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Forbes magazine profiles sunglasses entrepreneur among its '30 Under 30'

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Eric Singer, the 28-year-old entrepreneur of Schwood sunglasses, was recently highlighted in Forbes magazines '30 Under 30.' The list recognizes up and comers who have yet to reach age 30 in various fields. His Beaverton company was recognized for achievement in the Art & Style field.When the Beaverton Valley Times first profiled Eric Singer in November 2011, the Canby native was experiencing his first blushes of success designing and marketing stylish wooden sunglasses at Shwood, the Beaverton-based business he founded and runs with five other friends.

A little more than two years later, Singer may just need a new pair of Shwoods to hide from the attention showered on him from a rapidly growing customer base as well as the national news media. The 28-year-old entrepreneur was recently highlighted in Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30.” The list recognizes up and comers who have yet to reach age 30 in various fields, including finance, Hollywood, music, sports, science, education, art and energy.

Recognizing Singer’s achievement in the “Art & Style” field, the prestigious business journal summarized his unconventional career move as such:

“While working in a movie theater, Singer made sunglasses using orange-colored Madrone branches and thrift store lenses,” the Forbes profile reads. “He met four guys who liked the glasses and became Singer’s partners, selling through a makeshift website. The glasses caught on ... (and) sell for as much as $350 online and in 300 stores worldwide, including Nordstrom, Bloomingdales and Saks.”

Now living in a bucolic, tree-shrouded setting along the Tualatin River near Tigard, where a canoe is always close at hand, Singer took a moment to discuss his latest recognition and the quicker-than-expected upward trajectory of his unconventional career path.

Valley Times: How is business at Shwood since we last spoke in late 2011?by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Eric Singer, founder of Schwood sunglasses, launched his Beaverton business in 2009.

Eric Singer: Business is a boomin’. The market has been very good to us. It seems like the hard work and constant progression we have been so madly chasing has been realized and understood by the general consumer. I feel like sometimes that gets lost in translation somehow, so it feels great that for us ... We have finally gotten our manufacturing process figured out to the point where it seems to be making sense, and are producing more sunglasses now at a better rate than ever before, which has allowed us to grow into more — and bigger — retail spaces.

Valley Times: What does being profiled in Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” list signify to you?

Singer: Being honored with recognition from Forbes within the ‘Art & Style’ category reinforces the fact to me that our entire team is doing something here worthwhile, and unique enough to continue to fight for. It has always been a labor of love, none of it has ever really been a walk in the park. So this has been great motivation to continue all the effort, and push what we do to new heights.

Valley Times: Do you feel it’s a sign you’ve arrived professionally or even personally?

Singer: I think myself, as well as everyone else involved here, will never think that we have finally arrived at a certain place, because we are always chasing something different. Once it has been attained, there’s something new and completely unknown to tackle next. I think both personally and professionally this recognition just signifies that we are chasing the right things.

Valley Times: Has your role in the company changed since Shwood got going back in 2009?

Singer: I own Shwood with five other guys, and am still known around here as the creative founder. My day-to-day role is concept designer, so I am constantly experimenting with materials and how they might possibly be used in the construction of sunglasses.

Valley Times: How has the company grown from about 20 employees in 2011?

Singer: We currently employ about 45 people, 30 or so in house (manufacturing/sales/R&D/marketing), and the rest are sales reps scattered around the country in different regions. Right now we offer eight different silhouettes (styles), with a total of about 250 skews (material and lens options).

Valley Times: What does the future of Shwood look like from here? Are there plans to expand or diversify?

Singer: Well there’s not a whole lot I can say to that right now ... We have eight different silhouettes. Before the end of this year, we are going to more than double that. We have so many new and interesting materials I am playing with right now. It’s going to be a good year for new things. Wood was what we started with, but it’s not at all what we will solely be known for.

Our goal is to bring as many new and interesting natural elements into the sunglass marketplace as possible, and do it in an extremely clean and fashionable way.

Valley Times: Does Shwood have long-term plans to stay on the Westside?

Singer: It’s been a great place to start and grow a business, with all the material resources located in such a close proximity to our manufacturing facility, it has allowed for rapid research and development of both our product and our workspace.

As we continue to grow and expand our operation, we have had to look for more square footage, which might possibly take us out of the Westside, but that hasn’t been determined yet.

Ray Hughey, a Pamplin Media Group reporter with the Canby Herald, contributed to this story.

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