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Hands free umbrella takes the work out of staying cool

By By James Crawford
News Editor
Have you ever been caught in the rain holding groceries, trying to dig out your keys and all the while trying to hold your umbrella? Or have you ever been working out in the yard in the blazing heat and wished you had a shade over your head. If so, Atmore native, inventor and entrepreneur Ronnie Hadley may have just the product for you.
Hadley has designed, patented and is now marketing his Hands-Free Umbrella from his home in McCullough. The umbrella has a back harness similar to a work belt that attaches around your waist with Velcro. The modified umbrella simply slides in the slot in the back and you have a portable roof over your head that you don't have to hold.
Hadley said he got the idea one-day while talking with friends. "Me and a friend were talking one day and I was going to make a shade for my momma and my friend said if you could wear an umbrella you'd have shade and I told him dude, you've just given me an idea," said Hadley.
Armed with a concept, Hadley immediately went to work on designing and figuring out how to build his new umbrella.
"I went in right then and started drawing different ways you could use the hands-free umbrella and before I knew it I had something. We order the umbrellas, then we plan to hire people to sew the belts and assemble them. I cut off the handles that come with the umbrellas and put my own custom handle on them that fits into the bracket," said Hadley.
Hadley originally went to Esco to make the prototype of the device in order to secure a patent and begin production. "It took $5,000 to get the patent and over $20,500 to get the mold made.
"When I went to get the patent, I didn't take a drawing, I took the real thing. Then I started looking on the Internet and found a mold factory in Pensacola who helped me put together a prototype. I formed a company with insurance, I'm bonded and have a license and everything," said Hadley.
Hadley has sold 35-40 by world of mouth in just the first few weeks they've been available and the umbrella can be purchased at various outlets around Atmore, including Escambia Lawn and Rental, State Line, Norma's Quick Shop and the L&L Stop.
"Wal Mart wants it, but I need to get the bard code information and we haven't been able to get it done yet but we're working on it," said Hadley who's sister Becky Ridlehoover has been assisting him to get the company off the ground and start the manufacturing process.
The parts are currently sewn at his house where the apparatus is also assembled and packaged in a plastic wrap with a design logo and instructions.
"We hope to have a commercial for TV and have it on the Internet one day," said Hadley who also hopes to one day employ others from the area in the manufacturing of his new umbrella.