MINNEAPOLIS - Where fashion meets necessity, there are eyebobs. These reading glasses for the "irreverent and slightly jaded," are everywhere, from the media to boutiques, to optical shops. Eyebobs are an idea that's time has come.
The vision started here, in Minneapolis, the day Julie Allinson realized she could no longer read the small numbers on a spread sheet. After checking out the not-so-trendy readers at a drugstore, she went to an optician, who recommended a pair for more than $500.
Julie had an aha moment; "People would put on drugstore glasses, and yes they can see, maybe, but how do you look? So I wanted to go out to show people you can look fantastic and you can wear reading glasses with confidence."
So, in 2001, Julie took the leap from her job as president of a high end children's clothing company to ground zero of starting her own business. She wholeheartedly jumped into every aspect of the business, from creating designs to sourcing manufacturers in China to selling her concept door to door to mostly optical stores.
At first, she did not succeed.
"The public is telling me they want this, so why isn't it selling into optical stores? So I started looking at fashion and I went to Hubert White here in Minneapolis and said will you try this, and it worked."
Between selling eyebobs in boutique-type stores and word of mouth the small company jettisoned into a success. Today, it is a multi-million dollar business with 24 employees, it's own building and distribution throughout U.S,. Europe and as of late, parts of Asia.
Eyebobs were created with the same attitude that Julie says drives everyone who works for the company. From her husband, Paul Erickson, CFO to co-designer Jason Engelman to all of her loyal employees, Julie has built her business on one value: quality, with a little humor mixed in.
"That's what we want to be known for, quality, the best. And I think my people are the best. They're funny people."
Julie is actively involved in day to day operations, from designing frames to quality control. Running this business she loves, is truly a lifestyle.
"I wanted to go to work with people I really liked. I wanted to travel the world and do things that mattered to me and makes those friendships. And tie the world together like that in a big knot and it's happened."
Something else that matters to Julie is giving back. A few years ago, she started asking celebrities to collaborate on creating their own eyebobs frame. Sales from those frames are donated to the celebrity's charity of choice. This year's collaborator is Andrew Zmmern, who helped design "The Zimm."
Admittedly her own best customer, this entrepreneur knows her clientele well,
"They've got chutzpah and panache, and they're the type of people who get things done. That's who wears eyebobs."