Sunglasses: we all wear them, and as clinicians, we all recommend our patients wear them. However, how many of us have designed our own frame line?
Abraham Hanono, O.D., shares with us not only why he created his own line of sunglasses, but exactly how he went about it. A must read for any aspiring optometric entrepreneurs out there!
What is LAVI Optic?
My legal name is Abraham; however, everyone including my parents call me Avi. My wife’s name is Lauren. LAVI is our “celebrity” couple name, for lack of a better term! We also use LAVI as an acronym for our company slogan; Live Adventurously, Visually Illuminated.
What was the inspiration behind LAVI Optic?
A few months after graduation, I realized that I knew absolutely everything about the eye and fitting and dispensing glasses to a patient. However, being in a private practice with our own lab in house, much of what we do includes selling glasses out of our optical. I quickly realized that I knew nothing about manufacturing, designing, or fashion trends of glasses. I began researching the design process and discussing it with my wife. At some point in one of our conversations she said, “I bet we could start our own frame line.”
And that is how LAVI Optic was born.
How do you go about starting your own sunglasses line? What exactly is involved? How do you get patents? How do you get a manufacturer, supplier, distributor, etc.?
Like with anything else, you start with an idea and inspiration. Getting a manufacturer is by far the hardest part. Business hours in China and Italy take place during sleeping hours in San Diego (haha)! You have to find someone you trust and someone who makes a quality product. With running a private practice, I couldn’t afford to take time to travel overseas and visit the factories. We had very little to go on, and therefore had to order prototypes from different factories and and see what quality we felt most comfortable with. This consisted of many late night chats with overseas factories.
My wife is the creative engine behind the whole brand. She developed the line and made it into the fashion statement it is today. If I was the only one involved, you would have high quality lenses with pretty boring frames!
As for patents, you can’t really get a patent on sunglasses. You aren’t inventing a new product. LAVI Optic and the logo are protected by trademark however.
What makes LAVI Optic unique? How are the sunglasses different?
LAVI Optic is rare in that it is one of the few (maybe the only) frame line developed by an optometrist, who considered not only fashion trends, but ocular health a paramount factor in the product design.
ALL of our lenses are polarized polycarbonate with 100% UV protection. We knew from the beginning, if we didn’t get the lens right, we would scratch the whole idea. I can’t be an optometrist and risk my reputation as an eyecare professional just to start a sunglasses company. The lens had to be top of the line. We offer a few different lens tints that range from high contrast lenses to lenses that maintain absolute color constancy in all lighting conditions.
As far as materials, all of our frames are made of bamboo or wood. This feature makes them extremely lightweight, sustainable, and gives them a look that sets them apart from all major frame lines. All frames also come with a hardshell bamboo case. This was important to me because I was sick of selling patients a pair of glasses that was upwards of $200, and seeing the manufacturer only give them a microfiber pouch to protect the glasses. The hardshell bamboo case will protect your LAVI Optic sunglasses against almost anything.
What is your best selling frame so far?
Definitely Riptide – Ocean Blue. San Diego Surf Mag did a review on them and people are loving the blue lenses. This model will serve as the inspiration for all of our future models.
Tell us about Operation Amped.
Operation Amped is a charity based out of San Diego, CA that puts on free surf clinics for wounded veterans. It is amazing to go and witness veterans, many whom are ill, injured or severely disabled, surfing through the help of these clinics. My wife and I are huge supporters of our armed forces, and felt like this charity fit perfectly with our brand. With every sale of LAVI Optic sunglasses, a portion of the proceeds are donated to Operation Amped.
How is it balancing your professional career and starting a business? Describe some challenges?
However difficult you think it is to start a business, multiply that by 10. I now have so much more respect for entrepreneurs than ever before. There are so many fine details to take care of, from legal issues to basic creativity issues. The biggest challenge was just finding the time to get the business started while seeing patients 5 days a week and managing a practice.
Have you had to cut back on patient care?
Not at all. I still see patients 5 days a week. I am an eyecare provider and optometry is my career. LAVI Optic will never replace my passion for optometry. It compliments it by allowing me to become involved with another part of our industry, but patient care is still what drives me everyday.
Do you feature your sunglasses in your office? Will they be available one day for Private Practices to feature? If so, who can they contact for pricing etc?
Of course I feature them in my office! They have a prime spot in my optical. Yes, they are available for private practices to buy, and several of my former classmates have them in their offices already. If anyone is interested they can contact me directly.
How long has LAVI Optic been in existence, and what’s next?
We have been open for business for about a month, but the decision to start the business commenced 6 months ago.
As for what is next, who knows!? We hope to establish ourselves as a reputable brand and grow into a household name. We have been getting great feedback so far and hope it continues into the future. If all goes well, we will begin sponsoring athletes and getting ourselves some brand recognition in the surfing world.