This week we had the chance to interview Brooks Dame, the young and energetic founder of Proof Eyewear, a fashionable sunglass brand that's committed to doing good in the world through its social business model. One of their initiatives is providing sight saving surgery for someone in India for every pair of glasses sold. To top it off, their eyeglass frames are made of sustainable wood.
In the questions below Brooks shares more about where the idea came from, having sawdust in his veins, and his advice on going after your dreams.
6 Questions with Brooks Dame, Founder of Proof Eyewear
1. How did the idea for the business model come about?
I was in my garage trying to make bamboo ski poles. I couldn't get it right so I bagged that idea but knew I wanted to do something with wood. I just love the look and feel of wood. It has so many great properties to it. My grandfather also started his own business 57 years ago in Southern Utah and it was a wood business, a sawmill to be exact. That business has grown and is still in our family today, so I guess I have sawdust in my veins.
After stumbling upon a pair of vintage bamboo reading glasses, I thought, "Why not sunglasses?" So I developed my first pair of bamboo sunglasses and it expanded to other woods. We now have a ton of different wood options and six models with another one or two on the way.
2. How did you decide to join this sector?
I'm a big accessories guy. I love watches, I love sunglasses -- I think accessories finish off a look. They are also small and you can take them with you or pass them down from generation to generation if they are timeless. I think our Wood Sunglasses are timeless. The Sunglass industry is huge, but there are so many plastic sunglass companies. It needed to be shaken up a little bit. Enter Proof Wood Sunglasses.
3. How do you get your inspiration?
I find it in unlikely places. I find it in looking through vintage magazines, pictures and books. I find it in nature. I find it in other industries that you wouldn't expect. Inspiration is all around us. I get little pieces here and there that just get me excited. A closed mind is an uninspired mind. I think keeping your mind open to new ideas and concepts helps you push things to the next level.
4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
I think it is good to stop what you are doing every once in a while. Push back from the table. You want to do it before you hit a wall. Go do something for you. Go do something you like. I like to recharge by just doing something that is a 180 degrees from what I was doing. I like to spend time with my family and friends. My son is a great way to reset and think differently. I watch him and his approach on things and it is totally different from how I would approach the same task or challenge, and looking through his eyes opens mine. Music is a good way to reset and to get some new inspiration. Sometimes a line from a song will set me off and I'm on another tear of inspiration.
5. Do you have any advice for aspiring social entrepreneurs?
Don't sleep on your dreams. That is actually inscribed in one of our sunglass models. I think people sometimes lose sight of their dreams and don't pursue them. You have to keep it 100 and make things happen. Wood eyewear is a crazy idea. But you know what? That crazy idea has become a business and a passion, not just for me, but for the whole Proof family. People support us like you wouldn't believe. It's been an amazing trip for just launching a year ago.
6. What are your dreams for the future?
I'm really encouraged by the future. We started Proof in a bad economy. There wasn't a lot of hope out there and we've scratched our way through our first year and made a lot of waves in the industry and as a company. We are always looking for ways to progress and get better. I see us as a company that keeps things moving and stays on the cutting edge.