Miranda Harper knitted her first beanie whilst working as a ski instructor at a resort in Haute Nendaz, Switzerland in 2010. Frustrated by the lack of comfortable, stylish headwear that was warm enough for the slopes, Miranda took the knitting needle into her own hands.
Upon returning to the UK, Miranda founded Zaini Hats, producing 100 per cent acrylic yarn knitwear designed for the outdoors.
Business Advice spoke to Harper to find out more about Zaini’s journey from the Scottish Highlands to a successful lifestyle brand.
(1) Who are you and what’s your business?
I’m Miranda Harper, founder of Zaini Hats. We’re building a lifestyle brand through our unique range of beanie hats and other winter accessories.
(2) How long have you been around for?
We launched in October 2010 (with our six-year anniversary on 18 October).
(3) How do you make money?
Through selling our products in three ways: firstly, through our website, also through events that we attend and sell at, and finally through custom orders for companies and organisations.
(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?
We have kept things really simple – we make one product and do it really well. We haven’t over-expanded and have ensured we have stayed true to our brand from day one.
Our aim is to be the best at one thing. The consistency of this makes us different and, I believe, is key to our success. A company owner once told me they wished they had stuck to just “making socks” rather than expanding into a whole clothing brand and diluting what the company was about.
Lots of people say “what’s next?” or “any other products coming?”, but we just keep adding to our existing products with new colours and styles to keep the brand clean and simple.
You only need to look at Tangle Teezer, Pizza Pilgrim, or Barts Hats to see that a one-product business is possible and, in the long term, can be far more successful.
(5) What was key in terms of getting started?
The key for Zaini Hats in the beginning was having a £20,000 pot to work from, which helped hugely and allowed me to get everything I wanted to do for year one done. It was then a case of working from the profits, which we have been doing ever since.
But budgeting and not running out of funds was crucial in ensuring that we gave it the best shot to get off the ground and started selling as quickly as possible. Once people saw and started buying the brand, it was just a snowball effect through word of mouth and social media. Our product does the talking for us, which is a massive help in this increasingly social world.
(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?
Since launching Zaini Hats I have been extracting profits each year. Last year put that pot of hard earned cash into buying a property in London, which is something I never thought I would be able do. So for me, personally, that was a huge achievement.
The plan is to build up a property portfolio alongside Zaini Hats so I have a “pension fund” at the end of it all. I’m far too Scottish to splash the profits on lavish holidays or other luxuries.
Business-wise it has been great to see celebrities get behind the brand and support Zaini Hats – One Direction were a great sales push when they wore them, as well as sporting legends such as Dylan Hartley, Linford Christie, Dame Kelly Holmes and many others.
(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?
We have encountered and overcome huge setbacks, from problems with stock, dealing with factories in China, PR bills, currency fluctuations and, of course, the recession hitting the UK just as we decided to launch
We have managed to overcome them all – despite almost going bust due to some of them – but luckily we have always managed to get back on track and come out stronger.
Being 23 when I started Zaini Hats, I was naïve, young and totally un-educated in business. So of course, lessons have been learnt. But on looking back, setbacks are just normal for startups, and the strong, hard-working, committed ones will always come through them.
(8) In five years’ time, I will be…
I never look that far ahead in business – nobody knows what life can throw at you.
(9) What one tip would you give to others starting out?
(10) Who are your business heroes and why?
To be honest I don’t have a business hero as such – I always find that question quite clichéd. I mean, Steve Jobs was an almighty entrepreneur in my eyes and what he did with Apple and building that brand was phenomenal.
Looking to sell your product across the world? Read our essential tips for international ecommerce success.
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