Bigger isn’t always better — especially if you can’t find something in your size in the stores.
Rico Elmore, 6’3” and 300 lbs. with a big head to match, always find shopping for sunglasses an exercise in futility. The traditional pair of sunglasses either don’t fit him; or if he could squeeze his head into it, bouts of headaches are soon to follow. He just couldn’t find a pair that will fit his big head.
In one shopping expedition, he tried on almost 300 pairs of sunglasses, only to leave the store without finding a single pair that fits. That’s when Elmore decided to take matters into his own hand and create his own sunglasses. Thinking that he may not be the only one frustrated with the size of traditional sunglasses because of the size of their heads, he decided to create his own line of sunglasses that will fit his supersized noggin.
His big head – literally – sparked the idea for a booming business. Elmore started Fatheadz, a line of sunglasses and prescription eyewear for people with big heads.
With no engineering background & only a high school diploma to his name, Elmore spent countless nights designing & assembling Fatheadz sunglasses in his own living room after putting in a full day of work at his sales job. His hard work paid off when a local newspaper story led to the company’s first deal with a national retailer.
Fatheadz hit $2 million in sales in 2010 -a 185% increase from 2009, and the company started with a big head (literally) is growing even bigger. Elmore won a deal with Walmart, putting the sunglasses and frames in stores nationwide. He has also expanded into plus-size men’s apparel line. In 2012, he will introduce a line of sunglasses and eyewear for women.
We talked with Elmore about the challenges he faced as he was starting Fatheadz.com
How did Fatheadz came about?
I started the company to fill the need of individuals with larger heads needing eyewear… including myself.
How did you know that you have a winning idea?
I was never able to find anything to fit properly and I figured I couldn’t be the only one.
Having an idea and executing it to become a reality is not always easy. What steps did you take to turn your idea into a running business?
It was a lot of trial and error, but I knew that I had a great idea and was not going to stop until I made it a reality.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when starting the business?
The banking industry has, and is still very volatile and they are not willing to make many new loans.
For someone with just an idea for a product that may work, what advice can you give that person based on what you’ve experienced?
Follow your dream and never quit!
How was Fatheadz financed? What challenges did you encounter when raising funds for the business?
I privately financed Fatheadz. One of the challenges I encountered was making enough money to keep up and grow.
Along the way, you’ve met people who said your idea won’t work and/or who didn’t want to work with you. How did you deal with these rejections?
I looked at them as pure motivation!
How important is finding the right partners and/or suppliers?
This is right up there at the top as one of the most important aspects of growing and running a successful business.
What are the most effective marketing strategies you’ve used to market Fatheadz?
I have found partnering with key figures, whether it be celebrities, race car drivers or pro-athletes, to wear our products has helped a ton.
How are you dealing with the economic downturn?
We had to reinvent ourselves a bit for sure. We moved into optical frames where it was more of a need unlike sunglass frames.
You’re launching a line of prescription and sunglasses for women. Given the economic situation, how are you handling this expansion?
I reinvest all of our revenues back into the company. We do not spend money foolishly.
You’ve recently struck a deal with Walmart. What advice can you give entrepreneurs looking to get their products in Walmart and other big retailers?
Work hard, have a passion and make quality products for a great price that is affordable to everyone.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about starting and running a business?
It’s harder than it looks. I look at successful people who have done the same and have a bigger respect than I did before.