Student entrepreneur sews his way to success

Syracuse University student Jacob deHahn creates his handmade products and runs his own business.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. It was the spring of 2015 and Jacob deHahn, 19, was browsing Tumblr and texting. He saw a photo of crochet bands with words on them online while he texted his friend a peace hand emoji. In that moment, he was inspired to create his first patch. He sewed it by hand, and it was of a peace hand emoji. It’s still attached to his backpack today.

Photo: Courtesy of Jake deHahn
Jake deHahn organizes his patches in his dorm room.

deHahn taught himself how to sew when he continued making patches that summer. In June, he started his own business: Jake’s Patches.

Patches are commonly used to cover something up, but they can also be used as a form of decoration. Generic iron-on patches are easy to find in fabric and crafts stores, but hand-sewn patches with popular phrases on them are what deHahn does best.

He started out with his Etsy shop, then created his website and now occasionally sells in-person.

The small business owner is a Syracuse University sophomore majoring in industrial and interaction design and minoring in entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises. He said he often sits in a beanbag chair, turns on Netflix, pulls out fabric and thread and starts sewing.  

“Netflix is bae,” he said. “I’m actually running out of TV shows to binge-watch.”

The hand-sewn patches have popular phrases on them such as: “Black lives matter,” “Free hugs,” “Fries before guys,” “I woke up like this” and “No means no.”

deHahn started sewing political sayings on patches because of their importance.

“I thought these things could be revolutionary,” he said. He envisioned students wearing the patches he made on their backpacks. It wasn’t long before he had more ideas of phrases to sew; this time they were whimsical.

“I have all sorts of coffee (phrases on patches) like, ‘Rise and grind’ and ‘Got a latte on my mind,’” he said.

He finds inspiration for these sayings from browsing Tumblr, movies and pop culture. deHahn made four “Kanye 2020” patches for the Westcott Street Cultural Fair in 2015 and said someone came up to his booth and purchased them all.

“I didn’t know (someone) would actually buy it, but it was trendy,” he said. “It’s important to have that because you can have a patch that says something that’ll be popular forever, but it’s nice to be able to have that unique thing.”

A few of deHahn’s other pop culture patches include, “Bye, Felicia,”  “Let me take a selfie” and “Eyebrows on fleek.”

On top of taking classes, deHahn runs the business by himself. He updates his Etsy shop and designed and manages his website. He takes photos of his products and organizes his inventory from his dorm room.

Patrick, deHahn’s older brother, said deHahn is passionate about what he loves and is a social human being. “I think it was almost a given he was going to do something on his own. Creating, building or starting something,” Patrick said. He also said deHahn puts himself out there and focuses on his customers.

Ari Tigarian, one of deHahn’s customers, said he found deHahn through Etsy. “I was looking for a custom patch to signify a very important relationship in my life,” he said. “So I reached out and Jake jumped on it.”

Tigarian, an Herbalife nutrition coach from Oklahoma, said he loves patches. He said deHahn made him feel as if he was talking to a friend when he ordered a custom patch.

deHahn takes custom orders for patches on Etsy, and said most people want their name or a specific phrase on a patch. He said these patches take the most time because the most planning is involved. deHahn said font size and type aren’t normally variables he takes into account with the other patches he sells.

“I’ll do (capital letters) when I’m in the mood for (them) or cursive when I feel it’s necessary,” he said. “It’s an extra step, but I’ve done one in Spanish for somebody because (she) wanted to put it on a bag she was making for her friend.”

deHahn said his target audience is college students, but saw a handful of adults purchasing patches at the most recent Westcott Street Cultural Fair.

The entrepreneur’s patches, which can also be purchased as magnets, have been recently featured at the Pop^ Shop in Marshall Square Mall. The business’ website was recently redesigned, and T-shirts have been added to the shop. Now, customers can order a T-shirt with deHahn's patch sewn on.

deHahn’s patches are meant to be sewn onto items (but customers are able to purchase iron-on ones). “I encourage people not to do iron-ons,” he said. “They have a tendency to fall off.”He also said since his patches are textured, ironing them will flatten it.

“I feel like that takes away the handmade aspect of it,” he said. “Having somebody take the product and actually hand-sew it on just makes that connection between them and the patch.”

Since deHahn taught himself to sew and didn’t ask anyone for help, he said he appreciated the experience and wants others to go through a hands-on, DIY project, too.  

His dream would be to open up a storefront someday, whether it’s for Jake’s Patches or another business he may start.

“I’m hoping to take the learning experiences I’m having into the future with me,” he said. “I know I want to continue having businesses in my life, so basically this is a stepping stone to what my future would be.”

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