How Does a Hat Maker Start a Revolution?

Date posted: January 22, 2014

By Jane Applegate

Mindy Fradkin, founder of The Smile Revolution, started making hats in 1990. Her custom creations found a home at luxury department stores like Henri Bendel’s and Nordstrom. They’ve also topped the heads of celebrities including Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank.

Fradkin turned her passion for hats into a small business. She designs vintage-inspired, arty hats, eyewear and jewelry, hosting “Hat Happenings” in private homes, senior residences and at public events. She always wears colorful and often outrageous costumes, including candy-colored wigs. Although people know her name is Mindy, she’s better known in artistic circles as “Princess Wow.”

“At a spiritual retreat in 1991, I says “wow” much of the time when no one really used that word anymore,” recalls Fradkin. “I also wore outrageous costumes that would inspire people to say “wow” when I walked into a room.”

Soon, friends started calling her “Miss Wow,” which eventually morphed into Princess Wow. That nickname stuck and is the moniker she uses when promoting her latest venture: The Smile Revolution.

“The Smile Revolution began in 2005 while I was at my dad’s deathbed,” says Fradkin. “He rarely smiled since he experienced a terrible tragedy as a child and never really got over it. The last time I saw him conscious, he gave me a big grin and that smile changed my life.”

Shortly before her father died, she was performing her one-woman show, “Hat Happenings,” for an independent film in New York City. “I was being interviewed before the show and I said, ‘We need a Smile Revolution in the world!’”

From that point on, Fradkin has been promoting the healing power of smiling. She spread the word via a radio show based in Kingston, New York, where she interviewed well-known artists and musicians about positive and inspirational topics, welcoming such luminaries as Pete Seeger, Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie and Buffy St. Marie.

“I launched the idea on the radio on Christmas Day, and my whole life changed for the better,” says Fradkin. “I became less focused on myself, and more focused on how I could help the world smile more.” Scott Mahr, a childhood friend and graphic designer, helped her create a blog to promote her ideas. “I began researching and writing about smiling and the power of a smile,” says Fradkin.

The positive response to her message led to the next phase. She and her husband, Roland Mousaa, an accomplished Native American folk singer, write and perform inspirational songs about smiling. They have produced several Smile Concerts, including one headlined by Pete Seeger. Now, she’s working on a concept for a Smile Revolution TV show and planning a public Smile Revolution event in May.

I am so colorful and since I’ve been on TV from time to time, I always felt the most at home on the air,” says Fradkin, who’s seeking local and national sponsors to help launch the show.

Meanwhile, she keeps promoting the simple act of smiling. Fradkin says, “Our mission is to raise conscious awareness to the healing power of a genuine smile.”

Jane Applegate is the national correspondent for SmallBizDaily.com, author of four books on small business success and co-founder of the FabulousFemaleNetwork.com. The Applegate Group is a multimedia production company.

Photo Credit: Phillip Seltzer

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