We were lucky to catch up with Chase Fisher recently and have shared our conversation below.
Chase, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Let’s kick things off with a hypothetical question – if it were up to you, what would you change about the school or education system to better prepare students for a more fulfilling life and career?
I would change so much about our education system. We live in a hyper-connected society and a constantly changing world, yet the system has largely maintained the same outdated curriculum.
Firstly, I’d address standardized testing. This was one of my greatest challenges in school. Because I did so poorly on tests, I faced immense social pressure to be “smarter” and was placed in special learning classes. But standardized testing promotes “cramming” and procrastination. Students spend hours and hours on tests they “believe” will decide the success of their future. This testing practice doesn’t teach critical thinking or creative thought leadership, which are pillars of a successful career.
Had I never started Blenders, or become an entrepreneur, I would still believe being smart in school was the only way to become successful in the real world. Standardized testing is an outdated scorecard that needs to be reimagined for the 21st century.
Secondly, I would also pay teachers better salaries to:
Attract future talent.
Foster the passion and motivation of today’s educators.
Underpaid teachers often lose their enthusiasm for course material and the educational process. The student-teacher relationship is paramount–if our educators aren’t receiving proper support, it becomes that much more difficult for them to obtain resources, learn emerging concepts, and energetically convey information to students in a meaningful fashion.
Our current way of doing things has resulted in overwhelmed teachers, outdated textbooks and, ultimately, underperforming students. Poor wages ensure none of the aforementioned is ever remedied; talented educators often move on and struggling teachers are often “stuck” without the resources necessary to flourish. This is a tremendous wrong that needs to be righted.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers?
I grew up in Santa Barbara as a competitive surfer and fell in love with a lot of brands at a young age. I thought they were super cool and admired everything they embodied. I guess you could say the passion started early.
I was never good enough to go professional as a surfer, but I learned how to market myself and earn brand sponsorships. Back then, brands valued winning contests. And although I was competing, I certainly wasn’t winning. I had to become valuable in other ways, so I learned guerilla marketing tactics, brand building, and developed a hustle mindset. It all built a base I could pull from later.
After high school, I moved to San Diego to attend SDSU, where I competed on the surf team. Shortly after graduating, I founded Blenders in 2012. The idea hit me after seeing my favorite DJs at a San Diego nightclub. My neon green “beater” sunglasses received rave reviews, and what started out as a night full of good beats and even better friends rocketed into a full-fledged obsession with sunglasses. I had to learn more!
After months of research, the “aha! moment” struck: The market was in desperate need of a mid-priced alternative. I didn’t want to simply emulate leading styles–I wanted to reshape the public’s expectations of what quality sunglasses could be, pushing the entire industry Forward. So I borrowed $2,000 from my roommate and hustled hard, selling shades out of my backpack on the beach as a surf coach.
It wasn’t easy. Honestly, there were times that the lows were so low that I wasn’t sure what to do next. But my passion pushed me beyond doubt; lifted me out of those lows. I got up each day and kept going.
Fast-forward to today at Blenders and we’re now a 60-plus-person team. Between the efforts of everyone in Blenderville and my own steadfast self-determination, we’re one of America’s fastest-growing sunglasses brands.
The best thing about this journey? Simple: It’s the amazing community that’s come with it. They’re the heart and soul of Blenders and the reason we’re a squad so serious about sweat, sacrifice, and good times. We do what we do because we’re determined to design and deliver the greatest gear in the world to our Blend Heads everywhere—Sun, Snow, and Prescription eyewear that meet at the intersection of style, performance, and affordability.
What’s a lesson you had to unlearn and what’s the backstory?
One of the biggest lessons I had to unlearn was the notion that “Smart = Success”. This mainly stems from my days in school. Since Junior High, I struggled with traditional education. I was diagnosed with Dyslexia, had very poor reading comprehension and was terrible in Math. And from 7th grade up until College, I was put into special learning classes to suit my needs. I needed more time on tests. I need more explanation on topics, I just learned slower than most other students. And so I was groomed to assume that students who were smart in the classroom translated to be successful in the real world. I didn’t realize how false this was until I graduated and started a brand. What I realized is I was being judged on an outdated scorecard. I was capped with creativity and not learning things I was passionate about. Starting a brand that was infused with passion and insanely hard at it has built enormous amounts of self confidence and self belief in myself. Through hard work, adversity, grit and problem solving cemented one of my greatest truths in life. In that “you don’t have to be smart to be successful.” And that hard work outpaces being genius minded any day. After many years into my entrepreneurial, I started to learn more that some of the worlds greatest thought leaders were just like me with similar struggles in school.
Okay – so how did you figure out the manufacturing part? Did you have prior experience?
Blenders literally started on the ground. One style, one color-way, and one mold at a time. When we first began, I didn’t understand how global markets, supply chains, manufacturing, or anything related to this work. Needless to say, I had no clue how much of a beast the manufacturing world is.
My journey started with Google queries, gathering numbers, and making calls to anyone and anything I could find. This led me to third-party sunglass wholesalers in LA with large showrooms and connections to overseas factories. I showed them my designs, asked tons of questions, and absorbed as much as I could about the process. When it came down to pulling the trigger on ordering, I had to make a pivotal decision: Do I go with them or do I find my own factory?
Essentially, the wholesaler was just a middleman who would mark the price up and act as my go-between to the factory. I knew we had to go direct if we wanted longevity and best pricing, so I struck out on my own and found a factory in Taiwan.
The MOQs (Minimum Order Quantity) at my new factory were 1,200 pieces–a bit rich for my blood at the time! So I negotiated with them and was able to get my minimums down to an affordable place. It was also the first time I heard that production lead times were upwards of 120 days. I was in complete disbelief!
The time finally came to wire the bank. The ultimate “all-in moment.” In hindsight, this is when most new entrepreneurs crumble. They’re too scared to take the initial plunge and make the order. But I was tired of blending in. I wanted something different for my life. I wanted to Blend Out.
I hit the button and wired the money. Blenders was born–and I felt re-born.
Since then, here are just a few lessons learned along the way:
If your product is perfect, you waited too long to launch. (I spent exorbitant amounts of time trying to “perfect” the sunglass.)
Your factory relationship is built entirely on trust and is one of the most important relationships you must cultivate. They’re your lifeline. Finding the right factory requires patience, consistent communication, quality assurance, sampling, and more. When we first started, we’d run everything through one factory because I knew how difficult it was to find other factories and build trust.
Sunglasses take 120 days to produce, making demand planning exceptionally difficult.
Monitoring cash is critical for production. Again, this goes back to your relationship with your factory. As you build trust, you get better payment terms, which saves your backside if lead times are long.
As you start to scale your product volume and expand your categories, it’s important to have multiple factories so you’re not so dependent on one. In 2016, we were still using one factory and it was hit twice by a typhoon in a single month. It shut down for weeks and was almost entirely destroyed, signaling to us that it was time to diversify.
Find your factories’ strengths and leverage each.
Visit your factories and tour the facilities (learn the process, meet the team, explore the culture, etc.) In-person, hands-on experiences are crucial!
- Website: www.blenderseyewear.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chasefisher/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Chase-Fisher-111032688195694
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chase-r-fisher/
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpjVdO_Zk5FX1T5CHUtLJ5g