A Brave New World

Hibana – Co-founders Peter Dakin and Nick O’Quinn’s sto­ry 

As told to Miran­da Wilkin­son

A year after the nation was thrust into lock­down — where high streets closed, small busi­ness­es suf­fered, and peo­ple were sud­den­ly denied the sim­ple plea­sures of ‘pop­ping to the shops’ — we launched Hibana as a result of becom­ing com­plete­ly dis­il­lu­sioned with the online retail space.

The last year has seen a lot of change. Yet one thing that didn’t change was our abil­i­ty to buy things. Online shop­ping became a com­fort­ing crutch of nor­mal­i­ty to get us through the hard times of lock­down, as we all became increas­ing­ly reliant on the con­ve­nience of being able to buy any­thing from the com­fort of our sofa. We realised that while it was con­ve­nient, it was also com­plete­ly soul­less – dom­i­nat­ed by large cor­po­rate giants, over­whelm­ing you with thou­sands of prod­ucts. It proved dif­fi­cult to stum­ble on the small­er inde­pen­dent brands we knew were out there, and cru­cial­ly, we missed the joys of dis­cov­er­ing, brows­ing and shop­ping in real life.

We decid­ed to do some­thing about it. To cre­ate an online mar­ket­place with a dif­fer­ence. One that puts British inde­pen­dent brands at the fore­front, that cham­pi­ons pur­pose-led busi­ness­es, and that use sto­ries to deliv­er a more inspir­ing and inti­mate online shop­ping expe­ri­ence. So we cre­at­ed Hibana.

Hibana is an online retail expe­ri­ence that takes the effort­less con­ve­nience of being able to browse and shop mul­ti­ple prod­ucts, cat­e­gories and brands all in one place, and aims to inject that expe­ri­ence with as much colour, spark and excite­ment as shop­ping offline. A place for con­scious and curi­ous shop­pers to dis­cov­er inspir­ing and inno­v­a­tive inde­pen­dent brands.

These brands that we have care­ful­ly curat­ed all have inspir­ing sto­ries and put pur­pose at the very core of what they do. From Huit Den­im Co. whose mis­sion it was to revive den­im crafts­man­ship and bring jeans man­u­fac­tur­ing back to the small Welsh town of Cardi­gan, to Two Drifters Rum, the world’s first car­bon-neg­a­tive rum dis­tillery, to New­Ground cof­fee who employ and train ex-offend­ers. Every Hibana partner’s sto­ry is unique – but as a col­lec­tive, they all have a vision for a bet­ter world.

What sparked our rea­son­ing for change? Being con­sumers our­selves, we were just dis­sat­is­fied with our own expe­ri­ence – and felt there was an oppor­tu­ni­ty to not only cre­ate a bet­ter shop­ping expe­ri­ence for peo­ple, but also for the world. Hav­ing been friends for years, we had enjoyed many con­ver­sa­tions over a beer about our shared desire to start a busi­ness that could make a pos­i­tive impact on the world we live in. With our entre­pre­neur­ial, cre­ative and strate­gist back­grounds com­bined, all it took was a glob­al pan­dem­ic – where our plans had com­plete­ly changed, and life was put on pause – for those numer­ous con­ver­sa­tions to become a real­i­ty. 

It’s been a roller coast­er of a year, but we’re firm believ­ers of mak­ing the most out of a bad sit­u­a­tion. We may not have been work­ing as front-line key work­ers or con­tributed to the devel­op­ment of a vac­cine, but with our ded­i­ca­tion to sup­port and show­case small­er, pur­pose-led inde­pen­dent brands across the UK, Hibana is our small attempt to make the expe­ri­ence of online shop­ping a more pos­i­tive one.