Community - July 13, 2011

Atherton man starts 'Salute the Brave' cap business

by Caitlin Moyles

Ryan Morris, a 21-year-old Atherton resident, has launched a patriotic baseball cap business called Salute the Brave, which donates one cap to Operation Gratitude for every cap sold. Operation Gratitude is a nonprofit that sends about 100,000 care packages to military hospitals and deployed members of all military branches each year.

Mr. Morris, who attended St. Joseph's School in Atherton from preschool to eighth grade, and Menlo School, also in Atherton, for high school, is majoring in business with a concentration in entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California. He will be a senior this fall.

Mr. Morris's education in entrepreneurship, however, began closer to home — he is the grandson of Mervyn Morris of Atherton, founder of the former Mervyns department stores.

The younger Mr. Morris decided to start selling the baseball caps, which feature the Salute the Brave logo and come in different styles including white and camouflage, after he was cut from USC's baseball team his junior year a week before the season started.

"There was a guy sitting next to me in class one day who had a tattoo on his wrist that said 'Marines.' We got talking and I realized I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself," Mr. Morris said.

He developed his business plan when he had to come up with a pitch for a company for an entrepreneurship class. He said he used TOMS Shoes, a footwear company based in Santa Monica, California, as a business model. Part of its One for One Movement, TOMS Shoes matches every sale by donating a pair of shoes to a child in need.

"It allows customers to get the most bang for their buck, since they can buy something they like and help someone else at the same time," said Mr. Morris.

To turn his idea into a reality, Mr. Morris said he met with various USC professors and got a lot of advice from his grandfather.

"He's my role model, a guy I can talk to about everything," said the younger Mr. Morris. "He's my real inspiration."

Mr. Morris returned to Menlo School May 20 to sell hats during lunch period.

"I sold 75 hats in 45 minutes," said Mr. Morris. He added that he thinks teenagers are particularly inclined to the hats, which sell for $25, because a lot of the soldiers overseas are no more than 18 or 19 years old.

"This is a business that I want to take as far as possible," said Mr. Morris. "I want to create a brand people notice right away when they see someone wearing it on the street. The sky's the limit."

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