When Matthew McConaughey was seen wearing Knockaround sunglasses while playing football with Brad Pitt across their balconies, Adam “Ace” Moyer knew he’d made it, or at least found his start.
Knockaround’s founder, Moyer, sent glasses to celebrities, but he couldn’t be sure they’d wear them, let alone be a help in launching his brand.
Some celebrities spotted wearing Knockarounds include Natalie Portman, Jessica Alba, Ashton Kutcher and Snoop Dogg. Celebrities created a social media buzz at just the right time for the company in 2010, Moyer said.
“We’ve sent a lot of glasses out to people we like, people we admire,” said Moyer, 33, both the founder and owner of the company. “That’s actors and musicians but it’s also like CEOs of other businesses. We have a list of people we think are cool that we are sending our product to.”
Knockaround LLC, a company Moyer started from his on-campus studio in graduate school at University of California, San Diego in 2005, is now a $5 to $10 million company, according to Moyer.
Moyer ordered the lowest bulk order of sunglasses he could get, and then he customized them to make them dependable, functional with classic style while remaining affordable.
Knockaround was a phrase Moyer’s father, Dennis, used to describe old, dependable articles of clothing that he could count on when completing chores outside around the house.
It’s Business and It’s Personal
Knockaround’s online custom shop responded to demand for personalized design in 2010. People were already reforming their glasses themselves so Moyer decided to monetize it. There are over 158,000 combinations.
While the product is manufactured in Asia, the pieces of the glasses — the frames, the arms and the legs — are put together in-house. Initially there were longer waiting periods for product delivery and assembly, but the staff now has the process down to four to six days to build and ship product.
The company’s clients range from the San Diego Padres, Green Flash Brewing Co. and the Discovery Channel (Shark Week) to Illest (a clothing line/store in Los Angeles) and POW! WOW! (a week-long festival of street and graffiti art in various cities around the world).
Knockaround releases limited edition sunglasses for its special projects about once a month.
According to Moyer, 2016 brings in a couple major national brands as clients that will facilitate more growth for the company. Moyer was not willing to go public with those names yet.
“It’s going to be challenging to get the business to $20 million, $40 million, but I’m confident we can do it,” Moyer said. “We just got to keep pushing and keep getting better.”
He also credits company culture for Knockaround’s success. The 2,000- square-foot headquarters comes complete with “Tom Selleck” graffiti on the wall, an adult jungle gym, Knocksack (a game the company created as a kind of hackysack with a 17-gallon tub), Moyer’s unfinished canoe (he finished one at UCSD) and a Ping-Pong table that functions as a conference table.
Moyer brings the attitude of his demographic, the 18-30 age group, into the marketing of his brand, saying that his glasses — even though his grandparents both wear them and love them — are generally for the ‘backyard barbecue crew who just want to crack a beer and put on some sunglasses.’
A customer Bobby Sanders made the first #ThrowbackThursday post on Instagram because of Knockaround, according to Time.com. There have since been 400 million Throwback Thursday posts, according to Moyer.
“My favorite sunglasses company (Knockaround) had a sunglasses line called Throwbacks, so I had that name in my head,” Sanders said to Time.com. “I guess with the filter, older cars as the subject, and it being Thursday, it was just something I thought would be a funny hashtag, not something that would eventually catch on to the phenomenon it’s become.”
The business is seasonal, so Knockaround is ramping up with a couple hundred thousand pairs of sunglasses for the spring and summer. The sunglasses run $10 to $40, with specialty, polarized or custom designs bringing the price up.
‘MFA is New MBA’
Moyer has never taken a business class, but thinks that art school served as a training ground for his company, using the mantra ‘The MFA is the new MBA.’ The MFA is a master’s degree in fine arts and the MBA is a master’s degree in business administration.
Moyer said the creativity, style, writing and social media set them apart from the competition that only recently came into the affordable sunglasses scene.
Knockaround sunglasses are in about 20-25 stores locally this year, mainly surf, streetwear and skate shops, These shops include some lifestyle boutiques in La Jolla and kiosks at Petco Park. The largest percentage of the company’s business is e-commerce, with its low price point, lack of a middleman and greater margins.
Knockaround also has its own inspirations, like the “Top Gun”-inspired Danger Zone glasses or the Class Acts, where a design from local elementary school students is chosen as a form of community outreach to inspire kids to stay with the arts.
Mostly though, Moyer attributes the company’s success to right place, right time, and right team. He’ll focus this next year on even greater growth by getting the word out about his product to new customers in and out of the stores.
CEO: Adam Moyer
Revenue: $5-10 million, according to Moyer
No. of local employees: 16
Investors: Imprint Venture Lab in Long Beach
Headquarters: Sherman Heights
Year founded: 2005
Company description: An affordable sunglasses company that produces customized, classic sunglasses primarily for online customers
Key factors for success: Customization, project collaborations and public awareness of the brand through celebrities and social media marketing