in

The two unapologetic realizations that made me a successful entrepreneur

man on boat

Unapologetically unconventional entrepreneurship 

Entrepreneurship is often portrayed as a concept that is hard to pin down or define. But, at its core, entrepreneurship is about solving a problem. Often, it’s a problem other businesses in the marketplace are ignoring or a niche in a target market they don’t quite see.

In my case, inspiration and the entrepreneur lifestyle came because I have a big head.

And not in the figurative, ego-driven sense but in the literal sense.

My company, Fatheadz, makes frames for people who have a hard time fitting into traditional “one-size-fits-all” glasses. Finding glasses or sunglasses that fit my head, or rather, the inability to do so, is a problem I am personally all too familiar with. It may seem like a strange need and a small target market, but, by filling it, I was able to strike a deal with Walmart, hitting more than $2 million in sales in 2010 – almost double from the year prior. 

And I did it by defining the problem and selling to a niche market that the larger companies like Ray Ban and Oakley ignored.

Then I worked hard and was unapologetically unconventional in my road to entrepreneurship success. 

manthinking

Fast forward 5 years and I have learned two truths when it comes to entrepreneurship.

1. You need to define the problem!

One fateful day, I, a 6-foot-3, 300-pound then auto-dealership fleet manager found myself wanting to buy a new pair of sunglasses. I was in Las Vegas, on my honeymoon, and had forgotten mine at home. I thought it’d be a quick in-and-out shopping trip. Well, I tried on several hundred pairs and came away with nothing. I was a little disappointed, to say the least.

That was in March 2004, and by the end of 2005, we launched our first few products, and we’ve been steadily growing ever since.

Now, I’d had sunglasses for quite some time prior to that specific shopping trip that just didn’t fit right. And I had a feeling I wasn’t the only one. There are people of all shapes and sizes – including head size. And it’s not just bigger people. There are smaller people who have big heads and bigger people who have real big heads. Why not try to solve this problem for this niche group?

One of my favorite stories involves asking a potential client “Would you go to a shoe store that carries only size 9 shoes?” And the person said, “Well, God, no.” So, I asked, “Well, why would you carry one-size-fits-all eyewear?

The problem was pretty clear.

2. You have to put in the work!

I don’t mean to make it sound that easy – it wasn’t. I worked up a basic design and connected with several people to refine and develop it. I hired a product-engineering company for the molds and a contract manufacturer to build out the frames.

Following that came the sweat equity. 

I was the assembly department, shipping department, legal department and the sales guy.  At that point, sales weren’t great and our product was just okay.

It would have been easy to give up, and many would-be entrepreneurs may have. But I didn’t. I kept working at it, redesigning the product and finding ways to get it into the market. Over 10 years later, we have sunglasses and RX frames for both men and women. My business continues to grow year-over-year.

My success was combination of a good idea, hard work and some luck. It wasn’t easy but I just kept working. I didn’t quit. Now, as entrepreneurs, you’ll be told time and time again why your idea WON’T work.

Don’t listen. But be unapologetic in your drive to succeed, and, if you believe in what you’re doing, you will.

Written by Rico Elmore

Rico Elmore is the founder and CEO of Fatheadz, a company that produces extra wide sunglasses and prescription frames. He is based in Indianapolis, Indiana.

woman standing by water

How to deal with people who judge you and your aspirations

girl taking a picture with her phone

Everything I’ve learned about luxury branding and how to launch your own