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Q&A with Cheeky Founder

Cheeky Umbrella's Founder/Owner Jen Zurowski answers some of your questions below.

Where did the idea for Cheeky Umbrella come from?

The idea came out of my own needs and wants actually. When I first moved to Vancouver in 2001, I was living in Kitsilano and commuting downtown to work on transit, so I was looking for an umbrella with good quality and a design that suited my personality and style. Unfortunately I couldn't find what I was looking for, and when I talked to my female friends and colleagues, I found that they had the same frustration in finding an umbrella. I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit, so this idea stuck with me until I was ready and able to make the jump to self-employment. I researched the idea over the many years that followed and launched Cheeky Umbrella in September 2008.

Where did the name "Cheeky Umbrella" come from?

The name was born on a rainy day in a Vancouver coffee shop years before I actually launched the business. I was brainstorming names for my future line of umbrellas with a friend and fellow entrepreneur. I knew that I wanted the name to convey a strong and bold attitude towards the rain, and so we came up with a bunch of ideas, but "Cheeky" was the one that stood out. I wish I had kept the napkin that we were writing on!

Are you the designer of the products?

I have a wonderfully talented graphic designer who helps me create the printed artwork, and I design the product details (frames, fabrics, handles, etc.) and write the "cheeky" statements (for those umbrellas that have statements written on them). We use colours, graphic design, and finishing details to create umbrellas that are interesting, eye-catching and unique. We believe that umbrellas, like any accessory, can be used to express your individuality, and so we offer a variety of designs and styles so that you can find the perfect umbrella to suit your personality.

What did you do before you started your business?

My career path has always been in search of something that would combine my creativity with my interest in business. I started by getting my BComm from the University of Calgary and had a variety of interesting and exciting work experiences from there - I worked for a PR firm for a couple of years, I worked in Sales & Marketing for a music label for a couple of years and I made my first jump to self-employment when I started freelance writing for newspapers and magazines. I wrote for many different publications, from The Province (Vancouver) to BC Business to Flare magazine, and fell in love with the flexibility and the challenge of working for myself. Also, self employment suited the lifestyle that my husband and I envisioned for our future family. Having my own business would allow me more flexibility to work and also be a Mom.

When writing proved not to be as lucrative as I had hoped, I began to research my idea of creatiing a rain umbrella business. In 2007, my husband and I formed a partnership with another Vancouver-based umbrella company and won the licensing rights to produce rain and patio umbrellas with the Vancouver 2010 Olympic trademarks. We created a line of retail umbrellas that was sold in over 100 stores across Canada, and we manufactured custom umbrellas for Olympic partners and sponsors such as: Bell, ICBC, PetroCanada and Molson.

I found umbrellas to be a unique medium for my creativity, and I didn't want my work with umbrellas to end when the Olympics were over in 2010. As a result, Cheeky Umbrella was born in 2008. Today, we create high quality umbrellas with a focus on unique design.

It sounds like you have a variety of different interests. Do you think this will be your only entrepreneurial venture?

Well I do get bored easily…ha ha…but I don't think I'll get bored of this any time soon...it keeps me challenged every day. That being said, I've also always thought that I wanted to live a life like Forrest Gump. By that, I don't mean that I want to become a shrimp boat captain or run across the country. I mean that I want to live a full life like he did in the movie by being open to opportunities and trying as many new things as possible. Maybe that will mean another business at some point, I'm not sure!

Why did you start your own business?

I wanted a challenge and to do something that combined my creativity with my interest in business. But the decision was mostly a lifestyle choice that my husband and I made for our future family. Having my own business would allow me more flexibility to work and also be a Mom. In April 2010, I officially became a "Mompreneur" when I gave birth to a bouncing baby boy! Now I have 3 children (two boys and a girl)...it is a juggling act to balance the family and work for sure!

What is your favourite thing to do on a rainy day?

I'm an avid runner so heading out for a run on the trails in North Van on a drizzly day is one of my favourite things to do. Running in the rain is so cool and refreshing. I also love relaxing in a coffee shop with a nice warm beverage and either people-watching or meeting a friend to catch up. I also love watching the joy on my kids faces as they run and splash through the puddles!