When sometimes-cyclist Danielle Baskin ordered an unsightly helmet off Amazon, she decided to put her fine art skills to work and paint over the tacky chrome finish. She varnished the image - a blue sky - and found that the acrylic and garnish created an interesting new film, one that reflected the sun. It was 2007. Little did Danielle know that eight years later, she'd be the CEO and founder of Inkwell Helmets, a brand "making safety beautiful," and responsible cycling super f-ing cool.
After casually painting her own helmet, Danielle received inquiries from friends and strangers: Where did you get that? After hearing her simple answer, they'd ask an immediate follow-up: Can you make me one?
"I never intended to create a helmet company. I just realized it was valuable after I needed one myself. But I was painting so many for my friends and was really into all the designs, so I set up a website."
Danielle initially painted only round objects onto each helmet: landscapes, fruit, the solar system. Inspired by the world around her (often sites she's see on her bike, naturally), Danielle expanded to incorporate colors and textures she'd find in graffiti, scarves, and architecture. Once her site launched, Danielle hauled ass to as many craft fairs as she could find and started doling out free helmets to celebrity cyclist bloggers. At first, she worked a handful of jobs while building Inkwell Helmets, ending her days exhausted and out of charge. But then she decided to take the plunge and commit to her business 100%, hoping the effort would tip the scale toward success. And it did. By the end of 2008, her site was booming with traffic, and by 2009, Danielle felt ready to turn her helmet-painting operation into an LLC.
Cut to 2015. When stalking the brand's Instagram feed and flattering press (there's lots), one thing really stands out: people love wearing Danielle's helmets. Whether strapping on the classic apple or newer cats with yarn design, customers rave and keep raving. Danielle's creativity is likely a huge factor. She's brilliantly taken people's guilty pleasures, hobbies, obsessions, dreams and desires and delicately painted them on plain white canvas. Helmets with internet memes, maps, circuit boards, tarot cards, planets, geology, ecology, brains, phrenology, and mathematical equations. Danielle creates helmets that resonate with her customers' identities. And she appreciates how critical this really is, because Danielle, in fact, has quite a singular identity herself.
From up-selling pencils as a child to now renting out her tricycle on a custom site, Danielle has been a quirky and clever entrepreneur for some time. She loves the thrill of creating new businesses, talking to customers and finding new ways to rethink and reconfigure objects in our daily life.
"I love doing experimental products, and it's super easy to set up an ecomm site. My business only exists because of the internet, and after watching it kind of take off, I've become really inspired to just do more and make more businesses online."
Given Inkwell Helmet's rising fame and Danielle's steady ambition, there's no reason another Baskin business shouldn't take off. But we're hoping Inkwell's here for the long haul, because yes, we'd like the entire collection of internet meme helmets. But we're also in love with what Inkwell Helmets represents: commitment to her intuition and child-like wonder for the world around her.