Nancy Harris and Tracy Green are here to help you see…and look good in the process.
The co-founders of an African American owned eyewear company, Vontelle, LLC, want to address the lack of available options for eyeglass frames for anyone who isn’t white.
These two Black women have entered the luxury eyewear space. Why? A necessity that the major companies miss through their assumption of universality of all people in shapes and in size.
That includes the shape of the face.
“This whole thing started because we lost our glasses within months of each other,” said Green. “And I said to Nancy, I’m just taking glasses that look the same and they hurt. And you know, glasses are not made for us, right? They’re not made by African Americans and Hispanics. But we realized once we got into the market, and we’re going into our third year down, two years online.
“In our third year with the concept, [we realized] that it’s not just for African Americans and Hispanics,” Green said. “We have Japanese, we have Indians, we have anyone who has different proportions of their face, right? Some people have rounder faces, larger, those [with] smaller bridges. All glasses don’t fit everyone so you’re having a hard time finding glasses that fit.”
Some of those designs you can find on their website, vontelle.com.
Their eyewear attracted some well-known entities when they partnered with ViacomCBS to design Nickelodeon-themed eyewear.
“When I initially applied [for the initiative], we were in need of funding for our Nickelodeon children’s line,” explained Harris. “We received a licensing agreement in June of 2021, which is fabulous, so that that licensing deal allows us to start a children’s line. And with that children’s line, we realized that ‘okay, this is great, and they’re giving us this wonderful opportunity, but we need funding to make sure that we can pull it off.
Harris saw the grant application for the Famous Amos Ingredients for Success Entrepreneurs Initiative and virtually waved Green over. “I saw the thing as a grant and I saw the qualifications, and we fit the bill 100%,” said Harris. “I had a very strong feeling that we would be finalists, and when we actually were, I called Tracy up. I call her for every little success that we get. It doesn’t matter what it is. And I said we’re finalists, but the thing is Tracy and I have been prepared for this moment in time. And Tracy used to be a grant writer. She was a former CFO of a hospital system. So she taught me how to handle and manage these grants because she was doing a lot of grant applications and she had some burnout.”
Their talents didn’t just extend to their ability to obtain grants.
“So we were lucky enough to be in the right rooms,” said Green. “I’ll say this: COVID has caused havoc, but it’s also created virtual meetings and virtual meetings mean people are inviting you to everything and Nancy was very adamant to come and introduce ourselves to people everywhere we went. We’re new. We are a new eyewear brand. We’re doing this, we’re doing that and we tried to introduce ourselves, and we were in the right rooms at the right time.
“And we actually met our mentor in that room at that meeting,” continued Green. “At a virtual meeting, we met Nickelodeon, Viacom, CBS group and they loved our glasses. They loved the fact that we have patterns and designs.”
One of those designs includes a kente cloth pattern on a frame.
“They thought that we were funky and that we can do children’s glasses.”
Eyewear has become just as much of a fashion statement as shirts, pants, sneakers, and suits. The design of a frame can determine the perception from the outside. The design you wear can be an expression of your personality. Green and Harris understand this.
A spokesperson for Famous Amos said it always is, and will continue to be, a champion of Black entrepreneurship.
“We established the Famous Amos Ingredients for Success Entrepreneurs Initiative to support Black businesses and to honor the legacy of the brand’s founder, Mr. Wally Amos,” said Rachna Patel, senior director of marketing for Famous Amos. “In addition to the grants Famous Amos awards, we feel it is equally important to offer resources such as mentorship, coaching, and networking, which are provided by our community partner, the National Black Chamber of Commerce.”
What happened with Vontelle, LLC can happen to other Black businesses, too.
The second application cycle for the Famous Amos Ingredients for Success Entrepreneurs Initiative starts on May 19 and ends on June 26 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Eligible businesses must be Black-owned and in operation for five years or less.
You can apply at famousamosingredientsforsuccess.info.