I first spoke to the founders of sunglass-company Dicks Cottons, Rich Amundson and T.J. Eaton, in August '14. Now, after the success of their recent Kickstarter campaign, we caught up again. So, what have they been up to over the past year and a half? Has the party continued? Has it grown? And what of their upcoming subscription service, shadesclub™? Read on.
What strides has Dicks Cottons made over the past year? What major lessons, if any, have you and TJ learned?
In the last year, customers have taken the brand experience to another level. Their sunglasses have become a staple item that they bring along when good times are on the horizon. They take such great photos and we've seen the Stickman getting some incredible views from around the world. We learned that by helping our customers tell their stories, more people are able to afford the same luxuries. They buy amazing sunglasses, and have more money in their pocket to actually experience and do more of what they love. [The sunglasses are] like an amplifier, and it's just cool, because that's how the brand got its start.
You and TJ were 'in talks with an airline, a hotel chain, and a major music festival about possible collaborations.' How did those talks go?
We're still in talks with the music festival and a few hotels. A few smaller hotels have picked us up, which is exciting. A lot of these discussions have shifted to possibly involve shadesclub™. We are weighing everything that comes our way, and there's a lot of potential options, so it's very exciting!
Dicks Cottons likes to take part in events. Planned any recently? Planning one now?
We're choosy. We like events that evoke an experience. For example, Dicks Cottons was born on a yacht sailing through the Adriatic, with a close group of friends, who all just wanted to escape the daily grind of NYC. There's this epic party in Corsica called 'Calvi on the Rocks'.
We also design sunglasses for Spring Break in Cancun every year. T.J. lived and worked there for years. We like the discovery of it all, and if an event ties in music, bathing suits, feeling free and sunshine with your closest friends, we're all in to meet thousands of strangers who will become friends. Everything is a movie-like story. But the Stickman is the one to be jealous of, he's seen the best views of them all.
You're now looking to add a subscription service to your business model. Tell me about shadesclub™. What's the inspiration behind the club, and what research went into it? How many pairs of sunglasses do people typically own?
Well, it wasn't like 'let's start a new business' at all. shadesclub™ was born out of pure demand. While our average customer owns between five and forty pairs, some own over one hundred. Yeah, one hundred.
[This data] makes sense because we all want our shades to go together with what we do and wear. And, unlike shoes, handbags or makeup, your shades are a total experience-driver and mood enhancer. They're a vitamin, not a painkiller. We [see shadesclub™] as an extension [of the brand], and way to help get more shades on more faces, which would mean more people having more fun around the world. It's kind of impossible to do that when your sunglasses are the price of a round-trip airline ticket. We just imagined if we could at least help them get to the party, that's half the battle. Once they get there,--knowing our crowd--we know they're just going to crush it and live life!
$15 a month for a pair of Dicks Cottons sunglasses seems like a big difference from your usual pricing? How is the cost structure supported?
Well, the only way it works is if we grow. We have to buy in bulk and keep a skeleton crew with innovative solutions to keep the lights on so to speak. You know what they say, nobody knows about your movement until it's moving. But, we think on the low end there's a huge market of people that would love 12 pairs of the same or better quality they are currently rocking, with a brand behind it that really gets it. Plus, fighting for parking spots, waiting in line for the vault to be unlocked, just to live in fear of losing or breaking your investment is no way to go through life. We just made sunglasses fun again, with a healthy dose of what we all want in this millennium: simple, fun, and convenient. It really shouldn't be too much to ask, should it?
Unique pairs of sunglasses will need to be designed and produced at a faster rate. How have you and TJ prepared yourselves and manufacturers?
We grew up learning that it's not your resources, it's your resourceful-ness. We're all about relationships, so having great partners in production comes naturally. Those same manufacturers have gone to bed at night dreaming that they wouldn't be prisoner to the industry anymore. Sunglasses are literally in both of our DNA and heritage, and us being prepared would be an understatement. As true designers, we live the brand, so we're constantly inspired and always designing. We just need more people to join so we can really step up and step out.
I've heard a bit about Dicks' charitable efforts. Tell me more about those efforts, and how they led to the new children's sunglass line.
We do quite a bit of charity sunglasses around the world, that we keep somewhat quiet. Rich's grandfather, Papa Dick, passed a legacy on to Rich, having designed eyewear for over 40 years. T.J.'s daughter, Brooklyn, was at the office a bunch and she loved the colorful frames, so we busted out a giant roll of paper and some pastels. She would trace and color. The result was so pure, it just made sense to pass the torch. (More like she grabbed it!) From there our first kids line came about, Brooklyn's Sunnies. As a 1-year old, she's the youngest sunglasses designer in the world. We donate half of those pairs to destinations around the world: the US, Costa Rica, and Haiti to name a few. We named [each sunglass style] after friends, customers and family who have kids.
We also host a yearly surf camp for children with Autism in Ocean City, New Jersey. T.J. lifeguarded there for many years. We really dig the charity side, but we do it for the right reasons, not to increase sales. This is actually the first time we ever put it out there. But, stay tuned because Brooklyn, in her second year just told us she wants a line of white sunnies. In the future, when she grows up, she will have helped many, and have that to reflect on.
Lastly, I remember your ultimate goal was to throw the world's largest beach party. When should I expect my invitation?
Okay, shifting gears to partying as smoothly as possible here. Our biggest goal or #goals is to throw the world's largest beach party one day, with all of the amazing people who have helped tell the story along the way. We get the chills when we picture it...Your shades will be your ticket, so if you've got those, then you're good to go. The only question is, "What story will YOU be inspired to tell..."
For more info on Dicks Cottons, check out: DicksCottons.com
For more info on the author, Alex Schattner, check out: AlexSchattner.com
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