When rain starts to fall and you’ve already left home — what do you do? If the proprietors of ‘brellaBox have anything to say about it, they’ll want you to rent — not buy — an umbrella to get you from point A to point B without ruining your suit. They will pitch their business on Shark Tank Friday night, selling ‘brellaBox as an eco-friendly solution that not only keeps you dry, but keeps waste out of landfills.
‘BrellaBox is essentially a rental system for umbrellas. When you’re caught in a shower, you pay about $2 to rent an umbrella for 12 hours. You get a text message to remind you to return the umbrella. It functions much like a bike share program, with multiple pick up and drop off locations.
The most recent version of ‘brellaBox is reaching out to cities, colleges, and businesses to create a mini-network of boxes in their communities. The company’s official website also touts branding opportunities for businesses, so perhaps there is also an option for large corporations to customize their umbrellas in-house and take advantage of the ‘brellaBox system.
Customers don’t have to worry about always having a bulky umbrella with them when they know there’s a ‘brellaBox nearby, within easy access on campus, or in the lobby of the corporate headquarters where they work. People who buy cheap umbrellas on the fly and end up with a small pile of broken-but-still-functional units in their hallway closets might also love the system.
But it seems like keeping broken, rusted metal and non-recyclable fabric out of the garbage is the main selling point of the company. It’s likely few people have thought about the amount of waste created by old umbrellas, especially in a large — and rainy — city like New York, where ‘brellaBox is headquartered.
Back in April 2014, ‘brellaBox co-founder John O’Connor told The Wall Street Journal that the company provides convenience while reducing the temptation to see umbrellas as cheap items to be thrown away.
“Umbrellas that are purchased for sale are disposable, they’re thrown away. ‘BrellaBox essentially provides a solution by giving people an umbrella when needed and not putting it in the garbage when it’s not.”
As if to prove that broken umbrellas end up as unrecyclable waste, architects Alexander Levi and Amanda Schachter created an art piece a couple of years back called “Harvest Dome 2.0” made from more than 450 discarded umbrellas. The piece was a beautiful dome floating on a New York City waterway. Schachter told the Journal that most of the umbrellas used for the project were of the $5 variety, not able to withstand harsh wind and rain. For ‘brellaBox to work, she said, the product would have to be of high quality.
— ‘brellaBox (@BrellaBox) April 29, 2016
But is the box business something that will appeal to Shark Tank investors? CarterMatt makes the point that vending-machine style services often fail on the program. ‘BrellaBox is a creative and interesting solution that fills a common need, but that may not translate into a sound investment.
— ‘brellaBox (@BrellaBox) April 12, 2016
CarterMatt gives ‘brellaBox credit for a good name but says umbrellas are cheap. When the item is sold at every convenience store around the corner, consumers have to be hyper-conscious of the environmental impact of broken umbrellas to make the choice to locate and get to a ‘brellaBox instead of just putting down some quick cash to stay dry.
On Friday night’s Shark Tank, Silicon Valley financier Chris Sacca, who has invested in companies like Twitter, Uber, and Instagram, will be a guest panelist.
— Shark Tank (@ABCSharkTank) April 29, 2016
Shark Tank airs every Friday night at 9 p.m. on ABC.
[Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]