Keel Russell, founder of Umbree Rain Gear, is innovating in an industry not known for it, which is exactly why he decided to enter the umbrella space.
"I woke up one day with the idea I would develop my own product," he said. "I went to China and found a factory for that first product. When that didn’t work out, I went back to drawing board with the intent to make something for retail sales. I looked at 20 different industries and what innovation was taking place in them. I saw umbrellas have been around for a long time and nothing creative was going on with them. I saw the opportunity to make umbrellas more creative and exciting. I started producing three to four years ago and it took off. We've landed some major accounts."
At its heart, Umbree is an umbrella manufacturing company, but it is diversifying into rain gear and weather related products like ponchos and rain boots.
"Our differentiator is that we make a more durable product and we're returning fashion into it," Russell explained. "We have a couple patents pending that allow us to replace our canvas. If your umbrella breaks, instead of throwing it way and spending $15-35 for a new one, you can buy a new canvas for $5 from Umbree. For those who want to design their own pattern or put a photo on the canvas, we offer that ability also."
Russell worked with the Urban League of Broward County to secure a loan to grow his business. "They are very supportive, dedicated and committed to the success of my business," he said. "I wish more people from disenfranchised communities knew about their services."
Russell's advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to plan for action. "Many people talk about starting a business and aspire to own a company, but it comes down to taking action," he said. "You have to have directives and knock them out. Have a plan."
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