Babson Entrepreneur Sees Brighter Skies with Innovative Umbrella

When he was just 14, Jani Feldman ’23 already knew he wanted to be an inventor. For fun, he watched “Shark Tank” with his mom and browsed innovative websites. He wanted to create a new product, something that would add a twist to a regular home item, so he sat down at the table and started sketching out ideas.

He soon came up with Ponchella, an umbrella with a hollow handle that holds a disposable rain poncho. “So many times you go out in the rain, and an umbrella just isn’t enough,” Feldman says.

Not every teenage boy has a very useful umbrella. For some, it may be enough to wear a hood or wear a baseball cap. But Feldman, a self-proclaimed “urban child” who grew up in New York City, could see a clear need for an umbrella with an emergency poncho. Around him were couples dressed for a date, people attending the theater. “Maybe you’re wearing a nice suit, a nice dress, and it’s raining on the side,” says Feldman. Poncello, according to his website, “provides complete protection.”

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 been creative,” he says. “I was not going to stop there. I knew I wanted to go to the next level, and I wasn’t going to stop until I had the product in my hands. “

Bringing his concept to Babson

Feldman knew he wanted to study business after high school. So at age 16, with a patent on hand, he enrolled in Babson’s summer training program for high school students after his junior year.

“I was motivated to stand out,” he says, “so I met with the Chief Professor of Summer Study, who introduced me to the Cindy Marmer MBA’02,” Deputy Director John E. and Alice L. Butler Landing. Marble invited him to alumni, where students represented their companies to investor-angels. “It was an amazing opportunity for me and it helped me get to where I am today.”

“I’ve always had a creative spirit, and I’ve always known that’s exactly what I want to do, and that’s what I love.”
Jani Feldman ’23

After receiving funding through Rite Aid Pharmacy Feldman found two factories in China that produce weather products to produce Ponchella. He then had to find the right market. It would have been easy to sell through a website, but he soon found that “people don’t buy umbrellas online. So it was a matter of bringing it into the right spaces and the right markets and bringing a unique product to them. ”

Feldman received so much from his summer studies that he was invited to apply and enroll in Babson, taking with him his young company. Now the junior, Feldman, says, “Babson helped me because I met with many professors and teachers at the school who were trying to help me in how to help bring my company into new industries.”

An eye to the future

Some of the new industries he is considering are sports franchises, including the National Basketball Association and Disney, for potential licensing opportunities. So far, he has worked with the Steep Rock Association, CWG, Pedini, Colony Hardware, his high school, as well as investment banks and charities to brand Ponchella logos and company colors.

Photo by Jani Feldman
Jani Feldman ’23

Feldman found that people often receive umbrellas during events (high school and college meetings), charitable gifts (as a thank-you gift in recognition of a donation). and as gifts. It has sold about 5,000 Ponchellas, mostly through B2B marketing, although it is also available on its website and Amazon.

He also used his product to his advantage. At the start of the 2020 pandemic, when many institutions were short of supplies, he donated 10,000 ponchos to New York hospitals that could be used as bathrobes.

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

Grew up in a city where backyards are few, and I know that whether it’s raining or the temperature is below zero, you have to go out and walk the dog, ”Feldman says. “And, you have to make sure you grab a garbage bag.”

Feldman negotiated with Babson’s faculty and the Alumni Association about future ways to innovate and advance his company, and says he enjoyed the process. “I’ve always been creative,” says Feldman, “and I’ve always known that this is exactly what I want to do, and that’s what I love.”

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