We're a mum and daughter team who believe we should be able to enjoy our outdoor lifestyle, protect ourselves from the sun, AND feel good at the same time.
My mum, Jillian, had been a nurse for 35 years and seen hundreds of women with skin cancer, but the catalyst for Sunbella was a single conversation between mum and one of her patients.
In 2011 Jillian was a part of the medical team caring for a female skin cancer patient, whom was in hospital for her umpteenth surgery to the top of her head. Skin graft, upon skin graft, the medical staff were working to rid her of the disease.
Anyone that knows mum knows she’s an incredibly caring and empathetic person and her bedside manner made her a favourite among patients. Whilst chatting with this particular patient in the post-operation recovery room, the lady divulged that she had spent her entire life outdoors and she despised wearing hats because they gave her hat-hair. Instead (to avoid squashing her hair) she wore a visor, which protected her face but left a good portion of her skull, neck, ears and décolletage exposed.
This resonated with mum. She had always worn visors for this same reason and, inspired by her patients experience and keen to avoid the harrowing results, mum decided to purchase a sun umbrella and use it whenever possible.
Google searching returned nothing but lace parasols (that were ineffective against harmful UV rays) or ostentatious umbrellas (that were an offence to the eyes), and most people would have resigned themselves to a lifetime of hat-hair. Mum, being the tenacious and determined woman she is, opted to solve the problem.
She bought a couple of old rain umbrellas from the Karrinuyup Swap-meet and dismantled them, hand-sewed a canopy using curtain-blackout fabric from Spotlight and had a handle turned from wood by a gentleman at the Mens Shed. The result was an elegant and effective sun parasol.
Feedback from friends and strangers on mum’s craft project was overwhelming. It seemed to filled a gap in the market, and had the potential to change womens attitudes to sun safety. By creating an attractive, UPF50+ sun umbrella, mum had created a sun protection option for women that could be acceptable and fashionable part of everyday life, rather than a burden or daggy afterthought.
Her invention seemed to turn heads for the right reasons, with family and friends asking where they could get one. Coincidentally, around the same time I left my full-time marketing gig, to look after my first baby. And together, mum and I decided that this craft project, come elegant sun parasol, was something that women could (and should) be using in our every day lives.
In 2012 we launched Sunbella, based on a philosophy that women should be able to enjoy an outdoor lifestyle safely and with style. Our inspiration hasn't changed but our motivation has grown with the overwhelmingly positive response to our business.
Things haven't always been easy, because we're pushing the boundaries of modern fashion. But we love a challenge and together we make a pretty good team.
People are becoming more and more aware of the dangers of excessive UV exposure. And we're able to offer a solution that negates issues of hat hair and the like. When we started selling at markets 5 years ago, we could see lots of peoples eyes glaze over because using a parasol wasn't something they currently did. At our most recent market, we had a dozen women say something to the effect of "Lucky I found you, I was just thinking this morning that I needed a sun parasol."
Over the years, we’ve grown from selling at local markets to a global online retailer, wholesaler, supplier of hire packages and custom branding options for major corporate clients.
Sunbella won the Business Excellence category of the National AusMumpreneur Awards for 2015, the 2015 Stirling Micro Business Award and reached a record number of sales after the Duchess of Cornwall was gifted a Sunbella by the State Government of Western Australia. Just this year Nigella Lawson was spotted using one of our City Luxe Sunbellas. Our sales have grown by 200% year on year and our customers come back over and over again - either to add to their collection or to purchase as a gift for friends or family.
We have lots of exciting projects in the pipeline and are always on the look out for others, so if you think we might be a good fit with your business, please get in touch.
And we're always open to feedback, so if you have purchased a Sunbella and would like to let us know your thoughts, or haven't bought one and don't mind letting us know what's stopping you, drop us a line any time.
Thank you for your support.
Jillian & Casey