What has evolved into a business didn’t begin with a business plan or even an intention of creating a business. Being a huge New Orleans Pelicans fan and hat lover, Matthew Johnson never could find a Pelicans hat that he liked. The idea to create his own Pelicans hat was the original spark that grew into New Orleans Lids & Apparel. After doing extensive copyright research, Matthew noticed that the organization had never filed for a copyright on any image of Pierre, the Pelicans’ mascot. His next move was to call his good friend and artist, Eddie “Elvis” Perez. Matthew drove to Eddie’s house, explained what he wanted to do, and paid him to draw an image of Pierre. Less than a week later, Matthew filed for a copyright on the image. Having taken his idea that far, he decided to file for a Sole Proprietorship and named his business New Orleans Lids & Apparel. It was unwitting and coincidental that the acronym for Matthew’s business name was NOLA. That coincidence would later prove beneficial after the business began to grow.
While searching for different hat models to put his image of Pierre on, Matthew came across a geometrical design that consisted of a diamond and a square together. The design sparked a new idea of putting a fleur de lis inside of a diamond surrounded by a square and the letters N-O-L-A in each corner. That became the design for a new hat. Days later, while relaxing by the pool, he realized how many different hats could be made from that same geometrical design. Returning to his original love of the Pelicans, Matthew’s next big idea was to create a similar geometrical design but to replace NOLA with ZION and feature Zion Williamson’s jersey number, #1, in the center instead of the fleur de lis he had used previously. That became hat number 3. Eddie and Matthew got together and began brainstorming the idea of using some of Eddie’s paintings and transforming them into wearable art. Eddie had already printed shirts with his Jazz Fest painting of Trombone Shorty. Next, Eddie painted Zion Williamson to celebrate the Pelicans as well as a traditional streetcar to pay homage to the spirit of New Orleans, which they then put on shirts. Matthew and Eddie did well together last fall with their limited collection, mostly selling in person at small pop up festivals. When Matthew got a settlement from his former employer in December 2019, he paid Eddie for his designs and help with getting the business started. Then they parted ways.
During the downtime this past winter, Matthew used his graphic design skills to create new shirts and began contacting hat and apparel manufacturers and screen printers directly to transform the original hat designs into higher quality products. His line of products began to grow and the quality of the products he wanted to sell improved, but he didn’t have as much of an online presence as he wanted, no brick and mortar location, and festival season had not yet arrived.
When the Covid-19 virus began to take effect on the United States in March of 2020, Matthew wanted to do something to help our country and to support those on the frontlines who were helping to eradicate this disease. New Orleans Lids and Apparel began a new line named Unbreakable apparel. Matthew used the Celtic Shield knot as the logo for the design, representing “Strength and Protection.” His company began to reach a national consumer base with this new line of products and began donating $3 from each shirt purchased to the (CDP) COVID-19 Response Fund. This line of products has continued to be a strong seller and has given Matthew a stronger sense of purpose and a sense of satisfaction that his company is able to support such an incredible cause.