What Is 21 Hats?

21 Hats is a growing online community for business owners. As the name suggests, we understand that entrepreneurs have to wear a lot of hats to build a business--but some hats fit better than others, right? When you’re not sure where to turn, 21 Hats is here to help.

I’m Loren Feldman, founder and editor-in-chief. Let me back up for a moment and tell you why I’m so excited about this community. For almost 20 years, I’ve been part of the senior editorial staff covering entrepreneurship at Inc., The New York Times, and Forbes. One early lesson has stuck with me. It happened when I was conducting a focus group of business owners, and we asked one of them what he hoped to get out of the business magazines he read. “I’ll tell you what I don’t want,” the owner responded. “I don’t want to be told how to run my business by a 23-year-old journalist working for a money-losing publication.”

Good point. And put that way, it suddenly seemed clear to me that the most valuable service we can offer owners are the insights, lessons, and stories that come from the people who live them. In other words, at 21 Hats, we’re not going to tell you how to run your business. But we are going to publish news articles, Q&As, webinars, and podcasts that feature a range of voices speaking frankly about what it takes to build a business—and what to do when success is elusive.

Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to work with some very smart journalists and entrepreneurs. At Inc, I edited Norm Brodsky’s column when it was nominated for two National Magazine awards, including one for a remarkably forthright series on his efforts to sell his business. I also worked with author Bo Burlingham, editing pieces like his cover story about a business owner, Jay Goltz, who learned the hard way that the hype that often surrounds business growth can be misleading. At the Times, where I introduced the You’re the Boss blog, Jay became one of our regular contributors. Another, Paul Downs, started blogging when he thought his company was headed for bankruptcy and then took us along for the ride as he turned his business around and then almost lost it again when he made a big mistake on his pay-per-click advertising campaign.

At Forbes, Bo and I created the annual list of Forbes Small Giants, businesses that are more focused on being great than being big. The companies we picked had to be closely held, leaders in their industry, leaders in their community, and profitable. We also looked for businesses that had blazed a fresh trail. For example, we picked Zulu Alpha Kilo, which figured out that it could build a business without playing the typical advertising industry game of giving away its best work trying to win accounts. We picked Missouri Star, which was started by a family that went from food stamps to a $40 million-a-year quilting business. And we picked SRC Holdings, which pioneered open-book management, adopted employee ownership, and eventually managed to turn factory workers into millionaires while topping $600 million in annual revenue.

My goal is for 21 Hats to offer the best of all the above and more. You can start by subscribing to the 21 Hats Morning Report, the only email newsletter that searches the Web every day specifically for the news, insights, and analysis that entrepreneurs need and brings it all together in one quick read. You can also subscribe to the 21 Hats Podcast, a weekly conversation among remarkably candid business owners who have been sharing their challenges and successes throughout the economic crisis.

Got a question, suggestion, or concern? You can always email me: lfeldman@21hats.com.

-- Loren Feldman, 21 Hats