From Heartbreak to Hatmaker: How This Woman Found a New Love to Make Money

In 2016, heartache led Teressa Foglia to her true passion — hatmaking.

“I went through a really hard breakup, and I just could not be in California anymore,” she says. Everything there reminded me of him, and I was just a mess, and I had to get away. I love Europe, and I’d been doing a lot of travel prior to that, so I just booked a one-way ticket.”

You could call it a sabbatical. Foglia, now 30, paid for it by working as a freelance digital marketing consultant. She started in Barcelona, Spain and then traveled to Stockholm, London, Rome, Paris and all the way down the coast to Croatia. But it was in the south of France that she fell in love again.

“I always loved hats, and I thought it would be fun to go to France for the week and see how they actually make handmade hats,” Foglia says.

She took a week-long millinery course to learn classic techniques like blocking, trimming and stiffening. Instead of a new someone, a new something had just walked into her life. And it was clear early on that others shared the same love.

“From the second that I started wearing my hats from the hat-making course, people would compliment me on this hat that I had made,” she says. “People just started asking me for them.”

The Birth of a Business

Through self-funding, Foglia was able to open a storefront in Brooklyn’s Industry City, a business park for innovators. Photo courtesy of Industry City

When Foglia’s visas expired, she settled down in her home state of New York with a new purpose in life. However, she knew selling hats at a higher price point was going to be challenging. Plus, she needed a place to make them. Through self-funding, she opened her first shop in Industry City, a business park for innovators in Brooklyn, and named it Teressa Foglia. She’s been profitable ever since.

Her ethically sourced, sustainably handmade custom hats range from $300 to $1,500. They’re named after the places she’s traveled, people she’s met and her favorite musical artist, John Mayer. No two hats are the same, and no day is alike in terms of sales. So she hasn’t quit freelancing as a digital marketing consultant — yet.  

Foglia laughs as she adjusts the beaver-grade felt hat on her head. “You can spend the entire weekend in the store and maybe you might have a customer or two,” she says. “But then you’re in here on a Monday morning, just by yourself and someone [who] saw your hat somewhere just comes in and orders two custom hats. And you’re really excited about it.”

Foglia uses Instagram as a platform to market her products. With 27,000 followers, it’s working. Celebrities like Keri Russell and Jamie Chung have worn her one-of-a-kind creations.

Hat-making With a Helping Hand

Foglia’s sustainably handmade custom hats range from $300 to $1,500. No two hats are the same. Photo courtesy of Industry City

Foglia has realized she can’t do it alone. As a solo entrepreneur, she relies on friends and family to help out. Recently, students have applied for fashion internships.

“[In] New York City, there are so many incredible universities, and I have… multiple emails a day from students that are looking for internships that would love to be a part of this,” she says. “I love having them. My interns, really, sometimes I consider them my boss.”

Although Foglia works seven days a week, she wouldn’t trade her new life as a hatmaker for the world. Foglia encourages anyone struggling to find their passion to take a leap — after all, you never know where it may take you.

“I definitely had a vision for something, and now we’re just living it,” she says.

Christie Post is a former supervising producer and host at The Penny Hoarder.