Babson entrepreneur sees brighter skies with innovative umbrella

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By the age of 14, Yianni Feldman ’23 knew he wanted to be an inventor. For fun, he watched Shark Tank with his mother and browsed innovation websites. He wanted to create a new product, something that would give a twist to an ordinary household item, so he sat down at his desk and started sketching out ideas.

He soon developed Ponchella, an umbrella with a hollow handle that stores a disposable rain poncho. “So often you go out in the rain and an umbrella just isn’t good enough,” says Feldman.

Not every teenager has much use for an umbrella. For some, pulling up a hood or a baseball cap might be good enough. But Feldman, a self-proclaimed “town kid” who grew up in New York City, saw a clear need for an umbrella that included an emergency poncho. All around him were couples dressed up for a date, people going to the theater. “Maybe you’re in a nice suit, a nice dress, and the wind is blowing rain off the side,” says Feldman. Ponchella, as its website states, “offers comprehensive protection.”

After sketching his idea for Ponchella, he worked with Rite Aid Pharmacy to develop a prototype and then patented it. “I’ve always been an entrepreneur and I’ve always had a creative mindset,” he says. “I didn’t want to stop there. I knew I wanted to take it to the next level and I wasn’t going to stop until I had the product in my hand.”

Take his concept to Babson

Feldman knew he wanted to study business after high school. So, at the age of 16, patent in hand, he enrolled in the Babson Summer Study for High School Students program after his junior year.

“I was motivated to venture out there,” he says, “so I met with the senior professor at the summer school, who introduced me Cindy Marmer MBA ’02‘, Deputy Director John E. and Alice L. Butler launch pad. Marmer invited him to a graduate event where students pitched their companies to angel investors. “It was a great opportunity for me and helped me get to where I am today.”

“I’ve always had a creative mindset and I’ve always known that this is what I want to do and it’s what I love.”
Yianni Feldman ’23

After securing funding, Feldman, through Rite Aid Pharmacy, found two factories in China that make weather products to make Ponchella. Then he had to find the right market. It would be easy to sell through a website, but he soon found that “people don’t buy umbrellas online. So it was about getting it in the right spaces and the right markets and bringing the unique product to them.”

Feldman benefited so much from the Summer Study that he was encouraged to apply and enroll at Babson, bringing his fledgling company with him. Feldman, who is now a junior, says, “Babson helped me because I met with many professors and faculty at school who tried to help me take my business into new industries.”

view in the future

Some of the new industries he’s eyeing are sports franchises, including the National Basketball Association and Disney to find potential licensing opportunities. To date, he has worked with the Steep Rock Association, CWG, Pedini, Colony Hardware, his high school, and investment banks and charities to provide Ponchella with company logos and colors.

Headshot by Yianni Feldman
Yianni Feldman ’23

Feldman found that people often get their umbrellas through events (college and college reunions) or charity gifts (thanks for a donation). and as gifts. He has sold around 5,000 ponchellas, mostly through B2B marketing, although it is also available from him website and Amazon.

He also used his product for good. At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, when many institutions were suffering from supply shortages, he donated 10,000 ponchos to be used as gowns to hospitals in New York City.

Now Feldman is developing an umbrella for dogs. It’ll be called the Poochella and will have the same hollowed-out handle, but instead of a poncho, it’ll hold plastic dog bags – a particularly important feature for city dog ​​owners.

I grew up in a city with few backyards. “I know that no matter if it’s raining or the temperature is below zero, you have to walk your dog,” says Feldman. “And you need to make sure you bring a rubbish bag with you.”

Feldman has spoken with Babson faculty members and the alumni association about future opportunities to innovate and evolve his company and says he has enjoyed the process. “I’ve always had a creative mindset,” Feldman says, “and I always knew that’s what I wanted to do and love to do.”

Posted in Campus & Community, Entrepreneurship of All Kinds

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