Markia Herron grew up in Monticello, Arkansas, so she was used to small towns, but when she took a job in Liberal, Kansas, she learned exactly how isolating it can be to live in one where you don’t know anybody.

She began using all of the free time she had discovered in Liberal to look into how hats were made. She studied the process at Hatman Jack’s in Wichita and tried to absorb as much information as she could in one day. As she drove back home to Liberal, Herron decided to go for it — and Herron Hats was born.

Eventually, she decided she needed her family and community around her as support for her new business venture. Herron took a job at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock as an instructional designer and moved back to her home state. She is passionate about giving students the tools they need to succeed, especially in terms of financial literacy and online learning. She jumped at the opportunity to share those tools with her native community, while also building her hat brand.

Herron started selling her hats in 2017. She worked out of her apartment clubhouse, then her garage and her living room. As her business began to take off, she learned where to invest her time and money, how to market her designs at fashion shows and grow an audience on YouTube. She now has a studio in downtown Little Rock — an hour away from where she grew up, her big family and her beloved grandmother.

"Family, friends, crazy girlfriend — [they] play a factor in everything I do,” Herron said. “[They've] always been my pillar ... gotten me through a lot ... a saving grace."

Herron’s Arkansas-based friends and family and her faith have all helped to ground and motivate her to continue to pursue her goals, personally and professionally.

Herron's studio is very much her own, with a clean design and quotes from Tupac and James Baldwin on the walls. Her logo, shirts and hat boxes are prominently displayed next to the wall of her felt ball caps and fedoras, each with a safety pin attached to the left side.

Herron began incorporating new items, like the felt ball caps, she hopes will help set her apart from other hatters. She is also building partnerships among Little Rock business leaders and looking for local community charities to collaborate with as a means to contribute to her community.

“I am hoping to see this flourish,” Herron says. “I want to...focus on marketing and connecting with other brands, and by the end of the year, I am hoping to see my hats everywhere and on all types of people."