one of the world’s biggest country music festivals. It was also where entrepreneur Asia Hall would come up with an idea that would change her life.

Asia has been a longtime fan of country music, going to concerts and festivals since she was a kid. However, the scene is culturally dominated with white Americans and as a woman with Black and Chinese heritage, she often felt like an outsider.

She would stand out and get noticed—and not in a good way, she clarifies. “People would think it was this funny joke that I was there or make comments. I wanted to claim that in a way that actually celebrated my differences.”

That was how Neon Cowboys and its light-up Western apparel and accessories were born. Whenever darkness fell at music festivals like Stagecoach, Asia wished there was a way to light up the crowd and give energy back to concertgoers. So she created light-up cowboy hats that were festive and eye-grabbing. They were a departure from the typical Western gear seen at country music festivals and added a spark of individuality to her ensembles.

“It was about taking back power for me and embracing the things that make me unique,” Asia explains. “If people were going to be looking at me anyways, I was going to give them something to look at. I was going to take ownership of that.”

The next year at Stagecoach, she manufactured about a dozen prototypes of the cowboy hats for her friends to wear to the festival. This market test immediately caught people’s attention.

“The reaction was so strong that people were chasing us down and asking where to get the hats,” she says. “We even had people offering us up to $200 to buy the hats off of our heads.”

That’s when she knew it was time to draft a business plan, look for investors, and lock in the right manufacturer. Asia secured a utility patent for her invention and began talking to factories in China.

“The development and production of the hats was so exciting for me,” she reminisces. “I would be up until three in the morning on calls with Chinese suppliers, going back and forth on specs and materials.

Neon Cowboys might have been born at Stagecoach but it grew up on Instagram. A look at the brand’s feed shows hundreds of user-generated posts from customers. The hats began to see viral popularity, with influencers snapping nighttime selfies in the neon hats. The brand’s following ballooned to nearly 200,000 followers on Instagram, and soon enough, Asia had requests from famous artists who wanted to outfit their dancers and crew with her hats. Kacey Musgraves, Miley Cyrus, City Girls, Kesha, and Missy Elliot joined her client list. A recent major win was working on commercials for Beyonce’s athleisure brand Ivy Park.

“Interest in Neon Cowboys has transcended country music and has entered general pop culture as well,” Asia notes. “Being based in Los Angeles gives us a boost because it’s where a lot of these major artists are.” Despite her impressive roster, she’s most grateful for the fans who have loved and understood Neon Cowboys from the beginning.

“I wanted to reclaim cowboy culture for those who have felt excluded from it, and I think our mission has always resonated with people of color and the LGBTQIA community,” she says. “They’re our most vocal fans. There are so many people who love the Americana fantasy but aren’t recognized by Americana culture. Neon Cowboys gives them a way to express themselves.”

Asia spends time looking at the social media tags of Neon Cowboys and loves the ensembles that people created incorporating her brand. “We get tagged in photos and stories every day,” she says. “It makes me happy that people get so much joy out of it. It’s hard to believe this random little business I started is all grown up and impacting people.”

Nearly a decade old now, Neon Cowboys has expanded beyond its titular hats into full-blown apparel, including light-up boots, jackets, bodysuits, belts, and face jewelry.

As her brand expanded, Asia began to pay close attention to how her products reached customers. With manufacturing partners based in China, customers would receive purchases within 5-7 business days, but Asia wanted to get products into the hands of buyers faster.

“People buy these items for parties and events so they usually need it in a short time frame,” Asia explains.

That’s when she discovered Buy with Prime.

“I found out about Buy with Prime from Amazon’s Black Business Accelerator, so we decided to give it a shot,” she explains. “We’re glad that we did. It helps on the logistics side knowing that if someone orders through Buy with Prime, they receive it as soon as the next day.”

Asia added Buy with Prime to SKUs like the LED Face Jewelry and has plans to gradually activate more SKUs. She’s noticed how shoppers seem to seek out the Buy with Prime button.

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“We’ve done no marketing for Buy with Prime and have never explained to shoppers what the button does. And yet, we’re getting increasing amounts of sales through Buy with Prime,” she shares.

With Halloween and the holiday shopping season approaching, Asia is excited for what the future holds for Neon Cowboys. She recently passed the milestone of 35,000 hats sold.

“We’ve had so many opportunities come our way that I’m grateful for,” she says. “This upcoming chapter is about building the brand and strengthening awareness.”

Asia’s customers are watching and supporting as Neon Cowboys continues to light up the festival world in a way that’s impossible to miss.

Read other startup stories and Buy with Prime successes on the blog.

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Anita Little