Can you give us a little background on how your business came to life?
Size Matters! For centuries, many of us have been wearing ill-fitting glasses. From our research and personal experiences many optical wearers have endured the painful line across our noses, indentation on the cheeks and headaches. The concept for Vontélle was born out of a need of both founders Tracy Vontélle Green and Nancey Harris, who each lost their expensive eyewear within the same year. They wanted vibrant patterns, better fitting glasses and to purchase from a Black-owned brand. When they did not find what they wanted, they created it. Vontélle created comfortable fitting eyewear with wider bridges for your nose, longer temples for behind the ears and larger lenses for high cheekbones; plus, we added luxurious materials, colors and patterns. The goal is to change how you see and be seen. Eyewear Culture Starts Here! www.vontelle.com
Which moment or experience (if you had to pick one) was the most impactful in turning your business into a reality?
Nancey booked at trip for us to attend an eyewear summit in Paris, France one of the largest expos in the world and we walked 4 (four) football fields of eyewear (designers, manufacturers, ophthalmologic equipment and etc.) and we did not see many African- Americans (Black) women or men. It was our Aha moment! The reason glasses are not made to fit our face features is because we are not represented in the business/industry. We said if not us, then who will focus on creating better fitting eyewear.
What inspires you on an everyday basis?
Our customers! They are excited to have comfortable fitting eyewear and they continue to return to purchase multiple styles. Eyewear is not only an extension of your wardrobe, but a necessary medical device. Vontélle understands that eyewear is essential and realizes the importance of quality, thus want to help with eye health disparities. The National Institute of Health’s National Eye Institute report that, African Americans and Hispanics/Latinx are more likely to have cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy than any other ethnic group. Making it difficult to wear contacts, so proper fitting eyewear is crucial. Befittingly, the Co-Founders have partnered with WIN (Women in Need), the largest provider of family shelter and supportive housing in New York City. The eyewear company has partnered with local optometrists to offer free eye exams, vision companies to donate free eyeglasses and prescription lenses to women, men and children in need.
What does it mean to you being a small / minority business owner in New York City?
New York City is a great city to be a small, minority business owner as you have access to many banking institutions, organizations and businesses who offer assistance in every area for the entrepreneur. Vontelle has taken courses in finance, marketing, and have access to other ecommerce businesses including our website host – Shopify (they have an office in Manhattan).
What does it mean to you when organizations like the Knicks and Chase support smaller local owned businesses like yourself? What does it mean to you to be a part of the Knicks & Chase Small Business Roster?
It means everything. Entrepreneurs need 3 (three) things to be successful:
Opportunity: a vendor or customer to purchase/buy their product or idea. For us it’s distribution and sales via our website. We know we have a great concept and product but need more people to be aware of it. We need more department stores and customers to purchase online. The Knicks is providing us with brand awareness and opportunity.
Funding: money to make/design/create the product(s) and to pay for marketing and advertising. Without funding you don’t have a business.
Support: You don’t know what you don’t know. The assistance of Chase and their Chase for Business program has greatly assisted us with our financials, inventory management and etc.
What important things do you think small business owners need to know before getting started?
When starting a business, it’s necessary to ask questions and do research on your industry. Ask everyone how did you do that? Where should I go to get this? Do not be afraid to ask. Get a mentor! Lastly, ensure you have a business plan, review the numbers - actual potential ROI (return on investment) and reach out to other start up business owners. There is the fun part of the business, which is probably what drew you there, and there's the necessary business requirements. Note: for every dollar you earn you will have spent $5.00 (ads, sales tax, website management, credit card payments, bank fees, content, inventory, etc.).
Can you speak to the importance of small business ownership in general?
Design is in everything we do and use. From your computer, to social media apps to the comb or brush you use to do your hair every morning. Someone designed it! It was an individual who decided to make a tool or provide a service for life to be better for us! It starts with a small business – this is why it’s important; rather crucial to support small businesses.