Sometimes great innovations are driven by great need.
Sometimes great innovations are driven by pure serendipity.
Sometimes great innovations elude either category. Sometimes they’re driven a step in dog poop half buzzed in Mexico.
I can’t sum up the birth of Brewsees Eyewear
any better than founders Jonathan Castellanos
and Rob Ianelli
Back in the day we used to rock those Reef sandals with those nifty openers in the sole; badass sandals until you're on Spring break in Mexico and fiesta stomp in some sh#t. Being raised in the US of A, we know how to fix things, especially after a number of cold ones. Call it magic, but we think more science, it dawned on us that the greatest place for an opener was our sunglasses.
Jonathan and Rob have created a line of sunglasses that double as bottle openers. I know what you might be thinking. When you hear about a combination sunglasses-bottle opener hybrid, it's easy to think these things might be a gimmick or a gag gift. However, these guys are serious about what they’re doing. Well, mostly.
Jonathan is an interesting guy. Check out the pitch he gave to the American Underground last month:
After getting his bachelor’s degree at Cal Poly and later his MBA, he got a job at Monster.com in Boston. Make no mistake—working at a tech/software company as reputable as Monster is a dream come true for many young grads. But Jonathan was “unsatisfied with climbing the corporate ladder” so he left his job to start a business with long time friend, serial entrepreneur and (as described by Jonathan) “maniac” Rob, who had been working on Brewsees since 2006. And it was all due to dog poop... and beer.
A few months later in 2011, the pair had a “first draft” of the company up and running. Their product’s function was much the same as it is today—sunglasses that opened beer cans—but the styling and target demographic were different. Sales were good, but the customer base was what Jonathan jokingly refers to as “NASCAR dads”. While they were making a product that sold well in a niche, it wasn’t the niche they wanted. The pair were far more entrepreneur bros than 9-5 sports dads, and they wanted a product that people like them would use.
So, in another dangerous move, they scrapped almost everything about the product except for its bottle-opening functionality.
Fast forward to 2015, and Brewsees Eyewear is relaunching with new products, new ideas and a totally new marketing and brand representation strategy. Instead of focusing on digital marketing or print ads, the company has embraced grassroots marketing within its new target demographic—college students.
The Brewsees Ambassador program launched at the beginning of 2015 and has grown to over 200 college students repping Brewsees products on their campuses. In fact, revenue has grown nearly three times this year, which coincides with the introduction of the Brewsees Ambassador program. If you want to be a part of the strange and amusing Brewsees family, check the link here
Working with a designer, they ditched the wraparound Oakley-esque style and opted for more classic styles like the wayfarer and aviator, with plans to launch a retro line with styles similar to pit vipers and the like.
The newer models, after some serious stress testing by their college ambassadors, even feature a piece of metal that allows for Brewsees owners to puncture a can in order to shotgun a beer. I promise, I’m not joking. The founders even filed a patent for this feature, so bad news if you had the strange idea of using sunglasses to puncture aluminum cans.
But while these products and features might sound a bit silly, Jonathan and Rob have serious vision for their brand and its future. They see positive industry trends—sunglasses stores in the U.S. already sell $2 billion worth of goods annually and sales are projected to increase 5 percent a year through 2020. They plan to expand into styles targeted towards women, styles without a bottle opener, and even apparel. Previous sales for items like neck straps and beanies have gone so well that the duo is working to make them permanent products and major sources of revenue.
They don’t plan to stop with just college students either.
Jonathan says, “We have a ton of guys in their mid-20s and early 30s who are buying these sunglasses. They’re in their cubicle at (insert company name here) and they're just slaving away for the weekend”.
Jonathan and Rob aren’t working to create cheesy sunglasses that can open a beer—they want to create a lifestyle brand that epitomizes fun, freedom and catharsis.
So they have a vision, and they have a product. What’s next is sales growth. They have an interesting advantage in this arena as the company is “outside of the sunglasses monopoly.”
I’m not hyperbolizing here. One single company, Luxottica, controls over 80 percent of the world’s major eyewear brands, allowing for the selling of eyewear at an exorbitant markup. Since Brewsees is an independent entity, it sells a wayfarer-style model with UV polarized lenses for $49.50, while Ray-Ban offers its competitive polarized New Wayfarer Classic model for $180. Additionally, if you try to open a bottle or pop an ice cold Natty Light with a pair of Ray-Bans, you're going to end up with $180 of trash in your hand.
So the next six months? New models without the bottle openers and expansion into physical retail locations. Brewsees are already sold in a few different locations in Raleigh and there are plans to attend the SurfExpo swim and sportswear trade show in Orlando in January. Finally, and most importantly, they plan to drink plenty of beer.
They’re also working on a Kickstarter campaign for their shotgun-oriented frames. It should be live the week of Thanksgiving.
If you still haven’t figured out that these guys are ridiculous, here’s some info from the Kickstarter draft:
Working with former NASA scientists and Alcoholics Anonymous dropouts we developed a patent-pending eyewear design for discrete (upon choice) and daring (Monday Night Raw boom status) shotgunning of saide'th BEER CAN abilities.