Sep202012

“Being a native Floridian and an avid connoisseur of high-end sunglasses, I had an idea what would make sunglasses even better. So we set out to create the most comfortable, lightweight, performance sunglasses on the market. And we did.”

Thom LaRussa
Thom LaRussa
Nuclear Optics
President & Founder

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As Native Floridians, we know and value our sunglasses. Three years ago, my son Trenton came home when I was browsing the internet for sunglasses and shared his idea for our family to make our own brand. He wanted to create “cool designs.” Given my creative background, and the fact that we live in Florida, I began to entertain the idea. For me, the quality of sunglasses is critical. After 20 years working as a commercial photographer, I understand the importance of protecting my most valuable asset, my eyes.

Nuclear Optics is the culmination of three years of research and development. We created fourteen designs and had the molds made for five different styles. We assembled a team of advisors. We considered various marketing techniques. We have created advertising collateral. We are currently in the process of raising capital for our first major production.

MO: How did you come up with the name Nuclear Optics for company?

Thom: When Trenton thought of making our own sunglasses, we decided that this should be a family project. We brainstormed almost one hundred ideas for the name. As three members of our family were children, we tossed around a lot of unique and zany names. Our thought process was to come up with a name that was catchy and cool. We decided to redefine the word “nuclear.” Nuclear would be used as a synonym for “awesome.” Everyone liked the idea and then we paired it with “Optics” and it just worked! Our definition of Nuclear is “Of or relating to the energy that is produced by divine inspiration to create…”

MO: How has your background and experience helped contribute to the development of the company so far?

Thom: My background in the visual arts field has given me twenty-two years of experiencing at capturing great images. I have used my talents as a photographer and artist to create each of our unique designs. My experience has also allowed me to create fantastic advertising collateral. Being a native Floridian and an avid connoisseur of high-end sunglasses for over twenty-six years, I knew there was an opportunity to make better sunglasses than the market standard. So we set out to create the most comfortable, lightweight, performance sunglasses on the market. And we did.

I also credit my family for motivating and inspiring me in the development of Nuclear Optics. I have learned a lot from my wife Rosemary who has a master’s degree from University of Central Florida in administration. She has been a teacher for the past 25 years and is extremely organized and methodical in her approach and has served as a wonderful mentor.

MO: Can you talk about the creative process of designing sunglasses and then getting them into production? What’s been the greatest challenge you’ve faced and how have you overcome it?

Thom: The creative process has been amazing and exciting. We have learned so much and are intrigued by each step.

Our process begins with an idea. Then, we draw a couple of paper sketches. We transferred these to Photoshop to get the look and feel we want. Once we get the right look, we then begin detailed artwork and 3D renderings that are the baseline for each style. This rendering is then turned into a first run 3D prototype, which eventually becomes the mold. The molds are created and then refined into the finished production piece.

From sketch to product- the entire creative process is always fascinating!

The greatest challenge so far has been the economy. Sometimes sunglasses are viewed as a luxury item; however, but we know first-hand that they are an essential tool for the protection of your eyes.

MO: What does your marketing strategy look like and how much do you plan to leverage social media to get the word out there?

Thom: Our Marketing strategy has four pillars.

One- Identifying an Untapped Market. We have identified a space that we believe is untapped where we can provide an amazing product to consumers at a great value. Our combination of high-end quality paired with affordability is unparalleled.

Two- Consumer Education. We seek to educate consumers about the importance of good sunglasses with great protection. We accomplish this through a network of grassroots networking, sharing our prior research on protecting one’s site from UV rays.

The 3rd would be Active Outreach. We’ve created a profile on the crowdfunding platform Fundable.com (http://www.fundable.com/nuclear-optics) to help actively engage our consumers and ask their help to fund our next wave of production. We know the importance of generating successful campaigns with immediate responses.

Another key has been growing our social media to a level where we reach enough individuals in our target market to make an impact. It is one thing to grow your social media for the sake of numbers. It is another thing to transform those consumers into loyal customers. We are in the middle of a campaign where we are strengthening our overall presence on the web through redesigning our website, enhancing Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Word Press.

The 4th – Creating Brand Awareness and Trust. The culmination of all of our efforts has led to an increase of confidence and brand recognition. We hope to continue this through advertising and endorsements.

MO: Can you talk about your experience of looking for investment, what’s worked so far and your advice to other companies seeking funding?

Thom: To this point we have funded Nuclear Optics ourselves and through the help of family members. We have developed a Business Plan and Executive Summary that we have shopped around to different investors. This is a tricky process because the investor, of course, wants something in return for the investment. Many times they have their own ideas of what needs to happen and how to do it and they want control to “protect their investment”- an understandable request.

On the other hand, as the owner of a company and protector of a brand you need to decipher whether or not the assets they bring to the table are equal to what they want in return.

We are in a good place because we are debt free. This creates a definite advantage when negotiating with investors. That being said we are seeking financing and have decided to choose Crowdfunding through Fundable, rather than an individual investor or group of investors at this time. We have recently began our “fundraise” through Fundable.com, a funding resource for business-minded startups.

Even though we had already created a business plan, Fundable helped us to focus and refine our vision even further. By choosing this platform, we’ve been able to offer rewards (like our latest Nuclear Optics designs) in exchange for pledges and funding.

MO: If you could gain any celebrity endorsement who would you choose and why?

Thom: We are actually looking for several different celebrities to endorse Nuclear Optics right now. If we could have anyone I believe it would be Tim Tebow. He played for Florida and we are in Florida and I admire his commitment to his Christian faith and his positive message on and off the field.

 

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