Business Overview

A sunglass line is usually a luxury line of eyewear for upper-crust buyers. Sunglasses generated close to $3.6 billion in revenue in 2016, making this an attractive career for many. The owner is generally responsible for designing and marketing their sunglasses on their own. They may either produce the sunglasses on their own, or work with a manufacturer to complete the job. Sunglasses may be sold either online or in a brick-and-mortar store. Owners will also usually work with distributors to have their goods sold in other retail stores.

Who is this business right for?

The right owner will have an excellent eye for design and style. Sunglasses are as much about fashion as they are about protection from UV rays. An ideal owner will create a unique look that still manages to fit the popular trends of the day. An owner should also have a certain amount of people skills, as they may need to network with manufacturers and distributors.

What happens during a typical day at a sunglasses line?

A sunglass line owner may have the following daily responsibilities:

  • Designing eyewear
  • Production of sunglasses
  • Creating/maintaining relationships with distributors
  • Researching new methods of production
  • Marketing the line
  • Updating website

What is the target market?

Usually the people who buy designer sunglasses are those who are devoted to fashion and have a good deal of disposable income. Those who want the cheaper sunglasses are likely to buy knock-off luxury brands at kiosks, or to shop at major retailers such as Wal-Mart or Target.

How does a sunglasses line make money?

Sunglass lines make money by charging a profit margin on each pair sold. The more popular and rare a particular product is, the higher the profit margin can go.

What is the growth potential for a sunglasses line?

The world of fashion is a fairly competitive one, though there is always a need for quality designers offering a viable product in their industry. The public is open to embracing a new brand if they can market themselves correctly and prove themselves to be trendy enough.

Getting Started

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful sunglasses line?

You do not need to be an eyewear designer in order to start a sunglass line, though you should understand the process of how a sketch of an idea turns into a packaged product. Successful people may have a design background in clothing or even in furniture. The key is to understand the supply chain so that you can maximize your profits.

What are the costs involved in opening a sunglasses line?

Your personal costs will be dependent on your location and the materials you choose to use. Higher end materials, such as acetate or plating, will inherently cost more to use in your production line. When it comes to your website, you’ll likely want to invest in a professional design if you hope to attract those with higher incomes. A basic DIY website may run you only a few hundred dollars a year (or less), but it may not be as welcoming for your customers.

What are the steps to start a sunglasses line?

Once you're ready to start your sunglasses line, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:

  1. Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
  2. Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your sunglasses line is sued.
  3. Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
  4. Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your sunglasses line keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
  5. Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
  6. Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
  7. Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
  8. Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
  9. Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Where can I find a business mentor?

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

Recommended: offers video courses and a supportive online community of like-minded entrepreneurs. Try one month membership for for free.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a sunglasses line?

A smart sunglass designer understands how different faces benefit from different designs. They’ll study facial features, head shapes, and color contrast to get a solid idea of who benefits from what. Even the cheapest pair of sunglasses offers protection from the burning sun above, which manes people are usually buying designer shades to complete an outfit or to complement their overall look.

A small pair of sunglasses may be right for a conservative work outfit, while a larger pair will look right paired with a bathing suit. The differences between brands are measured in millimeters, so designers need to have a high degree of accuracy. To face their competition, concentrate on how to make your eyewear interesting enough to stand out but not so unusual that it turns the public off.

A sunglass line will take a lot of precision to get off the ground. Each manufacturer will have their own take on the production process, and it's imperative to understand the nuances between each type. You also need to find the right distributors for your sunglass line. A lone store will only be able to be so successful, so either diversify by going online or by having your shades sold in high-end department stores or fashion boutiques.

Finally, be careful about entering this industry. Designer sunglasses lost some of its luster due to the popularity of prescription pairs, and it's also had the market cornered for many years. Most designer brands are actually owned by the same umbrella brand (Luxottica). This domination can be difficult to find a foothold for an up-and-comer. The good news is that it also creates a bit of a vacuum in terms of the variety on offer. Look for ways to connect with your audience, whether it's by promoting social change or challenging the standards of your business today.

Growing Your Business

How to promote & market a sunglasses line

You should be marketing your sunglass line in a way that fits your brand and speaks to your particular audience. Websites usually show fashionable, young people looking sporty or chic in their frames. Set your frames apart by finding a unique angle. For example, donate a portion of sales to countries in need of better eyecare for their people.

Ensure that the retailers you form a relationship with promote your particular brand values, so your goods aren’t confused with lower-end brands. Update your website with new looks, and consider an email list for every new design you debut on the market.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

Your sunglasses will first and foremost have to strike a nerve with the fashion sense of your audience. You'll also need to offer consistent and excellent customer service, as well as quality sunglasses that last for years.

How and when to build a team

Most sunglass line designers can operate on their own until they have a large enough client base to sustain themselves. Once they outgrow a one-man operation, a designer will need either associate designers to keep up with new demand, or retail employees if they have their own stores.

Legal Considerations

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a sunglasses line. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, check out our informative guide, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

For information about local licenses and permits:

Reduce Personal Liability

Structuring your business as a limited liability company (LLC) ensures your personal assets are protected in the event your business is sued.

What is an LLC?

Form an LLC in 5 easy steps

Earning Potential

How much can you charge customers?

The top sunglasses can be sold for $400,000 or more, though the average line sells for between $100 and $300.

What are the ongoing expenses for a sunglasses line?

Sunglass line owners can prepare their budgets based on the following:

  • Raw material costs
  • Retail space costs

  • Salaries for employees

  • Production space

  • Manufacturer rates

How much profit can a sunglasses line make?

Sunglasses famously have some of the best profit margins a business owner could hope for. Luxottica famously makes about $.52 of profit for every dollar spent on their sunglasses — and that’s including all of their marketing and royalty expenses. If you operated at roughly the same profit margin, you'd only need to sell 1,000 pairs at $150 to make $75,000 in profit.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Sunglass line owners may also consider designing their own clothing or other high-end accessories to supplement their line. Be aware though that making your own clothing requires state or local licenses.

Next Steps

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