What was the inspiration behind Umbra?
Umbra was founded in 1975 and started as a shading installation company. That knowledge of installing products has driven the design of our products since we began manufacturing our own systems in the last 10 years.
What is your main target market currently and what market would you like to grow into more?
Our current target market is hospitality, and we definitely want to continue growing into this market more. We know we have a product that solves problems in this sector so there’s more opportunity for us there. We’re hoping that holding more face to face meetings and events now that we’re allowed to host these again will bring us new opportunities to meet people in this sector.
What are your short and long-term goals?
Our main short-term goal is to gain more recognition in the hospitality sector as a manufacturer of high-quality blinds and curtains that actually add value to their buildings. Long term, we want to be the brand of choice when specifying window treatments for hospitality, particularly electric and automated shading.
What makes Umbra stand out from other competitors?
Our knowledge and skillset in relation to motorisation and automation are what sets us apart from other manufacturers. We also offer exceptional pre-sales and after-sales support to our customers to make the entire process as seamless as possible. We also put an emphasis on design, without compromising on function.
What makes you different from other companies? What is different about your products and approach to customers?
We approach every project without bias, and always recommend the best motor and fabric for that customer, regardless of what brand they are. As we don’t have our own branded motor, we can offer a bigger choice to our customers than other manufacturers who are confined by only being able to supply their own brand of motors. This also means we have a lot of knowledge of the industry and what’s available which makes us as much of an information resource as a supplier for our customers.
Where do your design ideas come from for your products?
Most of our product development comes from customer feedback on existing products, or from customer demand. If there’s a gap in the market that we think we can fill then we’ll start working on the solution for that, or if we get feedback that a product could be improved then we’ll find a way to do that. Our R&D department is constantly developing and testing new products and solutions for our customers.
What would you say your proudest moment for Umbra has been?
Gaining traction with multiple big hotel brands was a huge milestone for us as a company. Completing our first hotel project and seeing how much value we can bring to hotel rooms was really rewarding for us as a company as that’s something we’d worked towards for a while.
What is your best selling product and why do you think that is?
KuroLok is by far our best selling blind system. It’s a fully-framed blackout blind with zip-retention side channels. It can give you complete blackout which is so important for hotel rooms, and it doesn’t compromise on design. KuroLok features slim hardware (the smallest zipped channels in the world) and tons of customisation options including fabric choices and custom powder-coated finishing.
Do you have any new products or any in the pipeline?
We have a few new products in the pipeline for this year and next but these are still top secret for the time being!
What has been your favourite business / hotel your company have supplied to?
Probably working with the Staycity group. They have really embraced including technology in their room design from the beginning and have seen the value and benefits to user experience it can bring, so that was really exciting for us to work on.
What has been your favourite project your company has been a part of?
One of the biggest and most exciting projects we’ve worked on has to be Manhattan Loft Gardens. There were over 248 apartments in the building and every single one of them had investment to make them as smart as possible. All the tech in the apartments is controlled centrally to minimise the number of wall switches needed and therefore make the user experience as easy and seamless as possible.
How has your company adapted around the global pandemic? What have been the positives and negatives?
We were actually able to grow as a company during the pandemic and had some of our most successful months ever during that time. When the pandemic started we very quickly adapted and started manufacturing our ScreenLok product, which was a social distancing screen and divider made from the same materials we use to make KuroLok.
Because we adapted and had so much business from the screening products, we were able to take on new staff and didn’t have to let anyone go. Obviously there were some negatives, for example the hospitality sector slowing down significantly which was upsetting to see, but overall we adapted and managed to overcome.