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Hall of Fame / SENZ Umbrellas

 

Gerwin Hoogendoorn
senz umbrellas B.V.
Delft, The Netherlands
www.senz.com

Re-designing a product that has been in existence for over 3,000 years is the challenge Gerwin Hoogendoorn, Gerard Kool and Philip Hess took on in a bid to produce the ultimate umbrella.

Frustrated by the fact traditional umbrellas turn inside out in strong winds, in 2005 the three Delft University of Technology students developed a smart and stylish alternative. "The senzo storm umbrella was designed and tested to withstand wind speeds of up to 100 km/h," explains Philip. "Due to its asymmetrical shape, the umbrella always seeks out the best position in the wind and it feels feather-light."  With no formal business experience and a prototype made on the sewing machine of Gerwin’s grandmother, the trio started up senzo umbrellas.

When the first batch of umbrellas went out for public sale, the product experienced an unexpected surge of media attention, and within nine days all 10,000 units had been sold. Philip says, "It was unbelievable. Our umbrella was on TV shows including Good Morning America and 30 Japanese breakfast shows. It was clear that it really solved a problem that was familiar to people.” The media attention led to several lucrative distribution agreements, and within nine months the product was available across Europe, Japan and North America. In its first three years senzo won many leading design awards, including the Dutch Design Award, the Red Dot Design Award and the IF Design Award; in 2007 it was shortlisted for TIME magazine’s ‘Invention of the Year’.

Less than ten years after starting up, the organisation now employs over 20 people and has sold more than two million senzo umbrellas worldwide, with annual unit sales running into hundreds of thousands. This success is the result of an impressive sales network and Philip says, "Our umbrellas are available in over 1,000 stores in more than 50 countries. We're also running a successful web shop."

Philip is optimistic about the future, saying, "We expect to double our turnover within three years. In addition, we want to position senzo strongly as a so-called commuter brand. That means that in the future consumers can also expect other products from us in that area, such as bags, for example. What will continue to be of primary importance to us is that new products must incorporate a functional innovation and a so-called fashionable twist.”



 

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