By Joseph S. Pete
The Times, Munster, Ind.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Stanford grads Sophia Edelstein and Nathan Kondamuri are the founders of “Pair Eyewear.” The startup allows kids to change the look of their glasses by snapping on interchangeable magnetic frames.
A Munster native and recent Munster High School graduate founded an eyewear startup with a Stanford classmate that’s already raised more than $3 million in venture capital and is going to have a chance at a big break Friday.
Nathan Kondamuri, the son of Munster doctors Shaun Kondamuri and Padmaja Kondamuri, and his classmate Sophia Edelstein co-founded Pair Eyewear, an optical line for kids that lets them change the look of their glasses by snapping on interchangeable magnetic frames.
The 2017 graduates of Stanford University, who are both 25 years old, will appear on the hit ABC show “Shark Tank” at 7 p.m. Friday to pitch their business to the panel of “sharks.”
Kondamuri’s parents plan to throw a watch party with family friends.
“We’re very proud of him,” Shaun Kondamuri said. “He works very hard. He’s been working 12 hours a day if not more for the last few years to get his startup off the ground.”
Kondamuri and Edelstein came up with the idea of the business while in college.
“When you’re a kid, glasses have a weird stigma and an uncool factor,” he said. “When you put them on the first time, you look a little different. It’s daunting and scary. They push you to the corner of the store where you get five or so options, which for me was blue wire frames I wore for the next year. There was nothing to make glasses exciting. After talking to hundreds of families, we realized kids would like to be able to change the color of their glasses and personalize them.”
Making glasses more stylish can help kids struggling with negative self-image or low self-esteem, he said.
“With everything that’s going on with social media and bullying, it’s incredibly important at that age to be able to feel confident and good about yourself,” he said. “We’re excited to help create a world of change in the children’s lives.”
He and Edelstein have been building the company from the ground up, figuring out where to manufacture the glasses, building the website for e-commerce sales, developing a brand and finding nonprofits to team up with. The company partners with the Eyelliance to provide free glasses to children with poor vision in the developing world.
It’s been “an amazing journey” in their first job after college. But it’s something Kondamuri, who participated in the DECA entrepreneurship club during his years at Munster High School, has long dreamed of doing.
“He had a job lined up after college and announced to us in the spring of his senior year of college that he was not taking a job but was starting his own business,” Shaun Kondamuri said. “My wife and I answered if that’s what you want to do we support you.”
His parents were a little anxious given the risk inherent in entrepreneurship, but believe in him.
“He’s definitely good at it but it could still fail,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to be done. It needs to keep up with its revenue targets and get it out there that these glasses are available for the children so it catches on. But he learned from me it’s better to be your own boss and be in control of your own destiny.”
He hopes to build the company into an international brand that would sell its products both online and in brick-and-mortar stores, including to adult customers. A goal is to partner with sports leagues, movie studios and entertainment companies to offer branded customization options.
Kondamuri hopes “Shark Tank” will get their brand and company out on the national stage.
“It’s extremely hard to get on the show,” he said. “They get 45,000 submissions from entrepreneurs every year and accept something like less than 2%.”
But they did their homework, watching every single episode from all 11 seasons of the show so they could be prepared for any question that was thrown at them.
“It was definitely nerve-wracking, but we were pretty well prepped,” he said. “We knew exactly what we were getting into, about the customers at the end, and what the investors would want to know. We came in prepared.”
Kondamuri isn’t allowed to disclose what happens on the show, but said the exposure alone will be a big deal for the company.
“‘Shark Tank’ was a fantastic opportunity,” he said. “It has the potential to skyrocket our growth. We’ve already seen a huge bump in retail partnerships.”
He credits some of his success to his hometown and the education he received in Northwest Indiana.
“Munster High School was an amazing place with amazing classes and a lot of clubs,” he said. “I had pretty amazing teachers who helped me and other kids to dream.”
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.