Photo page header

Home

Thinking Caps

From photos to headwear, creative juices always flowing for KC-area business owner

Chad Hickman posing

Chad Hickman, bba '06, poses wearing a hat from his company, Sandlot Goods. Photo by Blake Hamilton

From The Ichabod - Winter 2023 
By Chris Marshall

Ever since his time at Washburn University, Chad Hickman has worn a lot of hats.

After entering college with hopes of becoming a professional photographer, the Olathe, Kansas, native instead chose to develop other skills as a business major, while pursuing photography on the side.

His combination of entrepreneurial and artistic abilities continues to serve him well as founder and CEO of Sandlot Goods, a Kansas City, Missouri-based business that makes all its clothes, leather products and other merchandise locally. The company, which once comprised of five people working out of a garage to make hats, now has over 50 employees.

Hickman, bba ’06, launched an online store in 2014 to sell gear branded in the colors of Kansas City’s pro sports teams and local universities. One of the first official licenses he obtained was for Washburn. As the business grew and evolved, so did his role. Now as the leader of dozens, he splits his time between operations, procurement and the occasional creative endeavor.

“The business degree has been a big help, but the extracurriculars at Washburn helped me just as much,” Hickman said. “I took photos for Gene Cassell (ma ’20) in the athletic department and I was photo editor for the Washburn Review. That’s the first time I was in a decision-making role with other people. It was the ultimate group project. We made a lot of mistakes, but I learned a lot from them, and we put out a good product.”

Running Sandlot Goods has also presented its share of learn-as-you-go moments. The company was deemed non-essential at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but rather than halt momentum, Hickman capitalized on a need. The staff multiplied by 10, and resources were reallocated to making face masks for hospitals and school districts, with all proceeds going to materials for more masks.

“I took 24 hours of sulking and thinking about how I’d make this happen, then I just decided to put mask-making supplies on a credit card,” he said. “I emailed all my employees and told them we’d take donations and they’d still get paid, and we had amazing buy-in from the local community and businesses.”

Sandlot products are now sold in Rally House, Boulevard Brewery and Made in KC marketplaces, and the company recently started taking pre-orders for the Yardball, a Kickstarter-funded idea born from the tape ball employees tossed around during the pandemic.

Items made in Kansas City

From the outside, it may be hard to predict what Hickman will tackle next. Whether it’s choosing a major or introducing an unexpected category of products, the ability to do a little bit of everything always comes in handy. The business owner who wears a lot of hats just hopes someday every customer is wearing one from Sandlot Goods.

“The ultimate dream is to be a company that’s doing what New Era and ’47 brand are doing, but do it here,” Hickman said. “We want to get to the point where our hats nationwide are living on the shelves next to some of these other brands, telling the story of ‘Made in the USA,’ and it can be done.”

Winter 2024 The Ichabod magazine cover with picture of the bell tower and snow fallen on campus

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. View the current and past editions

 

Please enter your username and password below. If you do not have a username and password, click "New user registration" to register.

Login
New user registration
Forgotten password

1729 MacVicar Avenue
Topeka, KS 66604 Phone: 785.670.4483
Email: contactus@wualumni.org