Ditch the plastic
Bring yourself back to nature with Shwood Eyewear
To find out more behind how Shwood Eyewear got its start and what’s in store for the future, Josh interviews Shwood Eyewear co-founder, Phil Peterson
More about the episode...
Josh sits down with Shwood Eyewear co-founder Phil Peterson. Shwood Eyewear are the makers of the original wooden sunglasses. Peterson first was inspired in creating his first pair of wooden sunglasses after “borrowing” a branch from a neighbors madrone tree. After getting phenomenal feedback (and some requests) on that first pair, it wasn’t long until Shwood progressed to work with quite a few varieties wood. Follow along on this weeks episode as Phil shares some of the twists, turns, ups, and downs of creating Shwood and the original wooden sunglasses
Have an opinion? We want to hear it! Join the conversation and leave a comment, check out show notes, and get all the links mentioned in this episode below
- Check out Shwood’s website
- Pick up a fair of your own Shwood sunglasses
- More about Shwood
- Follow Shwood on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter
What is Shwood Eyewear?
“We are an experimental eyewear brand. Since our inception in 2009 we have brought 17 different natural materials to the eyewear market place that had never existed in eyewear before. So, we’re pretty prideful of constantly being like mad scientists in our shop here in Portland, Oregon…”
Being the first company to make wooden frames, how did you come up with this idea and decide to start your brand?
“We definitely were the first ones to introduce a wooden frame to the mass market. The idea came, geez it was way back in 2005. This was well before it was called Shwood or a brand even, it was just an idea that I had...At that time I was making furniture...The inspiration came from my neighbors tree, across the fence. He had a madrone tree… it’s a very orangey, slick bark on this tree…”
What was the next step after making that first pair of sunglasses?
“I wore those down to the skatepark in the town I grew up in, Candy, Oregon. Everyone at the skatepark, I remembered, they were like ‘what the heck are those?!’, they wanted them. So, I kept on making pairs for my friends, I had a waiting list...Not knowing how to do something and making it progressively better each time, really drives me in whatever I’m doing. This was a whole new world…”
How did your other partners get involved in starting Shwood?
“...I had made a decision to live out of my car in Bend, Oregon which was about 4 hours away from my hometown… We were up on the mountain, it was snowing really hard and we had gotten separated so I was by myself. I sat on the chairlift with two guys and they started talking to me asking me what I was up to and I told them and they invited us to stay at their house...one of those kids on that chairlift is my partners in this thing today…”
What did you do to start growing your business once you came together?
“We did this all with our own money, we pooled what we had and we purchased a laser cutter, a CNC type of machine… we used that money to rent a small 10x10 garage space that we put my tools in and we bought a small amount of wood so I could start producing inventory while Taylor started building a the website...We didn’t have the best plan, we didn’t even know who our audience was because we were snowboarders we weren’t fashion types…”
What does the growth look like from when you started Shwood to now?
“Today we’re in over 500 retail locations. Half the business is retail locations and the other half is direct to consumer through our website. Back then, when we first launched it was a predominantly online. We didn’t know the best way to reach out to stores…”
Is there anything you would attribute your growth to?
“I think it’s just having a unique product that people can relate to. I think we’re good story tellers, we have a really good team. There’s actually one guy that does most of our photos and all of our video content. Today, right now, we’re putting out a video a week… we’ve always told stories about getting outside and how we’re an experimental brand and I think people back in 2009/2010 adopted that as very authentic because it was…”
What is something unique that no one knows about Shwood?
“...The fact that we introduced 17 materials to eyewear that didn’t exist before, one of those being news paper. Even though we did it, we invented it, it took us 8 months just to develop the material and then another 8 months to develop the product with…it involved crazy macgyver type machines that weren't designed to do something like that...”
What is your commitment to sustainability?
“In terms of materials, we only source our wood from FSC certified plantations. A lot of the awesome woods that we use, they don’t grow here in the US. We’ve spent some time to make sure we’re really working with the right wood sources to capture wood that is literally being grown on plantations to be cut down and turned into lumber rather than being harvested from rainforests…”
What has been one of the hardest parts about starting Shwood?
“Back in the beginning there was a sourcing issue. We wanted everything to be as good as it possibly could be and we didn’t want cheap lenses. We wanted to use high end lenses, and we identified that as a German lens, Carl Zeiss that's used in a lot of camera equipment...Luckily, one of my partners knew someone who worked there...Selling and designing a product is one thing but manufacturing a complex product when you have no prior knowledge of manufacturing at all is another entirely different thing…”
What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made with Shwood?
“In the beginning we were pretty picky about what stores we wanted to send products too… Once we started going to trade shows we would deny stores that didn’t think were the right fit for the brand and we realized later that those stores were stores that we DO want to be in…”
What advice would you give someone that wanted to start a business?
“You got to go all in and don’t be afraid to make mistakes, that’s kind of general. I think most importantly is once you are doing it, if you don’t see the turn around and you don’t see it working, you kind of have to know that. Don’t spend too much time working on something work that’s not working…”
How did you come up with the name Shwood?
“...It’s not a name that I came up with...It’s a name that a friend of mine came up with. He was big on the marketing side of the Campus Rail Jam Tour so, I thought he would be a good one to help me come up with a name. So, he came up to my house with a list of names and one of them was Shwood...and I asked him where did that come from, and he told me this story….”
What’s the best part about running Shwood?
“I think just the ability to stay creative. If I didn’t have that ability I don’t know what I would do. It’s an outlet that allows for failure too, at the same time…”