How it all began.
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 Jillian 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 Jillian. 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. Jillian, being the tenacious and determined woman she is, opted to solve the problem.
Craft project to prototype.
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 Jillian’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, Jillian 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.