Jonathan van Blerk of Eye Respect is re-writing the rule book when it comes to eyewear. He has put paid to the idea that certain frame shapes suit different faces types with a belief that properly fitted sunglasses will fit any face. We chatted to Jonathan to hear more about the craft that goes into making the perfect pair of sunnies.
What drove you to start Eye Respect?
I was tired of all the big industry companies not telling the truth about what they were manufacturing and frankly not producing good enough quality products. Our values as a company are in every one of our products.
Did you have a background in business?
I have always had the desire and flair to be creative and different. With a background in Engineering, specialising in plastics and manufacturing management tied in with my eye for design and simplifying things it was always going to be my chosen route no matter how difficult it would be.
How did you come up with the name Eye Respect?
The very name of our brand goes a long way to explaining the motivation behind our existence. Pause and think for a moment: Eye Respect is much more than a simple pun.
Whilst caring for the eyes of our customers, and offering the finest hand-crafted product at the correct price to market, we also set out on our mission to embrace, utilise and promote the work of our skilled artisan craftsmen and factories, and help the wider consumer understand exactly what goes in to landing a pair of Eye Respect frames on the end of one’s nose. We delve into the issues of real hand crafted eyewear and sharing the experience with our customer base. After all, we are Eye Respect. Eye Respect believes and leads in its Respect for Craft campaigns around the globe.
Which entrepreneur or business has given you inspiration?
Richard Branson for how he uses his brand and Paul Smith on producing fantastic products over a long period consistently. And of course Elon Musk for making a real difference.
How do you find the work/life balance?
With a youngish business I still don’t have the balance I would like. I have a 13 month old daughter who keeps me busy and I am in awe of, and with my love for sport and the ocean there is not much time for anything else.
How big is the team around you?
Six core people, two people advising from the outside and eight agents in various countries selling to premium stores and then the rest is a distribution channel that is ever-growing and ever-changing.
How do you find the balance of creativity and commercial viability?
Being more of a creative person I stumble on these things weekly. I have two amazing advisors who help me work through these things so that we come out with a good solution that makes sense.
What’s been your most successful form of marketing and promotion for Eye Respect?
We have a big following in music, media and oddly Formula One, and we constantly do interesting things in these sectors. Once a fan we seem to keep them and I consider this the ultimate compliment.
What’s been your favourite project to date?
The one we launch in February 2016. Watch this space…
What’s on your work playlist?
Right now, The Specials. I lost a dear friend, The Specials drummer John Bradbury recently and it brings me comfort and is my way to say thank you for all the enjoyment that friendship brought.
What advice would you give to any budding entrepreneurs?
Try hard, when you fail, try harder, when that fails, keep going and have the conviction to see it through.