商周專欄:眾志群力 撐起雨傘

:umbrella: 作為太平洋上的島嶼,大雨滂沱是臺灣典型的氣候特徵之一,也因此,雨傘一直是臺灣人不可或缺的隨身用品。

:1st_place_medal: 俯拾皆是的雨傘,三十年前曾是臺灣的黃金商品。在製傘業最興盛的時候,臺灣曾有高達三百家以上的製傘工廠,當時全世界平均每四十個人,就有一人用的新傘來自臺灣,讓「雨傘王國」的稱號不脛而走。

:open_umbrella: 三十年後的今天,臺灣的雨傘,再度成為世界矚目的焦點。今年七月,桃園品牌「也欣」發明的「反向傘」創下六十二天近兩千萬的募資成績,更一舉拿下 2019 德國紅點產品設計獎,十月更將登上國際最大的募資平台 Kickstarter,正式進軍國際。

:bulb: 這一切,起源自去年三月中的一場拜會

:raising_hand_woman: 在我例行的週三 office hour,也欣的負責人李鳳珠女士帶著兩把雨傘,快步走進我在社創中心的辦公室,一坐下來,便滔滔不絕地說起他們的故事。

:station: 李女士的弟弟、也欣的創辦人李盛群是資深的製傘師傅,十多年前到日本出差時,在東京車站看見來往的人群,因擔心雨水而手忙腳亂地收傘,於是動念研發「反向傘」,讓傘面內收、不弄濕衣服。

:construction_worker_man: 李師傅沒想到,即使取得專利,仍無法阻止猖獗的仿冒風氣。扼腕之餘,他選擇不斷精進,花了十年,終於將難以收進車內的長傘,成功改良成短小又能瞬間收起的折傘。

:thinking: 只是殷鑑不遠,新版的反向傘,要如何在琳琅滿目的雨傘市場中打響名號、不受抄襲影響呢?

:mega: 對此,我建議他們尋求群眾募資、說出自己的故事。不只能在產品推出前就確立品牌,杜絕山寨,更能讓投資人了解工作進度、甚至提供花色的建議,讓更多人認同發明者的概念。

:100: 經過一年的籌備,也欣在今年四月正式啟動專案,以兩個月內募到十五萬台幣為目標,結果十分鐘內就迅速達標。隨後短短兩個月,便獲得超過原訂目標一百倍的贊助,最終募到將近兩千萬台幣。

:earth_americas: 「我們一定要用臺灣的品牌,把它推到全世界去。」在第三次來訪時,李女士這樣和我說。募資成功讓他們大受鼓舞,更堅定了接下來的步伐。

:family_man_woman_boy: 也欣的故事讓我看到,透過群眾協力的創新模式,傳統產業也能再現風華。期待未來臺灣能有更多的發明家,走向全球、遍地開花。

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:umbrella: As an island on the Pacific Ocean, torrential rain is a typical characteristic of the climate in Taiwan. Therefore, umbrellas have always been indispensable for the Taiwanese.

:1st_place_medal: Thirty years ago, constant need for umbrellas provided a golden cow for Taiwan. When the industry was most prosperous, there were more than 300 umbrella factories in Taiwan. At that time, on average, one in every 40 people in the world used an umbrella made in Taiwan, thus the region’s nickname “umbrella kingdom.”

:open_umbrella: Today, Taiwan’s umbrellas have once again become the focus of the world. In July of this year, the “inverted umbrella” invented by the Taoyuan brand “Yexin,” raised nearly NT$ 20 million within 62 days, winning the 2019 German Red Point product awards. It will officially enter the largest international fund-raising platform, Kickstarter, in October.

:bulb: All that originated from a visit in mid-March last year.

:raising_hand_woman: During my regular Wednesday office hours, Ms. Li Fengzhu, the one in charge of Yexin, walked quickly into my office in the social center. As soon as she sat down, she started to tell the company’s story.

:station: Li Shengqun, the founder of Yexin, Ms. Li’s younger brother, is an expert in making umbrellas. When he went to Japan on a business trip more than a decade ago, he was busy looking at people coming and going at the bus station in Tokyo. They were in a great bustle, taking down their umbrellas. He was thus inspired to develop a reverse umbrella which would allow the umbrella to be folded in the opposite direction to avoid getting people’s clothes wet.

:construction_worker_man: Mr. Li did not expect that even if he made a patent for it, he still could not stop the rampant problem of copycats. Besides hand-wringing, he chose to improve his product continuously. It took him ten years to successfully transform the long umbrella, which is hard to put in the car, into a short and instantly reversible version.

:thinking: They asked: How can we introduce the new inverse umbrella into the market without being affected by copycats?

:mega: As to that, I suggested that they adopt crowdfunding to tell their own stories. That would not only establish their brand name before the launch of the product and avoid copycats, but also let investors understand the work schedule, and even provide all manner of advice, so that more people could identify with the concept of the developers.

:100: After a year of preparation, Yexin officially launched a special campaign in April this year, targeting the raising of NT$150,000 in two months, which was accomplished within ten minutes. In the next two months, the company received a hundred times more funding than the original target, reaching nearly NT$20,000,000.

:earth_americas: “We must push the brands of Taiwan to all over the world,” Ms. Li told me during her third visit. They were greatly encouraged by the success of the fund-raising and made a firm decision for the next steps.

:family_man_woman_boy: Through a new model of crowd collaboration, traditional industries such as Yexin now shine again. I look forward to seeing more inventors in the future go global and bloom all over the world.