DENVER — When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, Rachel Polner and her father, Larry, knew they wanted to raise money to help, and they had a perfect way to pass around the hat – so to speak.
Larry Polner is owner and president of Competition Headwear, a Denver-based company that has manufactured baseball caps for 30 years. Rachel Polner is vice president of the company.
“Since what we do is manufacture baseball caps, that’s what we’re doing,” Rachel Polner said.
Their company started making and selling “Ukraine Strong” baseball caps, with $10 from every purchase being donated to Global Giving to help with relief efforts in Ukraine. The blue and yellow caps come in two styles and feature the Ukrainian flag.
9NEWS photographer Taylor Schuss sat down with the father-daughter team to talk about the caps, their connection to Ukraine and their company. The interview was edited for conciseness and clarity.
A family connection
Rachel Polner: “When I saw what was happening in Ukraine, I knew I had to do something. My grandfather and his family emigrated through the port of Odessa back in the early 1900s. I felt a very personal connection to the crisis in Ukraine. My heritage is there. If I’m able to do even the slightest amount to help people over there, we’re going to jump at that opportunity.”
Larry Polner: “Many years ago, Rachel took a trip to Kiev. It’s really very close to her heart, to see it as she visited and then to see it now and what’s going on. The turmoil and the destruction, which is just unbelievable to watch.”
War in Ukraine
Rachel Polner: “To see the women and children and grandparents getting caught up in this, and to see the destruction of buildings that have existed for multiple hundreds of years, it all just seems pointless.”
Larry Polner: “I’ve watched the news a lot. It’s a horrible thing. We wanted to do what we can to help.”
Made in the USA
Larry Polner: “This July 1, we’ll have been in business for 30 years. It’s always been a totally American-made company. We’re proud of that. We do nothing with imports. It’s something that I strongly believe in, in the USA, and we’ve stuck to it for 30 years.”
Rachel Polner: “You get to feel like you’re making a difference. Everything we do is made in the USA, 100%. We start with the rolls of material, and we cut them out piece by piece. We employ anywhere from 20 to 40 people, depending on the amount of work we have and the business season. It really affects the economy. We’ve had children of our employees come work for us. Some of our employees have been with us basically since the beginning.”
Ukraine Strong hats
Rachel Polner: “Hopefully people will buy our hats because not only are they supporting ‘Made in America,’ and all of our employees who work here, but they’re also getting a really nice hat to help support the people in Ukraine.“
Larry Polner: “It really shows the flag. These hats are different than anyone else’s hats. I’m hoping we can sell a lot and donate a lot of money to the cause.”
Rachel Polner: “I was at the Avalanche game the other day, and I saw a hat that we had made. It was from the ’01 Cup run. To see something that you produced 21 years ago still in great shape, there was such a feeling of pride. It made me really sentimental, realizing that something our company made means enough to the person wearing it that they chose to wear it to the game.”
Inside Denver-based baseball cap company Competition Headwear
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