Many people have asked me how I discovered BluBlocker sunglasses and built it into a national brand. So, let me devote today’s blog to how this miraculous product got its start. In 1986 my business was selling the latest in electronics. We introduced the pocket calculator, digital watch, and many of the electronic innovations of the time.
One day I got a call from a friend of mine in California to make sure I could come out and visit him, as he has a new product, he wanted me to consider. What was it?
It was a portable fax machine. That’s right. Back then fax machines were popular and one that was portable might have some appeal. I flew out to Los Angeles and was picked up by my friend who was going to drive me to visit the manufacturer of the portable fax machine.
It was a bright sunny day in the middle of summer and while we were driving on the 405 my friend noticed that I was squinting. “Hey, I notice you squinting, try this pair of sunglasses on and you’ll stop squinting.”
I slipped on the pair and noticed that not only did my squinting stop, but everything appeared sharper and clearer. “These are amazing,” I responded, “Where did you get these? I’d love to sell them.”
My friend smirked for a moment and then informed me that the sunglasses were made for the astronauts. “They were made for them by this company that’s practically out of business and going bankrupt, so I don’t think it would be a good idea to sell their product,” he said.
I was truly disappointed. I thought the sunglasses were an ideal mail order item. I found out that they not only blocked all of the bad UV light, but also blue light as well. And that blue light was very bad for your eyes, so the astronauts needed them when they were in outer space.
Not happy about the sunglasses and not happy with the portable fax machine, I returned to Chicago, my home town at the time. I discovered that a 12-page catalog we were preparing for United Airlines had an emergency. One of the products we were featuring wouldn’t be available because the company making the product was going out of business, leaving a blank page we had to fill.
I needed a replacement product quickly and remembered the sunglasses I saw in California. I called my friend, “please send me a pair of those sunglasses I tried on from the astronauts. I need to fill a page in my catalog, and I’ll figure out a way to source those sunglasses from another vendor.”
The rest of the story is simple. My friend sent me a pair, I wrote an ad and ran it in the United catalog. It turned out to be the single best-selling product in the catalog and launched me into the sunglass business. I scored the product from friends of mine in Taiwan and sales skyrocketed to the tune of 100,000 from that single ad in the United catalog. But there’s more, which I will explain in my next blog, where I will share the wisdom taught from this experience.