It all started with a vision for Mike Guzman. An idea. A plan.
Tuning out those who told him it wasn’t the right time to start a business, and using those who doubted him as fuel to the fire burning inside him, only Guzman truly understood and believed that he had the blueprint to a successful business — and he didn’t care how he got there. By any means necessary.
“One thing about Mike; he is going to find a way to get paid,” said friend and House of Fitteds employee Nigel West. “He’s had an entrepreneurial mindset since we were kids. Even wanting to cut hair [when we were younger] while the rest of us were too busy just being kids. I think it comes from how he was raised; his parents are very hard-working individuals who’ve always had more than one hustle, so business and money has always come easy to Mike.”
Guzman, now a senior at Springfield College, founded a business called “House of Fitteds,” which is based in New Britain, Conn. House of Fitteds features a plethora of products (after starting with just selling hats), since Guzman decided it was a smart idea to expand the variety of what he can offer to consumers.
“I started this up because I was a collector myself. I was big into hats, so that’s where I got the name ‘House of Fitteds,’” said Guzman.
“The store doesn’t just have hats. Yes, we do have all types of fitteds, snapbacks and dad hats, but we also have urban streetwear. There’s all types of big brands like VLONE, Bape, Supreme and stuff like that. And we also have all the popular shoes like Jordans and Yeezys.”
House of Fitteds started as an online-only store in November of 2020, but after a surge in sales forced Guzman, his cousin Arnold and his mother, Nancy, to stay up late in the basement packaging hundreds of boxes filled with products, it was time to find a location to rent out for a store.
“We opened to the public on Oct. 2 this year,” Guzman said. “All that time from last November I was in my basement doing online orders. My mom and my cousin were my main helpers; they would pretty much do everything. There would be nights where we would have 300 boxes to pack and I would still have homework to do, it was a lot for the first eight months. Then the ninth month came and I got the lease for the store.”
After getting the lease, step No. 1 for Guzman was to find willing and trustworthy employees. He tracked down four of his buddies who were prepared to bear the weight of the business when Guzman had school duties to fulfill.
“I now have four people working for me. One of them does the online orders, two people are in the front working customer service and the fourth person is always around whenever I need the extra help,” said Guzman.
West, one of those employees, admits he may have been hesitant before accepting his position at House of Fitteds. After a deep conversation with Guzman, however, he was hooked and has not once looked over his shoulder regretting his decision.
“No one that we know personally has done what we are doing with hats at our level, so it definitely was hard to imagine at first,” West said. “But when we sat down and Mike [Guzman] really laid out a plan and goal to sell first locally, then make a website, to now buying his first store front, I then saw and bought into the vision immediately. To be where we’re at now just feels like it was destined.”
Guzman and West became close friends during the latter portion of their high school years at Bristol Central High School, and West quickly appreciated Guzman’s inclination to help his friends whenever they needed a favor. In return, West now attempts to do a little bit of everything around the store.
“Me and Mike played on the same football team when I transferred to his high school our junior year. We grew a relationship through football, and he’s done everything from giving me landscaping jobs, to being my barber and now working with him at House of Fitteds,” West said. “Now, I try to be a Swiss Army knife and help Mike and the business in any way I can.”
Because Guzman is still a full-time Springfield College student majoring in business management, juggling spending time at his store in New Britain while also scrambling back up to Alden Street for classes has been burdensome. His teachers, however, have been flexible and understanding of his business, which eases Guzman’s stress level.
“I tried to schedule my classes so that I’m at Springfield Tuesdays and Thursdays for my 8 a.m. class, and then I’m back over at the store all day,” said Guzman. “Monday, Wednesday and Friday I’m also at school from 1:00-3:30 p.m. My teachers have been very supportive. They understand I have a lot going on, so they’ve done the most to accommodate me and extend deadlines when I need it.”
House of Fitteds’ Instagram account has more than 60,000 followers, and plays a sizable role in the business’ success. In a world where social media is king, Guzman credits his ability to run a clean, effective account as the reason why his products are flying off the shelves — electronically and physically.
“Social media is everything, honestly, and it makes a huge difference in sales,” said Guzman. “In the hat community, there are a lot of people trying to do what I’m doing. But when I look at their social media, they aren’t posting the right type of thing. Some hats, I’ll promote a lot and take some really dope pictures of them, and those will sell out in 30 seconds online.”
The impact Guzman’s parents, Freddy and Nancy, have had on him is unquestioned. They moved to the United States from Ecuador in 1955, in hopes of finding work to acquire enough income to support a family, which was challenging for them. Seeing how they were able to overcome and conquer that obstacle motivated Guzman at a young age.
“With everything I do I’m inspired by my parents,” he said. “They didn’t particularly inspire me to do this business, per se, but I look at them, coming from a different country they have always had to work hard to get what they have. I have always been driven by my parents no matter what it is I do.”
Freddy Guzman works for Classic Coil Co., a manufacturing company in Bristol, Conn. He oversees the company as the site supervisor, where he directs the making of tank and airplane parts with microscopes. Mike used to do landscaping work with his father, picking up on Freddy’s adequate work habits.
Nancy Matute, director of operations at the very same manufacturing company where her husband works, also helps oversee the company. Nancy helps Classic Coil Co. support the Medical, U.S. Military, Aerospace and Industrial Solenoid markets through her position as director of operations.
“I always think about my parents,” Guzman said. “Whether it was back when I was doing landscaping, or back when I was cutting hair, and even now with House of Fitteds. I think about them and how they’ve worked to be in the position they are in, so I try to do the same thing.”
At 21 years of age, exhaustion doesn’t seem to be in the realm of possibility for Guzman. It is common to endure a burnt-out feeling with the heavy workload he has taken upon himself. Nevertheless, since clientele with hefty reputations have begun to trickle their way toward House of Fitteds, Guzman senses he has started something significant.
“I had a TikTok that blew up and that’s what got me the first 8,000 followers on my Instagram. I made a few more TikToks and I got up to 15-20,000, and that was my initial blow up. After that, people started reaching out to me. I had NFL players and other people of high status reaching out and promoting me, and I think that’s what kept me going. It’s a great feeling knowing I’m on the right track,” Guzman said.
Across the globe, there are handfuls of aspiring young entrepreneurs in the same shoes that Guzman was about a year ago. One aspect of starting up a budding business that Guzman really enjoys is acting as a role model for those wishful adolescents, sprinkling pieces of advice to the next generation of business owners.
“I remember people telling me not to do this, telling me it’s too soon and I need to finish school,” Guzman said. “Honestly, just take the chance. Take the risk. It’s worth it. The closest people to me told me I wasn’t ready to do this. I learned to block all of that out, because I just feel like with the right mindset and plan you can go achieve your dream.”
House of Fitteds has an ambition to expand and continue to grow, with Guzman leading the charge.
“Mike has the resources, makes the opportunities and asks the right people the right questions. This has allowed him to be as successful as he is,” said West. “This is the start of something big. More locations are coming soon, events by House of Fitteds are coming and more merchandise and hats are coming. So just be on the lookout for all things House of Fitteds.”
Mike Guzman trusted his gut, bet on himself and took a leap of faith into the business world. There is simply no other way to put it; it has undoubtedly paid off.
Instagram and TikTok: @houseoffitteds_
Photo Courtesy Mike Guzman