Written by: Lubaba Mahmud, Staff Writer
UmbraCity, an umbrella-sharing service, started operating at SFU as of December 2019. Their kiosks can be found in West Mall Centre and the Applied Sciences Building at SFU’s Burnaby campus.
To become a member, users can simply follow the on-screen instructions on the kiosk to register. The borrowed umbrella is free for 24 hours, however students will be charged $3 a day until the umbrella is returned to a station, with the maximum total charge being $30.
Mark McLaughlin, Chief Commercial Services Officer of Ancillary Services, told The Peak via email that the partnership between UmbraCity and SFU initially started as a BUS 361 class project. According to McLaughlin, the student group approached Ancillary Services about setting up the company’s stations across Burnaby. He noted that “the students proposed a business model, helped identify locations, and did some marketing.”
“We see this simple umbrella-sharing service as an easy way to make life on our campuses a little better for folks on rainy days.” wrote McLaughlin.
The Peak also interviewed Amir Entezari, Founder & CEO of UmbraCity. When asked about the inspiration behind starting this business, he said that he and co-founder Babak Assadsangabi found that there were two main weather-related problems that they were dealing with in Vancouver: not having easy access to umbrellas when they needed one, and the hassle of carrying one around when it wasn’t raining. They were inspired by the bike-share and car-share programs and wanted to try the same model for umbrella-sharing. After UmbraCity’s launch in 2014, they realised that users were happy with the service since they had had the same problems.
Entezari said, “The pilot was really successful and a lot of people started using the service. University administration had received positive feedback. We’re working with them to expand the service in many locations.”
He noted that they are hoping to open 15 locations in total, with 8 of them being at Burnaby campus, and others at the Surrey and downtown campuses.
“SFU students specifically will receive free 24 hour rental [service]. Everytime they take out an umbrella, they have 24 hours to return it — not only at SFU locations, I but anywhere in lower mainland locations. With the account created through SFU network, students can borrow from other locations at no cost, and they can return it at SFU or anywhere else in the network.”
Entezari also explained that UmbraCity has multiple sustainability initiatives in place. They collaborate with different partners to collect broken umbrellas of any kind to properly recycle them by separating the canvas, plastic, and metal parts of the umbrellas.
In another program, they work with non-profit organisations to upcycle umbrella canvases to make grocery bags, seat covers, etc.
“We will be working with SFU administration so we have a designated bin specifically for [this sustainability] program. We will announce that as soon as it’s finalised.” he added.
Talking about the eye-catching yellow colour of the rental umbrellas, he said, “Our vision is to make communities more vibrant. Especially on a gloomy day, having these bright yellow umbrellas change the mood when you have so many of these walking around.”