Blunt Umbrellas started as a design concept on a kitchen table in London in 1999 – today the award-winning company exports to 23 countries.
The 1.9m (6ft 3in) tall Greig Brebner was working part-time in London as an engineer and figured umbrellas could be done better.
The Kiwi took it upon himself to make an umbrella that not only looked stylish, but was durable and could handle all weather conditions. He used to buy kite material from a shop in Covent Garden.
"I soon figured out why a better umbrella hadn't been invented – it was really hard to," he said.
However, after a few years of pursuing his designs he thought he had a good prototype and went home to New Zealand to develop it with the help of his father, who runs a plastics manufacturing business, Proline Plastics.
It was here he met Scott Kington, a marketing executive, and Blunt Umbrellas began life in November 2009.
Kington said turnover had nearly tripled since launch, which he attributed to its emphasis on creating a slick, niche brand with a unique product.
The company has saved on marketing costs with good hits in well-known publications such as the Wall Street Journal which described Blunt Umbrellas as falling somewhere between "a suspension bridge and a Nasa space probe".
Both Brebner and Kington acknowledge they've been lucky. Before they commercialised their product, they secured an investor with a long-term view.
At first they thought they would license the product and visited distributors in Europe. However, they found the distributors, who were buying direct from manufacturers and setting umbrellas standards, wanted to keep costs as low as possible.
Blunt doesn't use cheap material, but material that will do the job and is dearer than what distributors are used to. "We realised we needed to brand it and find our own distributors and do it all ourselves – that was a bit of a wow moment," Kington said.
Distribution channels take between 18 to 24 months to develop, so it's not an overnight process, but the company already has a growing network.
- © Fairfax NZ News