We had the good fortune of connecting with Penelope Joye and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Penelope, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Growing up in Australia I spent my childhood at the beach in the blistering sun. Sunburn was a right of passage and I was sunburnt every summer.
I didn’t care much then, ok I really didn’t care at all, but the price would be paid and it was harsh. Sun damage, sun spots, skin cancer including melanoma and prematurely ageing skin.
Over the years I’ve gradually become more aware, and much more informed, about the dangers of the sun’s damaging UVA & UVB rays. I’ve invested in daily sunblock, tried to commit to the very expensive habit of reapplying it every two hours, and I always wore a hat.
I’ve invested in expensive face creams, pricey SPFs, serums and facial treatments. I tried everything. All in an attempt to try to reverse the sun damage I already had and to try to prevent any further damage. But, any results I got were temporary, gone when I went back into the sun.
But, I didn’t want to stop going outside. I love being outside! It makes me feel happy, healthy and alive. I love the beach and I love hiking. I love watching my kids play sports. I love walking my dog!
Then, while I was living in Japan, I started noticing the Japanese were using umbrellas to protect their skin from the sun. And, as I travelled and lived in other countries throughout Asia, I noticed people everywhere protecting their skin with umbrellas. Young and old. Man and woman. Their complexions were beautiful and flawless.
I also knew the evidence was unequivocal. UV rays from the sun are the primary cause of premature aging and skin cancer.
Using an umbrella is such a smart way to protect your skin and your investment in skincare. So, I started to use an umbrella every day, not instead of, but as an addition to, my skincare routine. The results were simply amazing.
By reducing my sun exposure and protecting my skin from the sun I started to notice a VERY significant improvement in my own skin.
And my friends did too. They all wanted to know what I was doing? What was my secret?
I’ve used an umbrella in the sun for over 8 years now and I never leave home without one. I’ll never go back to not using one.
As the pigmentation and sunspots faded I realized an umbrella was an affordable and effective way to help protect your skin and the investment you make in skincare.
My hunt for a beautiful umbrella began. It’s a journey that has taken me from Australia to Japan, from Japan to Singapore, and finally to Silicon Valley, California where I live now. Over two and a half years, I obsessively set out to create an umbrella I would be proud to take, and use, anywhere. One you would be proud to take anywhere.
At first, all the umbrellas I found were made for the rain. And most of them were in black. Who sent the memo that all umbrellas should be black? And, if they weren’t black, they came in a few solid colors with rarely a print to be found. And then, there was lots of advertising of brands going on! When did I agree to be a walking advertisement? They weren’t for me. They weren’t for any of the women I knew.
And, to make matters worse, the umbrellas I found were made from plastic, nylon, polyester, pongee, and other nasty, environmentally toxic materials, with hundreds of thousands ending up in landfills each year.
I thought I could do better.
I sourced premium, high density, tight weave 100% cotton in beautiful prints from all over the world.
I designed, tested, and carried the parasols in all sorts of conditions all over the world. Want to see? Have a look at the journey on Instagram @japarraumbrellas
I am obsessed with the mission of providing beautiful shade and helping people everywhere to protect their skin.
If you are going to commit to great skin by using an umbrella, it needs to be beautiful. It should be environmentally friendly, exclusive, and limited edition.
japarra umbrellas checks those boxes and more.
What should our readers know about your business?
japarra umbrellas are beautiful sun umbrellas and parasols made purposefully to help you to protect your skin from the damaging rays from the sun. We wanted more than simply function in our sun umbrellas, we wanted our umbrellas and parasols to be beautiful and stylish, environmentally friendly, and limited edition. We carefully select vibrant prints from around the world so that your umbrella is a fashion statement, not an afterthought. We’re warning you, beautiful shade is addictive, especially when you start to see the impact on your skin. We often sell out of prints very quickly as we may make only a few of that particular print, we periodically drop new patterns and prints, so keep an eye on our website.
I am most proud of the fact that japarra umbrellas are made to last, not destined for landfills. We know most umbrellas are terrible for the environment made from plastic, polyester, and nylon, and thousands upon thousands of them are dumped each year. Instead, we choose to make japarra parasols in 100% high-quality, high-density cotton. Our premium cotton is tightly woven to help block the sun’s damaging UV rays. Premium, beautiful and breathable cotton. And, we use bamboo, the world’s fastest-growing renewable plant, for our pretty handles. Since the bamboo plant’s health is improved by cutting, bamboo can be re-harvested every three years without any harmful effects on the environment. Our umbrellas are always thoughtfully packaged sent wrapped in tissue paper made from 100% Post-Industrial Recycled Fibers, made in the USA or in kraft tissue paper made from 100% recycled fibers, made in the USA. Our boxes are made with 100% post-consumer and post-industrial content and are fully recyclable and biodegradable with absolutely NO virgin fiber content and, also made in the USA.
We use our fabric scraps to tie our hangtags to the umbrella instead of plastic, plus it’s simply less wasteful and we use a stamp for our logo so we don’t contribute to the plastic waste caused by labels.
So, while we are small, we do plan on being mighty, and we want to start doing the right thing from the beginning.
It was a long road to get this product to market. It’s a journey that has taken me from Australia to Japan, from Japan to Singapore, and finally to Silicon Valley, California where I live now. Over two and a half years, I obsessively set out to create an umbrella I would be proud to take, and use, anywhere. One YOU would be proud to take anywhere. Along the way, I learned that hard work and resilience combined with a passion to help people make all the difference.
So, relax and enjoy being outside.
japarra umbrellas have you covered with beautiful shade.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My favorite thing to do in Palo Alto/Silicon Valley is to walk “The Dish” at Stanford, carrying a japarra parasol of course to protect from the sun.
My favorite restaurant in Palo Alto is Ettan. There you will find a delicious array of Cal-Indian dishes in a stunning setting. And, look for our japarra umbrella installation where we have over 80 beautiful umbrellas hanging as an eye-catching art installation.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My 3 kids. All 3 of the kids helped me to start my business japarra umbrellas. First, my son, Arki, was the one who helped me source my fabrics initially. He was just 10 at the time but he stayed up late at night scouring websites with me and writing down the details. My eldest daughter Chloe helped me to set up my social media and manage my accounts and my youngest daughter Aurelie was supportive all the way encouraging me to take a risk and bet on myself. I am very lucky to have their unwavering support.
Annie Bartnett Photography Bella Volto Photography