In 2014, a man called Jim gave an anonymous man some change. That nameless guy happened to be homeless. It was freezing and Jim wanted to do more, as we all often do when we pass people on the street. Jim is different from many because he turned a longing for action into a hat company. Lawfully Chic caught up with him for a chat about ethics, philanthropy and his business, Edit Hats.
LC: Did the motivation to do something positive for the homeless really come from that one encounter? Or was it something you’d wondered about for a while?
Jim: It’s a bit of a mix. The idea of Edit Hats certainly came from that one encounter. I’d wanted to start my own business for years but never knew where to focus my efforts. I’d considered a t-shirt range but found the market too saturated. After seeing the homeless man, I thought up the idea of hats. I’d worn beanies for years, plus hats come in just one size, which meant setting up was easier and cheaper. It’s a simple way of helping others that differentiates Edit Hats from other brands.
LC: What were the challenges involved in setting up Edit Hats? Had you done anything like that before?
Jim: I’d never run a business before, so I was definitely feeling my way in the dark. I’d designed a few websites previously for music blogs, and I found designing the website – and even the first hat – fairly simple and I really enjoyed doing it. One challenge I found was dealing with unprofessional suppliers; it surprised me how some businesses operate and I quickly learned which suppliers I could trust. Another learning curve was the sheer amount of work there was/is in running a fairly simple business – I have a to do list which has grown and grown ever since we launched! I have to be strict with my time and sacrifice some things to spend time on the business, but I know that if you want to expand no one else is going to do the work for you.
LC: You started with an original black beanie. Smart! How did you know that simplicity would sell, and what made your beanie special enough to sell out?
Jim: I essentially made a hat that I’d want to wear – it has simple branding, monochrome colours and is warm and cosy. And I had no idea that they would sell out! I was overwhelmed, especially as we launched in February so we were nearing the end of winter and nowhere near Christmas.
LC: Tell us about the collaboration you have with The Samaritans – why did you pick them out of all the charities in London?
Jim: I called a lot of charities and many just wanted money, not hats. When I spoke to The Samaritans, I chatted to their central London outreach manager, a man called Mark Harris. He loved the idea and invited me into their office, and then I joined him and his team when they visited a local food drop in Holborn. It’s just a corner on the street where various charities and families go to give food and hot drinks to the homeless. We went out in the rain and I was surprised at how many people were there. Mark explained that some people there would be drunk or on drugs and he kept an eye out for me. I wandered down the queue with my bag of hats and they were snapped up in seconds. Since then I have donated at a variety of places including St. Patrick’s church in Soho, Ace of Clubs shelter in Clapham, St Anselm’s Church in Tooting and, more recently, Brixton Soup Kitchen. I’ll be forever grateful to Mark from the Samaritans for welcoming me along and opening my eyes to the amazing work such a wide variety of volunteers do for the homeless across London.
LC: Where would you like to take Edit Hats in the future?
Jim: From the outset, the plan was to expand the product range and move into new cities and help more people. I also don’t want to restrict the brand to the UK. I went travelling a few years ago and the poverty I saw in Manila always stuck in my mind. New products, new ways to give back and new countries…. When we launch Edit Manila, I’ll be happy!
To check out any of Jim’s hats, visit www.edithats.co.uk