Style, Function, what more could you ask of eyewear?...
How about eco friendly manufacturing.
To find out more behind how Ovan got its start and what’s in store for the future, Josh interviews Ovan co-founder, Joel Kramer
More about the episode...
Josh sits down with Ovan co-founder Joel Kramer. Ovan is an eyewear brand with a focus on fashion, function, and eco-sustainability for both sunglasses and snow goggles. Having, 9 co-founders total, this powerhouse eyewear brand was built with utilizing the well of knowledge each founder brings to the table. But bigger than that, their focus on using eco-friendly materials has put them on track to being a leader in the eyewear industry. Sit back, relax, and dig deeper with us as we put Ovan under the microscope and see what makes this rising brand tick and see where it’s headed into the future.
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What is Ovan Eyewear all about?
“We are a lifestyle eyewear brand positioned at the intersection of action and fashion integrating style, performance, and eco friendly materials into our products…”
How did you get into the eyewear biz?
“I was an independent sales rep for 12 years in the Rockies. Amongst that time I sold a number of products, snowboard hardgoods was my bread and butter. But, as part of that experience I started a google company back then that we called Addict that we ran for a couple years...This project began when I moved to san diego six years ago…”
What was the next step after you came up with the initial idea?
“Step number one was to really solidify and write up a bulletproof business plan. Once we had that done we took that plan to friends, mentors, etc. for feedback and also began looking for how we were going to raise the initial startup capital…”
Did you know off the bat that you needed to raise capital to get the business off the ground?
“We knew that we would to some degree. Going in and building anything is going to require some financial resources. We didn’t wanna just go out there and grab an OEM product off the shelf and slap a logo on it…”
Were you always this outdoorsy growing up and knew you wanted to stay in that industry?
“I think so, I grew up in Washington state and moved to Colorado to be a ski bum when I was 18 years old because, snowboarding was one of the most important things to me and I wanted to go to college but, also snowboard everyday...Being in that environment, in that industry I saw a lot of people that I looked up to start their own companies, chasing their own dreams and that inspired me to do so myself…”
How would you best describe the difference between Ovan and other eyewear brands?
“There’s two categories there, sun and snow, but we do have a focus across the board on eco-friendly materials. All of our sunglasses for instance, the entire body and lens itself, everything with the exception of the interior metal arm is biodegradable…”
What was the prototyping process like when you first started?
“We’ve been fortunate to have some tools at our disposal that have been a huge help like 3D printers. Being able to 3D print a model, whether it was a goggle or sunglasses...we’re able to do a lot of fit modeling that way and also come up with a real tangible 3D product that you can hold in your hand to get a real aesthetic for…”
What is one thing that no one knows about you, your product, or business?
“Definitely a big point of difference especially among startups is we design everything from scratch. The sunglass silhouettes and also our goggle system, these are all proprietary shapes and silhouettes that we’ve drawn from the ground up… you’re not going to find the same sunglasses or the same goggle style sold by another brand out there, period…”
Did you have any mentors who helped you build your business?
“I’ve had a few mentors and certainly a lot of people that I’ve had the opportunity to work with over the years that had taught me a great deal about doing business on a global level, about time management, about the importance of empowering your employees and working as a team...Speaking of my personal career with my experience at Rome Snowboards for a long time, the two owners there Josh Reid and Paul Maravetz were an inspiration and very knowledgeable about what they did…”
What is your commitment to sustainability in regards to Ovan?
“This is something that’s been important to us...One way we do that is reducing our use of plastic overall, increasing the use of biodegradable materials, recyclable materials, or reusable products. This is always a focus with new product development and in the existing line you’ll find some of those materials throughout…”
What has the growth been like since you got started?
“Our growth has been slow and steady. We definitely came out of the gates with higher aspirations and tried to take on a lot. That was something that later bit us in the butt for just taking on more than we could handle with our small team of guys here, just trying to manage a global business…”
What is the culture like within Ovan?
“We are based in San Diego. The sense of community here, culture within the brand, really I just feel happens naturally for us. We’re all in this for the same reason and, doing what we love to do and building stuff we care about...A normal day, we wake up, go surf before work, hit the office and put in a full work day...We often work into evening hours and still try to make time for things that are important to us…”
What has been one of the hardest parts about building Ovan?
“One of the hardest parts for us...We all came from a much larger brand where we had just been working for several years together and sharing a huge network of resources under that umbrella of companies. To us, adjusting to not having some of those resources forced us to do new jobs that are related to the business that we’ve never done before…”
What’s your greatest fear in regards to Ovan and how do you manage it?
“We don’t want to let fear dictate the decisions with the business. We don’t want to let fear keep us from going down a certain path. I think it’s important to take risks with the business. But, we’d hate to lose control of our brand, something that’s very personal to us…”
What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made while building Ovan?
“Overstretching ourselves. I know that myself and the other two guys that I work with most closely on the day-to-day have all been guilty on doing this to ourselves, stretching ourselves too thin by just putting too much of a workload on us. You want to come out swinging for the fences but you also want to be doing what’s manageable so you can accomplish your goals and stay on deadline…”
What advice would you give to someone that wanted to start a business?
“Number one, be different. Do your research, identify opportunities, write a really solid business plan and do your best to stay on that plan and modify accordingly as needed. I guess the other thing would be to definitely talk to people that have been there before…”
Where do you see Ovan headed into the future?
“In the next year, we’re focused on growing our strong territories now where we’ve got a good foothold and expanding our sunglass line this summer and dropping a new goggle silhouette for 2019...In 5 years we want to continue to be a leader in innovating the eco-story and lens technology story in sunglass…”
What’s the best part about running Ovan?
“Watching what you built really come to life. Building that brand legacy. IT’s so much bigger than just myself and the other guys that are working here. It’s the riders, the reps, the groms putting stickers on their board, the shipping guys. Everybody plays their role and when you see that all come life from the outside standpoint and you see people wearing your product, that’s rewarding…”
What are you most excited for going forward with Ovan?
“We’re always excited about making new stuff, we love developing new product and new ideas. Coming back to just seeing the brand as a whole, grow and building that community around the brand, and giving back to the culture and community that got us here...All of that is just a rewarding experience and it’s great to be apart of that…”