A MATERNITY wear brand which developed award-winning expanding panels for existing jackets has announced its first investment deal.

Zip Us In, valued at £1million, will be able to fast-track product development plans and grow in new markets around the world as a result.

The Fordingbridge-based business is receiving an injection of £50,000 from Danny Habel, former managing director of the Habels furniture stores.

He is an active advisor in the Winchester business community and the deal has given him a five per cent share in Zip Us In.

The business was the first in Britain to design and develop zip panels for expanding its customers’ favourite jackets.

The product allows for jackets to be temporarily modified to accommodate changing bodies during pregnancy – as well as front-worn baby barriers for both mothers and fathers.

Mr Habel said: “I realised immediately that Zip Us In’s simple yet highly practical product was the perfect solution for new parents looking to expand their jacket safely and securely around their little one in a carrier.

“I couldn’t be prouder of what Zip Us In is doing for parents everywhere, and I’m thrilled to be able to assist and advise as the team work to develop their new product ranges.”

The water resistant and wind resistant jacket panels offer a cost effective alternative to maternity jackets, its creators say.

As well as suiting mothers, they enable new dads to carry their babies around safely and conveniently in the cooler months.

Zip Us In founder Kate Bell designed the Zip Us In panel as a way of avoiding purchase of a maternity coat that would soon become redundant.

She said: “I’ve known Danny Habel for many years now, and having him join our team is very exciting for all of us here at Zip Us In.

“His experience in retail, coupled with his strong business background, is already proving to be incredibly valuable as the brand continues to grow.”

The company has previously won awards for Best Maternity Wear and Best Baby Wearing Accessory at the Infant Awards and Baby and Toddler Gear Awards respectively.

As well as its panels in a selection of sizes, the company also offers custom made solutions to suit all styles of jacket.

Its products are currently available in the Go Outdoors chain of outdoor goods stores, as well as in stores across Europe, Canada, and the US.

With the help of the the latest investment, Zip Us In hopes to implement new growth plans, expanding into Australia and New Zealand.

The company said: “The investment will help to fast track the brand’s extensive product development plans, as well as facilitate significant growth into new markets, making its unique maternity and early years products more widely accessible to expectant parents across the world.”