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Zaini Beanie Hats, an accident that became big business

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Zaini Beanie Hats, an accident that became big business

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It’s not often that an accident changes your life for the better, but that’s exactly what happened to 26 year old Miranda Harper. In 2010, Miranda had a bad fall on the slopes whilst working as a skiing instructor and went on to become the founder of successful beanie hat brand, Zaini.

Instead of dwelling on the life-changing incident, Miranda taught herself how to crochet and began making beanie hats while recovering. “Skiing was my life, but after my fall I knew that door had closed,” Miranda explains. “In the weeks after my accident, I watched online videos on how to crochet, and started making beanie hats for friends and family.”

The brightly coloured hats were an instant hit, and before long Miranda realised the potential for her to make a business out of her eye-catching beanies. “The positive response to my hats was overwhelming and I was starting to get orders in from people who couldn’t get anything like my styles and colours elsewhere,” she recalls. With an obvious gap in the market for a sporty and stylish fashion hat, developing a business became a logical next step for Miranda.

And so Zaini was borne, with the name aptly reflecting the colourful and stylish hats Miranda creates. Following the advice of a business acquaintance, Miranda turned to online marketplace Alibaba.com to source a supplier who could create her hand-made hats in large quantities. “I was hooked the moment I joined Alibaba as you can literally find anything on there. I was looking for manufacturers in China as the country is known for its textile expertise.”

Miranda contacted a number of manufacturers and sent samples of her hats to show the quality of yarn wash and crochet finish she needed. From there, Miranda drew up a shortlist of 12 manufacturers and flew to China to audit each factory before selecting the best supplier for her needs.

“It was important to me to see the factories, their certifications and the conditions for workers,” explains Miranda. She settled on a family-run factory which specialises in knitted goods. “They outsource the orders to local men and women who work at home hand-making the garments to a very high standard.”

Since the official launch of Zaini in late 2010, it has enjoyed steady growth, now making and selling some 8,000 hats a year. While normally associated with winter sports, Zaini’s beanie hats appeal to a wide ranging demographic both on and off the piste, including celebrities like One Direction and Alan Carr.

Miranda now goes to China once a year to see her supplier and enjoys a good working relationship with them. With plans to grow and launch a line of hooded jumpers, she is using Alibaba again to find a back-up supplier. “Using Alibaba has been a key factor in the success of Zaini and I wouldn’t be where I am today with the site,” Miranda states. “No matter what you are looking to produce and sell, in just one day on Alibaba you will have a choice of suppliers who can help.”

A lot has happened in the three years since Miranda’s accident and the beginning of Zaini beanie hats. “Skiing was my passion, and I miss not being on the slopes as much as I was, but worse things can happen. Zaini is my new passion and I am loving every moment of it,” she concludes.

Alibaba.com (Europe) LTD

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