To Connor Carlson, being a superhero is more about the people than the superhuman powers and fancy capes kids grow up watching on Saturday morning cartoons.

“My goal [is] to really just become that superhero that I’ve always wanted to do,” Carlson said. “In a way not with super powers, but with helping people, relating to them and then showing them how they can get ahead of their problem or use their problem as their advantage.”

In elementary school, the senior chemistry major was bullied and as a result, he began to lose patches of hair. However, it took more than a few clumps of hair to figure out what was affecting Carlson. Finally, there was a word — alopecia.

Alopecia is a stress induced disorder that affects 147 million people worldwide. Four percent of this population are in the United States. 

Alopecia is a stress-induced disorder that ultimately results in total body hair loss.

“The whole process I’ve been so grateful for, losing my hair — everything,” Carlson said. “I’ve created a brand on social media called 'tall.n.bald' that stands for empowerment, basically loving yourself, expression, all of that."

Carlson wanted to do more than just create a brand on social media though. He wanted to do something for people affected by alopecia. After collaborating with his co-founder, Ball State alumnus Josh Harshman, the business Makou Mea, which partners with the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, was born.

“There’s people out there who really need a voice," Carlson said. "Nothing’s ever been done for alopecia and since I’ve gone through it, I can actually relate to those people and then share my story, my mission with them."

Makou Mea translates to "we matter" in Hawaiian, a concept that was discovered by Hurshman. The company itself was centered around this concept and was brought to life by Carlson, Hurshman and co-founder Tanner Walters, a Ball State alumnus. 

“I wouldn’t be here without them. Those two guys have helped me immensely with personal growth as well as just being friends and actually helping me pursue my dream of giving back to the community," Carlson said.  

Currently, Makou Mea runs off of a giving-back model. Customers have three options when they check out: they can donate to a GoFundMe, the National Alopecia Areata Foundation or send a letter of hope.

“So that’s the giving-back model and we also want to do a model of … buying a hat and donating a hat to a kid or someone going through alopecia or chemotherapy, because we both had family members going through that and so, it hits home,” Carlson said.

Makou Mea currently carries the “Believe” beanie and stickers. Each product is equipped with Makou Mea’s logo: a lotus flower that rests on an infinity symbol, with three dots representing mind, body and spirit.

“It represents coming up from the darkest backgrounds, becoming the most beautiful thing because of those dark backgrounds and showing people that you can beat adversity, you can step out and become something great,” Carlson said.