A startup thinks it sees a hole in the eyewear industry.
Start Garden, the $15-million seed fund in Grand Rapids, invested $5,000 last month in a company sells stylish prescription glasses for children at affordable prices.
Jonas Paul Eyewear sells glasses for fashion-forward kids and also partners with CBM International to positively impact those who are in need of vision care.
Founded by Ben and Laura Harrison, Jonas Paul Eyewear is the result of a vision to pursue creative alternatives for children’s eyewear in an industry that has limited options.
The motivation behind the startup is their son, Jonas Paul, who was diagnosed with Peter’s Anomaly. Born visually impaired, Jonas has undergone multiple surgeries already before the age of one to give him the best opportunity for sight.
Laura Harrison, chief operating officer of Jonas Paul Eyewear, said knowing one day Jonas would need glasses, her husband began exploring the market for what already existed for children’s eyewear.
“But there are not really great options for kids with eyewear," Harrison said. "Style was missing with kids’ eyewear."
Jonas Paul Eyewear, which launched last December, sells 22 types of glasses and sunglasses for girls and boys.
The frames are minimalist in design, with neutral colors, square features and have names such as The Ainsley, The Barbara, The Joyce, The Jonas and The Albert.
Each product is made from cellulose acetate, which is biodegradable, and incorporates a stainless steel inner framework.
The frames cost $95, and with every frame purchase, the company contributes to CBM International, an organization dedicated to improving quality of life, to help cover the cost of glasses or corrective surgery.
The funds from Start Garden will go toward launching three new frames for Jonas Paul Eyewear’s tween line, for children ranging from 9-14.
The line is in manufacturing, and the goal is to launch the frames in a couple months, Harrison said.
Harrison said there's also high demand for frames for children who are slightly older, as well as products that would fit older petite faces.
She added that the support the Jonas Paul Eyewear has already received has been encouraging.
“We felt pretty hopeless with Jonas, and we finally feel like this is a way that we can help others,” Harrison said. “We feel like we are helping him through other people. It’s been really cool to see how many people have been excited about what we are doing, and how many kids are excited to have glasses that make them feel awesome.”
Harrison went on to say the creative wisdom and resources Start Garden offers are valuable, especially in Grand Rapids when launching and marketing a new business.
“We’re really excited that Start Garden selected us," Harrison said. "We thought our story and our company, what we stand for, would hopefully resonate with them. We were just thrilled with that news.”