Once in a while, a new idea comes around that delivers valuable innovation and disrupts the entire market. For Kate Bell, that idea was Zip Us In.
Kate invented the Universal Panel Expander, a windproof and water-resistant soft-shell panel that expands your favourite coat so you can keep your baby or baby bump snug and warm throughout the winter. She had this idea when she was pregnant with her second child and didn’t want to replace her favourite coat with a maternity one that she’d only wear for a few months.
Kate has also owned a marketing consulting company, which she started due to an unexpected turn of fate.
Let’s shed some more light on Kate’s journey as a business leader.
A Leap of Faith
Kate believes that one of the biggest challenges that any entrepreneur faces is taking that leap of faith and pursuing their idea with fearlessness and confidence. She was fortunate to already be running her own marketing company, which enabled her to apply the knowledge that she already had, but there was a lot that she needed to learn to educate herself on the sector and the real niche information crucial to the successful development of her products. Today, Kate knows a lot more about different zips now than she ever thought possible!
Like other business owners, Kate can relate to the complete lack of sleep and downtime associated with getting their company off the ground, Kate also had to overcome several hurdles. She expresses, “We have faced so many challenges over the years, we’ve had to fiercely protect our IP and constantly evolve our operations to manage the fast pace of growth we’ve been lucky to experience. Overall though it has shaped me and my business, I have built a really passionate team who all understand the products and are as invested as I am in achieving our company goals.”
Providing Clothing for Different Periods of Life
In Kate’s opinion, there has always been a lack of solutions available to enable clothing to last women through different periods in their life. On average, a woman will change dress size 31 times in her lifetime, so having pieces in their wardrobe that they can adapt to wear at different times of their life is key to combating fast and disposable fashion. After Kate designed the original Zip Us In panel, it seemed like a logical step to expand its range beyond that into adaptable clothing.
Research shows that during pregnancy, women can spend over £700 on maternity wear; having a baby is generally expensive enough without having to buy a new wardrobe throughout pregnancy and afterward. So investing in a few key pieces that will adapt to their body and keep them feeling comfortable and confident and having established the Zip Us In brand over several years, Kate wanted to bring another solution to her customers.
Empowering Customers with Feeling of Confidence and Comfort
Zip Us In is dedicated to giving people sustainable clothing options that enable them to adapt their existing clothes or invest in adaptable clothing to tackle the devastating environmental impacts caused by the fast fashion industry. This empowers its customers to continue feeling confident and comfortable at times in their lives when their bodies may be changing.
Its primary customer base is pre-and post-natal parents; however, it has been sending several customer photos over the years that show a jacket extender panel can be useful at other times of life too!
Kate puts, “We will continue to develop clothing which disrupts the market so that it becomes standard practice to simply expand your jacket rather than buy a new one when your pregnant and to buy a piece of clothing which you can wear through pregnancy to give you bump support and then adapt into a baby carrier – rather than buying three separate things.”
Finding Clever Ways to Enable Lifetime Clothing Solutions
We asked Kate what change she would like to bring to the fashion industry, if given a chance, to which she said, “It would be about revolutionising the fashion industry. It’s the second largest polluter and yet fashion rarely sees any real innovation. By finding clever ways to enable clothing to adapt we can reduce the need to buy new clothing simply because our body shape is changing. Maternity wear is really the fastest fashion, because it’s a body size change that lasts such a short time (although any mum to be would say 9 months feels like a lifetime). Do away with outdated maternity wear and instead see women choose ALTERNITY wear, clothing they can wear for a lifetime.”
Having Eco-agenda to Address Environmental Issues
Further, Kate believes that there is a growing awareness around the environmental impacts of different industries. Despite a lot of information and data showing that the fashion industry needs to make a lot of changes, it hasn’t faced the same level of demand for change. She thinks this will change in the coming years – the 20s have already shown themselves to be a decade for change and action. Zip Us In is already prepared for it, as since its first panel was made in 2013, it has always had an eco-agenda.
Standing the Test of Time
Talking about the future, Kate mentions that Zip Us In’s long-term plan is to continue building its brand and offer an entire range of clothing that takes it back to key staple wardrobe pieces – those it invests in for high-quality looks that stand the test of time. This is backed by its overarching goal to reduce fabric wastage and be a brand that’s truly taking action during this decisive decade.
Being Prepared to Learn and Evolve Constantly
In her advice to emerging entrepreneurs, Kate says, “Do your research and be prepared to constantly learn and evolve. Really take time to interact with your customer base to understand their needs. Don’t ever assume but instead ask whether your solution solves their problem. The feedback can be brutal but always listen. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, they offer the best opportunity to learn.”