The best advice we can give to entrepreneurs just starting out is to be willing to pivot and change the direction you are heading with your business if needed early on.
Ben and Laura Harrison are the Co-Founders of Jonas Paul Eyewear, an innovative shopping experience that offers kids glasses online. The Harrisons co-launched Jonas Paul Eyewear in 2013 after being inspired by their son, Jonas, who was born nearly blind at birth. The brand has been an honoree for the last two consecutive years on the Inc. 5000, listed at No. 166 in 2019 and No. 573 in 2020. Their thriving eCommerce model and availability at a number of retail locations, including Walmart Vision Centers and Eyemart Express, strongly supports Buy Sight, Give Sight, which is Jonas Paul’s philanthropic giving model. Prior to launching their new venture, the Harrisons gained extensive entrepreneurial experience through founding Folio Websites (later acquired by PhotoUp Inc.) and Harrison Studio. The social entrepreneurs also have a depth of knowledge in the creative field, including photography, web development, and web design skills.
What is your business and what do you do?
At Jonas Paul Eyewear, we specialize in selling kids glasses and teen glasses. We’re firm believers that glasses can be both affordable and stylish, and are proud to offer a full collection of more than 100 different styles and color combinations of glasses for kids ages 4-16. Our glasses range from $79 to $89, including prescription lenses, and can be tried on at home for just $1 with our Home Try-On Kit.
When founding Jonas Paul, we wanted to be sure that alongside offering confidence-boosting glasses, we also had a greater impact in the world. So, we added our Buy Sight, Give Sight program as a core pillar of our business model. For each pair of glasses sold, we make donations to our charitable partner, Vitamin Angels, in an effort to end childhood blindness around the world. To date, this program has helped save the sight of 357,670+ kids and families around the world, and we are so excited to continue to watch that number grow!
What sparked your vision to launch your business?
In 2013, we welcomed our son Jonas into the world. Jonas was born with very low functioning sight, which turned our world upside down. After many prayers and surgeries Jonas’ sight was restored to a functional level, but not without the help of glasses. In our search for stylish eyewear that would help him see, we felt defeated by the selection we found: glasses that had too many cartoon characters, were too bright in color, or were too expensive. While this could have been a stumbling block for us, we decided to turn it into an opportunity that provides hope (and affordable fashion) to kids and families searching for stylishly affordable glasses.
What has been your favorite failure and what did you learn?
To this day, one of our favorite failures actually brings us back to the first days when we launched our brand. We allowed our customers to purchase online through our website before we actually had any type of product in hand. You read that right: we launched our business before actually having any product in-hand to sell. We thought our inventory would arrive shortly after we launched based on estimated shipping times, but what we didn’t realize was that US customs can hold your inventory for as long as they want until you provide the proper documentation that they require. We scrambled and gathered the paperwork as quickly as possible to receive our product and, thankfully, it all worked out in the end! Looking back, it’s definitely a memory “failure” that puts a smile on our faces.
What was your most memorable day of your career and why?
It is so incredibly hard to nail down one single most memorable day, but one day that is at the top of the list would have to be having our story shared on the Today Show in December 2015. To see our story shared on such a large scale to millions of people was a wild experience. We were so nervous beforehand about how Jonas would do during the filming as he was about 2.5 years old. Being the rockstar that he is, he ended up nailing everything and it was such an unforgettable moment being able to see his sweet spirit come through during the segment.
How do you continue to learn so you stay ahead in your industry?
One thing that has been front of mind for us since the beginning of Jonas Paul Eyewear is that we always need to be in a constant state of learning. Webinars, articles, and other networking events or seminars can be so helpful in keeping up with the latest trends and technology, but at the root of everything for us is an emphasis in open-mindedness. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years it is that just because we are currently doing something a certain way doesn’t necessarily mean that is the best way to do it. So, by being open to changing our processes based on things we learn either through experience or from connections we have built with industry leaders, we feel we are moving forward with arms open wide to success and growth.
What is some good advice you can give to entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
The best advice we can give to entrepreneurs just starting out is to be willing to pivot and change the direction you are heading with your business if needed early on. We had to do this early on with Jonas Paul Eyewear and are so thankful we made the pivot, as that is still how we are operating today. Along with being open to these directional changes, we can’t stress enough how important it is to be humble in your learnings and the fact that you likely won’t have answers to every question. Don’t be afraid to rely on the resources that are available to you, and seek out connections or mentorships with those who are further down their entrepreneurial journey than you are to ask questions to and bounce ideas off of.
Where can readers find you on social media?
Instagram – Business: @jonaspauleyewear