Brellabox is a company that rents umbrellas, and the business’s primary target market consists of city people including college students. It also planned to target commercial districts, public attractions, and urban parks. The firm charged $1.50, against which it rented its umbrella for a period of 12 hours.
The main objective of this business was to prevent the purchase of low-cost umbrellas that were often discarded after a single use. In addition, these cheap umbrellas usually have a very short useful life, and therefore, did not last long anyway.
Anusha Kambhampaty and John O’ Connor are the founders of Brellabox. Before establishing Brellabox, John had founded JSO Digital, a firm that helped individuals tailor their lifestyles and diets according to their genetic makeup.
Anusha, meanwhile, graduated from the New York University, and worked at Progenics Pharmaceutical. a company recognized for its research and treatments related to prostate cancer, as the Director of Business Development.
The duo lived in New York City, enduring extremely wet climates, and would often be faced with sudden rains and even storms, without an umbrella to provide any sort of protection.
The duo launched Brellabox in 2014, intending for it to be a viable, eco-friendly substitute for low-cost umbrellas. They installed a vending machine which, in return for the rental payment, allowed customers to use the umbrellas for a 12-hour period. The company used high-quality and durable umbrellas for this purpose.
A key benefit of this vending machine was that it also accepts broken umbrellas that might have otherwise ended up inside landfills.
Anusha and John conducted test runs with schools and colleges. This trial program was a massive success, and the business decided to launch similar pilot projects in universities in other states, including the Pennsylvania State and Michigan State universities.
Is Brellabox Still in Business?
No, Brellabox is no longer in business; the company ceased its operations in 2018.
How Did the Shark Tank Pitch Go?
Anusha and John made their Shark Tank debut on episode 26 of the seventh season of the show. The duo was seeking an investment of $400,000, in exchange for a 20% stake in their business – a company valuation of $2 million.
Even though Brellabox had attracted a lot of interest from universities, and had also enjoyed quite a bit of press coverage, the Sharks were not totally sold on the idea. Mark wanted to know more about the numbers, to which John replied that the umbrellas could be rented for 12 hours in exchange for a payment of $1.50. Every unreturned umbrella, meanwhile, had a $40 penalty associated with it. To put it in a different perspective, anyone wanting to buy a Brellabox umbrella, could do so for $40.
John further explained that 15% of the revenue will be given to the universities that they partner with, while the remaining 85% will stay with the business. They also allow advertisement and sponsorship on the umbrellas and vending machines as a way to enhance revenue.
Mark asked if the company had any operational kiosks at the moment. John replied, stating that they are still working on perfecting the machine, but they did have one placed at WeWork. The Sharks were starting to show mild interest, but that ended once John told them that the umbrellas at the WeWork machine were free, and that their business was, in effect, in the pre-revenue stage.
Kevin thought that the idea was despicable, and, as always, did not shy away from making his thoughts heard. He said that Brellabox was “maybe the worst idea” that he had ever heard on Shark Tank, before emphatically declaring himself out of the deal. He said that he was not trying to be cruel, but felt that Anusha and John were wasting their lives on a poor idea.
Mark wanted to know more about the profit and cost. John told him that, for 50 machines, the cost per machine would be around $1,150. If they could bump the manufacturing up to 200 units, the cost goes down to $975. He also told the Shark that they had an umbrella manufacturer who was willing to supply the umbrellas for free, in exchange for brand promotion.
Daymond John does not feel that Brellabox increases convenience; the hassle of renting an umbrella and then returning it after the rain is a major deterrent for potential users.
Barbara asks about the pre-orders. John says that they have a four-machine order from one university, and two other orders are currently being negotiated.
Mark does not think that the $2 million valuation is justified and, for that reason, he decides to step out of the deal.
Barbara thinks that, being pre-revenue, the business is not yet at an investable stage. She is out as well.
Chris Sacca says that he lives in California and hardly experiences any rain throughout the year – not to mention that his shirts were pretty much rain-proof; he could not relate to the problem, and therefore, would not like to partner with Brellabox.
Daymond says that, while he did respect the entrepreneurs’ commitment and work-ethic, he did not feel that their idea would take off. He, too, decided to excuse himself from this deal.
John and Anusha could not make the Sharks rain down offers on the duo, and the umbrella-rental company had to leave the Tank without securing a deal.
Post- Shark Tank, the company focused on lowering the rental price and reducing the vending machines’ carbon footprints to make Brellabox more environmentally-friendly.
Despite securing a contract with Penn State and increasing the number of pilot project locations, the company was unable to survive and shut down in April 2018.
Are There Any Alternatives?
No alternatives or competitors were identified for Brellabox.
Our Final Thoughts:
Anusha’s and John’s purpose behind starting Brellabox was quite noble: not only did they want to make people’s lives more convenient, but also wanted to do their bit for the environment. Unfortunately, the business was unable to survive, and went defunct in 2018.