Every person has that moment when they find what they think is the most amazing product, and then love it so much that they fantasise about creating a business where they could make a living selling something that they believe in and love. And that's really the story about my love affair with Big On Hats.
There I was, holidaying down the South coast of New South Wales in a beachside town called Vincentia at Jervis Bay (pronounced JER-VIS people!! Not JAR-VIS). In frustration at never being able to find a sun hat that looked both stylish, had a big brim to cover my fair skinned face and back of my neck, and also would not be too small (aka mass produced in China from polyester with a teeny headband) - I discovered "the hat".
There it was, stacked in a giant tower of hats hidden in a water grass basket in a gorgeous boutique on a corner street of Berry.
I was so captivated with the colours and the shape of the hat that I bought 3 of them that day. And wore them all summer long. To the races, in the garden, to the cricket, fishing and school fetes and ANZAC day events. I even wore one to the Melbourne Cup.
I was in bliss. At last there were coloured hats that were infinitely light on my head, did not have any heavy gros grain headband that lassood my forehead in a vice like grip nor made of polyester blends.
The hats were cool, light, airy and FITTED. They were so light that they didn't give me hat hair and I fell in love with them.
I was sure the shop assistant told me they were made in Mexico so when I initially toyed with the idea of selling the hats I explored via AliBabba and other wholesale places where I could source the hats from. All my attempts were disastrous. I could not find them. And the original store in Berry had closed down.
Devastated I searched google at nights for ages. Putting all sorts of word combinations for big hats, mexican hats, straw hats...and the list went on.
Until one day last year, when I had taken on the role of "Mothers Day Stall Convenor" for my then 7 year old sons primary school - I attended the Reed Gift Fair looking for gifts I could purchase wholesale for the mothers day stall when I happened upon "the hat". Once again, piled up in a towering heap in the corner of a display gazebo at a Trade Fair.
And so began my journey into sourcing these amazing hats from the formerm French colony of Madagascar off the East Coast of Africa.
Raffia is grown from a palm fibre. And these fibres are hand woven on looms to make a strong but supple natural fibre mesh that is then dyed by hand using local plant based dyes to give individual colours to this amazing textile.
Women from the Malagasy craft centre then hand make each hat, and they checked for perfection then packed and sent to me in Australia to sell.
I started Big On Hats on the 11th of December last year in 2017 so I could have my first stall at the Christmas Markets at the school my two little girls then aged 6 and 10 attend.
And so began the astonishing journey of Big On Hats. I guess, I am the typical customer of Big On Hats. I am a mother who spends a lot of time outdoors with my children at sporting events, beaches or social occasions.
I love markets and shopping and gardening too - which is why I have been finding that most of my customers find me at gardening festivals or food markets or school fetes and fairs.
I make a special effort to attend country events as I know (from my boarding school days) that many country women do not have the same access to touch and feel items to purchase and when you are decorating your face and head with the adornment of a hat, it is as important as shoes to get the right fit and try it on if you can.
I am loving my journey as a hat retailer of these beautiful gorgeous big brimmed hats. My friends and Mr Big On Hats tells me I am selling them too cheaply. But as I am new to the retailing business and I want people to come back and buy more I feel comfortable selling them at these prices.
The style is divine. But, I do get some women who are very concerned that "they like hats, but hats don't like me".....I disagree so much. Hats are a beautiful, feminine, and protect your skin in this harsh Australian light. Just try one on and see. x