Broken sunglasses or sunglasses that simply won’t stay on your face served as the motivation behind a product and Indiegogo campaign that has raised more than $108,000. But the best part might be that for each pair of Ombraz sold, the folks behind the endeavor say 20 trees will be planted.
Jensen Brehm, a 2009 graduate of Bellevue High School, is the original creator of Ombraz. During a trip to the Thar Desert in India in 2011, someone sat on his sunglasses and broke the sidearms off. Brehm improvised by tying a piece of twine to the frames and wrapping it around his head. When he got back to Delhi, he switched out the twine for a piece of leather cord. For years he wore those sunglasses that way.
Brehm said that friends and strangers on the street asked about them so much that he decided to set out and design a pair with an adjustable cord.
“After hundreds of sketches and design tweaks replicating the exact frames I found in the shop in Delhi years before, Ombraz were born,” Brehm said. “When we started looking into it, we found that eyewear design hadn’t fundamentally changed in 250 years and the root of all issues seemed to be hinges, screws and sidearms. We got rid of them!”
Brehm and his business partner Nikolai Paloni, a former buyer at Amazon, are both 27 years old. The two met at the University of Redlands, where they teamed up a few years ago to start Reboot Workation, where they host unconventional off-sites for corporate teams — with Microsoft as a main client. They are currently working out of a retrofitted loft in a Clyde Hill barn belonging Brehm’s grandmother.
Ombraz, pronounced ohm-bruhs, is from the Italian word for shade. The original goal of the Indiegogo campaign was $20,000, which Ombraz surpassed in the first eight hours.
“We knew we would raise over $20,000, but that was the minimum we could raise to afford our first production run,” Paloni said. “Jensen and I had been priming our friends, family and the local community for around six months. We did everything ourselves, from all product design to generating content, to reaching out to all PR outlets. Once the positive feedback started coming from industry experts, we knew we were on to something. We considered anything over $80,000 a win, and couldn’t be happier to be at $107,000.”
The team has extended the campaign to April 26, with a new goal of $125,000. With 993 backers as of Friday afternoon, perks include a pair of Ombraz, which normally sell for $140, reduced to $85 in the Earlybird Special. Buyers can also get two pairs for $150 or five pairs (and 500 trees planted) for $425.
Aside from their entrepreneurial spirit and hardware skills, the Ombraz team also possesses some multimedia chops, turning out several fun videos which showcase the sunglasses, how they work and what they’ll stand up against — including being run over by a car.
And it looks like they found some fans at Green Lake in Seattle:
“Whether you’re jumping off a boat, diving for a frisbee or gettin’ mauled by a grizzly, your Ombraz will always stay on,” a line on the crowd-funding site reads. There are no grizzly maulings in any of the videos (someone call Leo DiCaprio), but there are plenty of sporty, outdoorsy types testing whether the Ombraz will indeed stay put.
In a timely aside for this Sunday’s Earth Day, Ombraz is partnering with Eden Reforestation Projects, a non-profit committed to planting millions of trees every year. The organization employs local farmers in Madagascar, Nepal, Haiti and Indonesia to plant and protect native trees in degraded landscapes. Ombraz believes 20 trees planted for every pair of glasses sold offsets what it takes to produce the product and will make the company carbon negative.
“A big part of the way we measure our success is by the number of trees we plant, so expect some impressive treecommerce initiatives,” Paloni said.
Check out the Ombraz Indiegogo site for much more on the sunglasses’ features and specs.