Thoughts From a Balcony

It’s hard to believe it’s already been two years since we launched Shades on Point Sunglass Co.!

Reminiscing on this crazy journey we’ve been on, I thought I’d give you some insight into this adventure based on questions I’ve received from friends, family, coworkers, customers, social media, interviews and other small business owners.

I created Shades as an additional way to connect individuals to their city and show their Pittsburgh pride. Every aspect of the brand was designed to showcase the city where I was born and raised. I placed extra emphasis on the product packaging to create a more premium unboxing experience for customers similar to opening an iPhone, while adding a sense of nostalgia by including old Pirates cards from the 80s and 90s. Who doesn’t love a good Spanky LaValliere ‘stache card?! [Editor’s note: I’ve only sent one Barry Bonds card ever to a customer. We’re from the ‘Burgh, we take our grudges against athletes very seriously.]

I launched with only three models for a number or reasons, namely because it kept me from overextending a new business, allowed me to gauge the market demand and customer acceptance and provided an opportunity to easily optimize the operations and fulfillment process. Said another way, it allowed me to learn a business model where my only experience included buying a new pair of sunglasses on an annual basis.

Let me tell you, the eyewear business is extremely difficult to penetrate. One company, Luxottica, is a virtual monopoly owning 80% of eyeglass brands (Ray-Ban, Oakley, Chanel, D&G, etc.), most optometry chains (Sunglass Hut, LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Target Optical, etc.) and the second-largest vision care insurance in the U.S. (EyeMed Vision Care). This makes breaking into big box stores like Macy’s and Costco next to impossible due to exclusivity deals between the companies.

So we decided to do things differently.

By building hype on social media ahead of launch, we sold out of all three models within the first month and haven’t looked back since. Our product line expansion has been rapid and aggressive. We just released models number 22 and 23 – WOW!

A few of our other major accomplishments in the last two years:

  • We’ve released 23 models so far and are testing others, including a carbon fiber model that is 5x stronger than steel and lighter than our current models. We’re also exploring additional product lines like watches and glasses.
  • In 2018, we ran a successful Kickstarter crowdsourced funding campaign that allowed us to reach new countries and fund our current inventory stockpile.
  • We created a Corporate Social Responsibility program with One Tree Planted. Now, every pair of Shades you buy from us will plant one tree to help environmentally offset materials used to make your sunglasses.
  • We’ve taken a guerrilla approach to building brand ambassadors, content creators and User Generated Content. The reach of our influencers is pretty wild – 750K combined followers on the social media accounts they use to promote us!
  • We’ve shipped Shades to 25 states and 8 countries; They’ve traveled to 45 countries.
  • In 2019, we’ve stocked a boutique store in New Jersey and were invited to meet with Facebook’s team in their NYC headquarters.

None of this would have been possible without truly incredible support from friends and family. It’s really amazing to see pics of friends I haven’t seen in 15 years rocking their Shades! As always, thank you all. Just the fact that you’re reading this means the world to me!

We’re going to aggressively take this brand to the next level in 2019. We’ll push hard to expand to additional stores, provide more packages for bridal parties (ask about our rates), keep building our influencer marketing program to 1M+ followers and work with fresh bloggers and video makers to create great content for you.

Enjoy your day and bless up.

 

 


1 comment

  • Brian,
    A well written and tactfully delivered message to the masses. Your drive and ambition is beyond comprehension to mere mortals like me. Watching your business model blossom into an international venture – considering the competition you’re taking on – has been a remarkable ride for me (and without a doubt friends and family)!
    Whether pool or tropical paradise, I wear my Shades with pride.
    So…keep on keepin’ on!!
    Uncle Jack

    Uncle Jack

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