Meet Kirby Battle.
Kirby is the founder and CEO of American Proper, a Denver-based apparel company. We did her personal branding photo shoot in the Rocky Mountains to reflect her outdoorsy adventurous spirit. All of American Proper's products are handmade in the United States, so we created images to really illustrate this vital component of her brand.
The company's vibe is outdoorsy and tough so Kirby wanted her images to look moody with dark colors and high contrast. Editing to create this feel was a game of self-control for me as I usually prefer bright and colorful images. But how awesome do the finished results look?!
Words from Kirby
Kasey: What is American Proper?
Kirby: It’s a one-woman shop that I started in my tiny apartment. My products are American made gear for American heroes. Everything is hand crafted, hand cut, and hand sewn by me. They’re goods for hardy people who do tough things and who support our country and our military. These are the guys that are behind the scenes, the unseen heroes.
Kasey: What makes your company unique?
Kirby: American Proper gives back to organizations that support soldiers who are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. With every hat purchased, 10% is donated to an organization that helps soldiers get back on their feet post deployment.
Eventually I want to be able to provide jobs for veterans at American Proper. There are a lot of organizations now that are taking ownership of trying to help out veterans. I want to expand my products to include hands-on production activities that they might enjoy – like woodworking or blacksmithing - in the future.
Kasey: Why did you choose to get personal brand photos from Fractured Frame Photography?
Kirby: Until now, I have not talked about "myself" and who I am or why I am doing this. I wanted personal brand photos to show how much care I put into each and every item. It will make my brand more relatable to people when they see me actually hand-making the hats.
I wanted to work with a photographer who understood the look and feel of my company and who was comfortable shooting my style. You were able to capture my story, pull off my color scheme, and help me choose the perfect setting. I'm also very camera shy and serious but you were able to make me smile without feeling weird about it.
Kasey: What inspired you to create your company?
Kirby: I have always been super interested in the military, and it’s been a goal of mine to find a way to give back to our veterans. My Dad and I used to bond watching the military channel and the history channel. He’s a man of very few words, but that was our way of bonding. I was fascinated with WWI and WWII. My dad had a WWII army jeep when I was growing up. He would take me and my sister to school in it and our clothes would smell like gasoline and oil every day. To reflect the fond memories I have with him, I use the WWII jeep as my logo.
When I started American Proper, I was working at an advertising company as an executive assistant. I’ve always been creative and wanted to start my own business someday. I designed and silk-screened a deployment shirt for a friend who is an army pilot. It’s a shirt decorated with memories and logos and things that remind the wearer of their deployment experience in the military. Other people saw his shirt and loved it and wanted me to make deployment shirts for them and their buddies. It turns out silk screening lots of colors is pretty expensive, and I wasn’t going to charge people in our military an arm and a leg for a shirt. But that is what got me started.
The military and it’s supporters is the perfect niche for my business. It takes me back to the days of sitting on the couch with my dad and my customers support my dream of giving back to veterans.
So I tried to find a more affordable product to suit this market. I really like leather and the outdoors – I combined the two by creating rugged hats built for adventure with leather American flag accents. And American Proper was born. I started with just an Instagram page and it’s grown from there! Everything is handmade in the United states. I hand cut, hand sew, and hand brand the logos and the American flags.
Kasey: What is your favorite thing about what you do?
Kirby: I love seeing people appreciate the story behind my brand and seeing them value the quality of my hats. I want all my products to be made extremely well because it represents the people who support our country the most. It’s my way of giving back to them, to respect them and honor them.
But I think the most rewarding moments are when I’m walking through the airport or in a grocery store and people ask me where I got my hat. Even today, I was at Starbucks and this guy was so impressed with the quality of the hat I was wearing. People are often shocked that I didn’t buy it from a store and that I do everything myself – a one woman shop!
Kasey: What is your favorite client story?
Kirby: I sent some hats to a retired Army Ranger - Tim Kennedy - who has his own Discovery Channel show called Hard To Kill. He loved the image behind American Proper so much that he posted a picture on Instagram wearing one of my hats. People started asking “where did you get that hat?”. It was such a cool and rewarding moment to be able to reply “I made it!” and get that national attention.
Also, I just I love hearing back from happy customers. People often send me photos of them wearing my hats while doing cool outdoors stuff - paddle boarding, fly fishing, hiking. I have a cool picture of a customer deep sea fishing in the Bahamas while wearing my blue fleet style hat.
Kasey: What are you most excited about right now?
Kirby: I have so many exciting things coming up! I’m launching a line of American flag beanies and flannel shirts. And then I’ll be offering a candle that is a very manly scent. A lot of people will love it. It’s kind of gun smoke bourbon – a good fall scent.
American Proper is also hosting a Crossfit competition in November. We’re hosting over 200 teams! All the money raised from the competition will be donated to the Green Beret Association. We’ll be giving them $10,000 to help support veterans with PTSD and TBI. I’m so excited!
Kasey: One last question, what are some local businesses that you love and support?
Kirby: Elsewhere Candle Co. is a super cool Boulder company. They hand-pour these soy candles in their garage using concrete molds. And the best part is, they donate part of their income to national parks for restoration projects.
Like want you see? Want to see more? Check out my personal branding page.
Sending good vibes and love! - Kasey
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