Frameri Saves The Frame
When fellow Notre Dame alumni Conrad Billetz and I first spoke he was gearing up to start a crowdfunding campaign for a company he was starting called Frameri and I was fresh out of the gate from helping Hidden Radio founders John Van Den Nieuwenhuizen and Vitor Santa Maria launch a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. I told Conrad that I had once helped the founder of Panoptx (now owned by www.7eye.com), Dr. Rudolf Kopfer, launch a new company by the name of Windjammer and if he needed any assistance to reach out to me at anytime. Rudy as I know him is a serial entrepreneur and the pioneer of "sealing" eyewear that was developed as the result of a $1 dollar side bet between himself and Bruce Smith, founder of Smith Optics, while skiing together. Rudy did not like big bulky Smith goggles and was convinced he could make eyewear that functioned in the same way.
I explained to Conrad that while helping Windjammer I drove around in my car showing plastic frames with high quality Italian lenses made of the highest quality polycarbonate and a patented frame gasget, Sol-Air Gard, to independent retailers while gathering feedback and opening a few small accounts along the way. One of the sales pitches was "Our polarization is molecularly bonded to the lens material internally to eliminate delaminating." This was a nice value proposition but not unique enough to make much of an impression on a sunglass or eyewear buyer. You could customize them with prescription lenses but even that was not unique enough and yes on one model you could switch out the lens with a variety of available options. Still not enough to open the door and close the account. The winning and unique value proposition was in the Sol-Air Gard. It was created with a venting system on top and bottom that helps create an anti-fog venting system despite the frames being snug against the nose and face. Unique & valuable selling point = SOLD.
What I learned while helping out and shared with Conrad is that you should not give up on your mission once you have committed to it. Rudy did not give up on his initial idea for Panoptx and it is still around sixteen years later. I also came to realize that design and fashion trends tend to sell better over functionality in the eyewear business and supplier relationships can be difficult to establish as the article below explains.