How A Mid-Life Crisis At 27 Turned Into My Dream Business.
The breakdown before the breakthrough came some time after the end of my seven-year relationship, a few soulless pitch meetings with potential clients, and a couple of evenings spent binge-watching existential videos.
Gorgeous loft — check. Impressive ad industry portfolio — check. As an entrepreneur in my late twenties, you’d think I was doing pretty well. But I found myself sobbing on the floor after coming back from a run, feeling profoundly, undeniably unhappy, unfulfilled, and disconnected from myself.
Ironically, I had always been the guy encouraging others to live fully, believe in themselves and pursue their desires. But I had lost myself for the typical reasons: Not enough time, not enough money, I need to do this before I can do that. I felt like the opposite of brave, which eventually became the name of my sunglass brand.
“Be brave enough to fulfill your Vision.” It turns out I had to live up to the slogan of BRAVE Vision before co-founding the company with my cousin Jordan. The process involved plenty of travel and outdoor adventures, as well as the courage to say no to another business venture and yes to pursuing creative work no matter what. Most of all, I said yes to life. And I just went for it.
Here is what I learned through the journey of building a sunglasses business while rediscovering myself.
Surprising lessons from the sunglass industry
I had grand Visions of printing cool 3D sunglasses and producing epic content to promote them. Don’t get me wrong, I do get to do those things, but my co-founder and I learned a lot of surprising things about the sunglass industry through trial and error. I kind of like that we were a bit naive before starting, because had I known what I was getting into, I might have given up.
First, most sunglass brands on the market are owned by a couple of giant conglomerates. It’s a highly competitive, tough-to-access world. Second, price doesn’t always equal quality. In fact, you’d be shocked at some of the margins on “high-end” designer frames. Third, a lot of luxury sunglasses look the same, and there are practical reasons for that.
To polarize or not? Injection plastic or acetate? Those are questions we wondered about, as each option comes with different pros and cons. No, polarized doesn’t always mean better. It’s useful if you’re going to be braving elements such as sand, snow or water. But actually quite annoying when you’re trying to look at your phone screen. So we opted against making all our lenses polarized right now. Eventually, we might develop specific polarized models for those kind of situation.
As far as frames, true luxury sunglasses, which is what we were going for in terms of quality, are made of acetate. Acetate is a little heavier and sturdier than plastic, which, on the other hand, is ideal for sports since it’s light. We went with acetate but gave our design a sporty look to bridge the gap between straight-up functionality and cool factor.
And speaking of functional, it turns out that funky design doesn’t always mean wearability (and that’s why so many sunglasses look similar).
I dreamed of making Blade Runner-like shades that would marry sporty and stylish, but my ’80s film inspo had to be adapted to the reality of being able to wear a pair of glasses instead of admiring it in a beauty shot. It’s kind of like life and entrepreneurship: There is a difference between conceptualizing and taking action.
But regardless of the challenges we faced, both my co-founder and I remained adamant about standing out from the pack and doing our own thing.
We had to learn to be comfortable staying in our lane and owning our Vision: Impressive craftsmanship at an affordable price point — and eye-grabbing design.
Even when optometrists refused to carry our product because it wasn’t expensive enough to be positioned on the existing market.
Even when some people found our sunglasses too bold for their liking. Hey, we put our logo front and center on the side of each pair of glasses because we want our design to stand out, and because we’re proud of what our name stands for. Bold is exactly what we’re going for.
Turning a dream business idea into a reality
So how did we turn our dream idea into a reality? By starting and doing and learning. By having courage and believing in ourselves, just like we want to encourage others to do.
Our sunglasses are designed in Canada with materials sourced from Italy and manufactured in Japan. We looked into several manufacturers from different areas of the world and options before making those business decisions.
We wanted to create the Ferrari of sunglasses quality-wise, but with our own design. So we looked at how truly remarkable sunglasses on the market were made to gain insights on production.
When attempting to sell BRAVE Vision in eyewear stores didn’t end up being an aligned choice for our brand, we chose the e-commerce route. We’re still carving our space in an industry where there is no middle ground between sportswear and high-fashion yet, but that’s part of the fun.
The biggest rewards come in the form of moments like a client trying a pair of sunglasses and ordering five different styles after being impressed with how good they feel and look. Or taking off in the wilderness and filming our journey to share stories that will inspire others to be brave and free. This is what makes it all worth it, and what was missing in my life when I had my breakdown.
What nobody tells you about courage and Vision
You don’t need as many resources as you think to start, but you do need to be resourceful. People think we’re lucky, but it’s not luck: We wake up every day and work towards making our Vision happen.
It’s what I appreciate the most about my co-founder and cousin: Not only do we share similar life values, but he also has always stood out to me as someone who does what he says he’s going to do.
A lot of people live in fear and avoid truly living, but he’s always willing to take chances and make moves.
Nobody tells you entrepreneurship can get lonely and confusing when everyone around you is buying condos and having babies, and you’re also getting more serious about those life decisions but not intending to give up on your dreams.
Time flies and as you gain more responsibilities, it’s easy to procrastinate on doing what you’ve always wanted to do. That’s why it’s so important to surround yourself with people who will support and uplift you. I never want to become complacent or say things like “I wish I did” or “I wish I could.”
I was looking for purpose and hit a wall when I couldn’t find it anywhere in my daily reality, but now I also see that the core elements had always been there. It wasn’t so much about what I did for a living, but staying true to myself while spending time on projects that energize me. BRAVE Vision is a vehicle for my mission to live with courage, passion, perseverance, and accomplishment — and for spreading that message.
There is no finish line. I didn’t “make it.” This is a journey. And as you wake up in the morning and pursue your own journey, I hope that putting on a pair of BRAVE Vision sunglasses will help you feel a little more badass and inspire you to go do something cool that makes you feel alive.
Written by: Anouare Abdou writer & content marketing strategist