Yuma sunglasses company now shines worldwide
By Chris McDaniel, Yuma Sun Staff Writer | Posted: Sunday, July 20, 2014 2:00 am
The team of Liquid Eyewear stand inside the factory floor where all the sunglasses are manufactured and shipped out of Yuma. Since starting 13 years ago by Ken Wilson and Kristen Linde, Liquid Eyewear has gown from Wilson and Linde making sunglasses in a small garage to a thriving business with around 25 employees and plans to expand more nationally and internationally.
When Ken Wilson and Kristen Linde founded Liquid Eyewear in 2001, all they had were big dreams, elbow grease and a garage.
“We busted butt together,” Linde told the Yuma Sun. “Literally, the garage had no power, and it was one of those doors that lifted up. It was a wooden door and you had to prop it with a stick. At night, when we would get done with our other jobs, we’d come park our cars and shine our headlights into this garage” to see in the dark, and sat “on the concrete floor to assemble” the sunglasses. “It was so painful.”
But the hard work has paid off, and the business partners have now achieved the American Dream. Their company currently employs about 25 workers and sells signature sunglasses to customers around the globe through distributors including Snap-on and Haley Strategic Partners, LLC.
“Snap-on has put us on the map,” Wilson told the Yuma Sun. “Once everyone found out it is a hot brand, now everyone wants a piece of the action.”
The company is currently located at 1335 S. Pacific Ave., Suite 102, but will soon move to a larger facility near 32nd Street and Avenue 3E. The space will help the company keep up with the high demand for its products.
Sales have been so good “we can’t keep up right now,” Linde said. “The neat thing about all this is that I remember when it was just a small company and we could barely keep our power on. We have expanded so much. Over the last two years, we have seen significant growth. We have expanded and are getting ready to expand again. It has been a fun ride so far.”
The money generated by the company around the world ultimately returns to the Yuma economy, Linde noted.
“It supports the employees. I see that my employees are buying vehicles. They are buying homes, they are living off of their salaries from working here. That, for me, is when I felt we finally have done what the goal was – to support all these other people. It is just so neat to see they… are able to support their families because of Liquid. Because of a sunglass company.”
When the company was founded in 2001, it generated about $12,000 in sales annually, Linde said. And while not willing to comment on how much the company generates in revenue now, “we are doing well,” she noted.
Linde chalks the success of the company up to hard work and the dedication of her staff.
“Believing in your staff and your employees, and trusting them to do what they need to do,” is key. “It is very much a family environment around here. It takes a team to truly do what we have done. Myself and Ken could never have done this alone.”
Other major factors leading to success have been reliable products and the friendly nature of her staff, Linde continued.
“One of the things that really made us stand apart, even when we were really small, was quality and customer service. People knew we backed our product 100 percent, and we still stand behind it 100 percent today. If you call here, you are going to talk to a human being, and they are going to know exactly what to do to help you out.”
The company’s niche sunglasses, made of aircraft aluminum, have been worn by many celebrities over the years, including Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and former Van Halen front man Sammy Hagar, Alice Cooper, and the bands Disturbed and Daughtry. Liquid Eyewear has also been the official eyewear of Monster Jam, a live motorsport event tour and television show traveling a circuit in the United States and around the world.
Because of their durability, the sunglasses are highly popular with extreme sports athletes, members of the military and law enforcement personnel.
“Liquids are more like a tool,” Wilson said. “I want to say it is utility eyewear. It is going to work for skydiving, motorcycling, hammering something out in your garage or working in your yard. It is going to work for you in a lot of ways, whereas if you have fancy-schmancy, blinged out” sunglasses “with diamonds on the side, you are not going to want to get dirt on your diamonds.”
With Liquid Eyewear models, “you can drop them on the ground, you can run over them. They are impact resistant,” Wilson continued. “We had a guy from Yuma tell us he flipped his Harley end-over-end on Interstate 8, and the doctor told him the only thing that saved his eyeballs was the Liquids.”
There are currently four models produced by Liquid Eyewear available to the public – all sourced from materials in the USA and crafted in Yuma. The company is planning on releasing additional models in the near future, including a variety made with nylon that will be slightly less expensive to purchase than the aluminum varieties. The company also offers prescription sunglass lenses for its frames.
Wilson is pleased the company continues to grow with each passing year.
“You’ve got to pinch yourself,” he said. “Am I really here? It feels good. It makes you wonder what else you could do.”
While it took many years for the company to achieve its current level of success, the end result is proof aspirations can come true, Linde added.
“It was hard, but if you can dream it, it can happen. We made our own path. We didn’t listen to what anyone else was telling us to do. We followed what our hearts told us to do.”
Chris McDaniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 928-539-6849.