John Jenkins was at the dog beach on Fort Myers Beach one day when he saw a man set up a blanket on a pole for shade. That's when he dreamed up Sandy Sail, a sunshade that doesn't blow away like umbrellas do when the wind picks up.
Company: Sandy Sail, Naples
Principal: John “JJ” Jenkins
The big idea: John Jenkins was at the dog beach on Fort Myers Beach one day when he saw a man set up a blanket on a pole for shade. That's when he dreamed up Sandy Sail, a sunshade that doesn't blow away like umbrellas do when the wind picks up. Plus, it's easier to set up than a tent. “A mom with two children can put this thing up in five minutes,” Jenkins says.
The sunshade works like a sail, using the wind to billow the fabric. Like a sail, the sunshade has a center mast-like pole and crossbeam made of lightweight aluminum. Sewn-in pockets at the bottom of the sail can be filled with sand to stabilize the sunshade and its cross beam can be raised or lowered according to weather conditions. “I've had it on the beach in 25 mile-per-hour winds,” says Jenkins. Plus, it weighs the same as a large beach chair.
The Sandy Sail is always a hit when Jenkins takes one to the beach, and that's how he gets most of his orders now. A large Sandy Sail costs $225 and a smaller one costs $125.
Jenkins says he's had interest from beach resorts and sporting good stores that want one in camouflage for duck hunters. He says the camouflage version could have military applications, such as for desert combat.
Jenkins says his challenge now is ramping up for mass production. To do that, he estimates he needs about $65,000 and time. That's not easy because he owns a successful company in Naples called Auto Nanny, a car-maintenance service for seasonal residents. “I know Sandy Sail product is going to explode when it hits the market,” Jenkins says.