Activist Eyewear is another example that a little collaboration and ingenuity can go a long way. Run by a team of two people who live in different states, this company is paving a new path for eyewear. They design and sell sunglasses that are classically beautiful, but with a modern twist to suit a more active lifestyle.
Anthony Codispoti: My business partner, Mark Craig, has been designing eyewear for a number of premium brands for the past 10 years. During that time he noticed that nobody was really doing anything to bridge the 2 worlds of style and performance. Up until now you’ve typically had a choice to make – do you want frames with high performance features? Or do you want frames with great classic style?
Mark and Anthony showing ActivistEyewear at a tradeshow
How do you work together as a team?
Anthony: With Mark being in Brooklyn and myself in Columbus, Ohio, it can be challenging at times. We communicate a lot through phone and email. Whenever we need to share something visually we use Skype for video chat. It can even be used to share our computer screens when we have drawings to look at. We’ll use Skype when we need to communicate with our Japanese factories as well. Nothing is more effective than in-person communication. But when that isn’t possible, Skype gives us a pretty good alternative.
Finally, we use Batchbook to keep track of all our customer and prospecting communications. With it just being the 2 of us right now, there is so much to keep track of that it would be fool’s errand to just rely on our memories. Batchbook addresses this problem by associating all communications with the customer’s file – including email threads. When I’m getting ready to follow up with a customer, I can quickly see what communications I’ve had with them in the past as well as any contact that Mark has had with them. Plus, we can schedule follow-up reminders from directly inside of Batchbook that show up in my calendar.
It’s more than just eyewear, ActivistEyewear develops an entire look to go with their glasses.
What is the process for designing a new pair of sunglasses?
Mark: When we first started out, I actually stumbled onto the idea of melding classic eyeshapes with a split temple fairly quickly. But, we then spent an enormous amount of time refining the designs, easily thousands of hours, working with our Japanese manufacturers to figure out how to actually make them, and then translating the sensibility from the sunglasses into all of our accessories, packaging, marketing, etc, etc. It was both incredibly grueling and the most fun I’ve ever had!
Anyway, now that we’ve laid the foundation for our design language, adding things to the collection is much easier. Because now we know who we are and what we’re about, I’m able to sketch ideas that are more on-brand from the start and it’s much easier for us to look at a bunch of concepts and zoom in on the ones that really speak the Activist language. Having said that, our obsession with the most minute details means it still takes plenty of time for us to get things refined to where we want them. But that’s just us doing what we do best.
Another iconic image from ActivistEyewear’s lookbook
What tips do you have for small businesses that want to be more innovative?
Anthony: I think there are lots of places…
1. Solve a problem. If you ever find yourself saying “I wish there was something that did… X,” that’s usually something worth exploring. If you own a business – ask your customers what they hate about your product or service.
2. Spend some time studying industries other than your own.
3. Change of scenery. It can be really helpful for putting your brain in a slightly different gear which can lead to new perspectives.