Chase Denison: Shady Business

Throw away the Ray-bans, discard your Oakleys, and snap your Maui Jim’s, because this rising-star has some new shades for you.

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In fact, calling Raleigh-native, Chase Denison, a rising-star, might be a bit redundant, for his mark has been placed on the world for quite sometime now. Mr. Denison is the founder and creator of Vybe, a customizable sunglasses company, completely unique in itself. Soon to be on his way to New York to study International Business and Investment Banking at NYU’s Stern College of Business, he was able to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule to give some insight into his extraordinary company.

So, how did this amazing idea even originate? “The day before my older brother was graduating from high school, our relatives were in town. Of course, my grandmother wanted to take us shopping. We went to the Oakley store at the mall. I walked in looking for a very specific pair of Oakley Frogskins that were 100% matte black. I learned in the store that all their Frogskins at the time had a white logo, and weren’t available in any “matte” color shade. When I asked a sales rep about what I was looking for, the store manager overheard me and came over to us. He told me they actually just got two or three “misprinted” Frogskins that weren’t on the floor for sale because they were misprinted. He said he would go grab them from the back, and they were 100% all matte black, even the logo. He said he could sell them to me “under the table” because they weren’t supposed to be for sale since the Oakley factory misprinted them, but he just charged me the same price as the other Frogskins. In total, they were $160, because I wanted polarized lenses too. When he was checking me out at the register, I asked if they happened to have any all matte white shades in the back, and he told me no, having these misprinted all matte black shades were rare enough, because Oakley normally doesn’t send out misprints. He told me maybe you can email an Oakley rep with your ideas because they are always looking for “young gun designers”. I went on their website and I was already familiar with their “Custom Shades” but they still didn’t have what I wanted on their, so I emailed a rep. They replied with a cliche form letter saying something along the lines of like “Hey Chase Denison, sorry, but we don’t take special requests from random people”…basically I was a nobody so they had no interest in making me a special pair. At that moment, the idea just came to me, the epiphany moment. One of my Uncle’s was in town, who owns a yacht brokerage, so he has the entrepreneurial blood running through his veins as well. Since, he is also young, he understood the idea, and that night we spent hours working on the design, even though neither of us had any engineer experience. By the end of the night before my brother’s graduation, we had countless sketches of the idea sitting on my kitchen table. He recommended me a site called oDesk, (basically a Craigslist for design services), to seek an engineer outside the US because it’s cheaper.

And thus, Vybe was born. But Mr. Denison was just a High School student…how did he even know where to begin an entire company? “I looked up “product development/design raleigh” in google. Came across a place called “The Product Farm”. I met with the owner, Fredrik, who has been a great help to me since this very day. He’s never charged me a dime for anything, and has always just been wanting to help wherever he can. I told him about my Uncle mentioning oDesk, and he said go for it! So, I interviewed various engineers, and settled with one from Canada who made the design. Took about 7 3D printed prototypes (site called Shapeways) to get it done, but after about 1.5 years, I had the final design. After that, we settled on a factory overseas, and paid for the injection mold, and they sent us the final product. Now, the glasses are in full production.”

Such incredible ambition and knowledge. Safe to say that I would have been lost just purchasing the sunglasses, but nonetheless, it is a fantastic idea. So, how do these sunglasses work? “Glasses are fully customizable and interchangeable unlike anything on the market. The ears, arms, frame, and lenses all can be interchanged with various colors. Most sunglasses just have interchangeable lenses, and a handful of brands let you change the entire side arm/temple, but no one has added the earpieces and put all 6 of these pieces together. Not to mention, no tools are required.”

Absolutely brilliant. And so when will I be able to purchase some of these magic glasses? “We have been in talks with numerous investors, and are in final negotiations with a pair of them, that we are hopefully signing the operating agreement early next week actually which is very exciting. We are getting a big capital investment, and giving up equity. One of the investors is actually a former Maui Jim Sunglasses Global Controller for 10 years. He started at Maui Jim when they were at about $8-9M in revenue, and left at upwards of $200M, so we have someone who has already been in the space on our side. We did a crowdfunding campaign and raised over $13,500 which is where we paid the down payment for the factory to start production, and part of the investment will cover the rest. We should have the glasses by the end of July, and be fully operational at that point!”

Well, I will be anxiously checking their website, till then. It seems as though Mr. Denison has this entire company panned out perfectly. What are his aspirations to come? “We see this thing growing like crazy, especially in the college/high school markets. Different colleges all have different colors, and our glasses seem to fit in well with that market, price range, and style. We have high hopes for the company, but in 3-5 years we could be bought out, license the technology (patent pending), or just keep growing the Vybe brand. We have a ton of ideas in the works that I would prefer not to share about the company and its ideas, but some really cool stuff is in the works, and we don’t want to sell just sunglasses, we want to become a BRAND.”

With that tenacity, that drive, and that knowledge, I’m sure Mr. Denison is going to go above and beyond his expectations. In fact, his talent is already being recognized. “We’ve been invited to Sundance, MTV VMAs, Oscars/Academy’s, Nick Teen Choice, and the BETs. We’ve also been featured in various news outlets. At the Charlotte Venture Challenge (largest startup competition in the southeast) we placed second in undergraduate ventures, and pitched the idea in front of corporate reps and 100+ investors. Immediately, after pitching at the Char. Venture Challenge, this organization who runs a “summer startup accelerator/incubator” offered us a spot even though applications closed months ago. We got a ton of interest from that event, plus I was the youngest person there, still being in high school at the time.”

All of this success, this planning, and he just graduated from High School. Not to mention, Mr. Denison abandoned a profitable, a $40,000 profitable, clothing line he had created his freshman year. Juggling school, companies, sports (soon to be playing on NYU’s NCAA Baseball Team), and the sudden death of his father, it is incredible as to how determined and ambitious Mr. Denison has remained. The product will be out soon to purchase on his website, but in the meantime, like their page on Facebook, and keep an eye on this star to be.

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