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You’re a California businessman who survived living in the wilds of Panama on a network reality show.
Naturally, the next step is selling Russian-style fur hats to football fans in Green Bay.
At least that’s the path Aras Baskauskas took after winning the Panama season of “Survivor.”
With the help of social media and some influential Twitterati, Santa Monica, Calif.-based Tundra Gear has an eye on expanding the business that is based out of a three-car garage.
“It’s essentially a Russian winter hat and we’ve figured out how to build it to have the most warmth and durability, and have fun with it,” he said. “Our biggest barrier to business has just been getting the word out about our hats.”
The 6-year-old company is small: it’s Baskauskas and four employees who work seasonally.
“I started the company in 2005, but I didn’t have any money. I had $5,000 to my name,” Baskauskas said in a recent telephone interview. “Then I won ‘Survivor’ and I won this big chunk of change to invest in the company. That was $600,000 after taxes that I put into the company.
“But until 2009, I wasn’t really doing anything with the company — I was exploring the joys of having a windfall,” he said. “Sales were low and I wasn’t focused on that … In 2009 I got back to work and really focused on ‘How can we grow this company?'”
Tundra Gear keeps several accounts in the Green Bay area, including the Jersey Store and a number of other shops, Baskauskas said.
Photos of fans wearing the hats at Lambeau Field can be found on the company’s Facebook page. Tundra Gear offers officially licensed pins for the hat from a number of different leagues, including the National Football League.
“We sell 60 to 70 percent of our hats to the Green Bay area,” Baskauskas said. “It’s a perfect fit because the Packers and Lambeau Field are known for the frozen tundra. It’s coincidental our names share that in common, but it’s a great coincidence.”
Mike Walters — manager at The Jersey Store, 1931 Holmgren Way in Ashwaubenon — said they’ve had the $39 hats for one home game this season, and they sold well.