BEX gets into Forbes
How BEX Sunglasses Founder Jason Adams Is Taking On His Big-Name Competitors
Move over, Oakley and Ray-Ban and other high-end brands of performance sunglasses, there’s a new entrepreneur in town and his company, BEX, is offering an equally excellent product at a disruptive price point. And it’s gaining attention.
Jason Adams is the founder of BEX, a small business manufacturing performance sunglasses and outdoor gear that is sold online and in over 700 stores.
The BEX brand became known not through expensive marketing campaigns, but by word of mouth from the people who started wearing their gear. In fact, that is how we became aware of BEX. One of our employees had a pair of their shades comfortably resting on his head during a meeting. It wasn’t long before the rest of our crew, the majority whom are outdoor enthusiasts, also began sporting the brand.
We soon discovered the BEX recipe for success and why they have continued to double in revenue every year since launching the brand in 2009.
Jason’s business strategy remains true to his roots. “Where you come from and what you stand for will be tested through success, failure and sometimes heartbreak,” said Jason. “Life will always throw at you plenty of reasons to give up. My life as an entrepreneur isn’t much different than my life on the rodeo circuit in this aspect.”
Jason launched his business in Logandale, Nevada, population around 3,000, located an hour east of Las Vegas, which places it in the middle of nowhere – and that suits Jason and his employees just fine. “When you don’t have a lot, you make the best with what you have,” said Jason.
When Jason’s father learned his son was going to make sunglasses for a living he said, “Now, son, you know a lot about a lot of things, but you don’t know anything about sunglasses. How are you going to build a business based on them?” Jason answered that question in his actions by shadowing experts who understood the industry and he also dedicated his time to learning the basic fundamentals of business. He was intent on being the best and building a successful company, so he asked for help from anyone who was willing to let him learn by their side.
“We work very hard to offer the perfect balance of style and performance,” he added. “We did our homework when it came to developing first-class manufacturing and inventory processes.”
He hires good people who can wear multiple hats. For the past decade he has created significant profit with only 11 people. BEX recently opened an in-house production facility in North Las Vegas located next door to their sales office. BEX will now be producing 20% of their plastic sunglass frames domestically.
We asked Jason to share the lessons that have intertwined his cowboy and entrepreneurial experiences with the hope of helping other small business owners. He was happy to oblige.
The first lesson Jason shared with us is how important riding lessons are. You’re going to get bucked off a few times while riding a horse or building a business. “The more you know, the longer you’ll stay in the saddle and if you fall, the more likely you are to get back on,” he said.
Jason is a veteran rider. He knew that cowboys and other extreme outdoor sports enthusiasts go through sunglasses faster than perhaps any other piece of gear. Polarized, lightweight, sunglasses are a necessity if you make your living outdoors, especially if you are participating in extreme sports.
The entrepreneurial chapter of Jason’s life kicked into high gear when he traded in his boots and saddle and just about everything else he owned to build a business that first offered sunglasses and later moved into the broader apparel market.
“My gut just knew that there was something there,” said Jason. “I knew what I wanted in a superior pair of sunglasses, and I wanted to build them. I wanted them to be able to stand toe to toe with the big dogs on the playing field, but I also wanted them to stay on my face while participating in extreme outdoor sports. This type of sunglasses generally retails for over $100 a pair. I wanted to create something that would last perhaps for a lifetime.”
Shortly after Jason realized his dream of creating BEX in 2009, he began combing search engines and library books to learn about manufacturing, polymers, techniques and every application that would be needed to hit the ground running in the industry.
“I got to work and put everything I had into it,” shared Jason. “If I was going to build sunglasses, they had to be the best. There’s no use in building something that is not world class. They needed to be lightweight and remain in place regardless of whether you were getting bucked off a bull, skiing down a mountain or running a marathon.”
He added that it is also important to hire people who have a commitment to doing things the old-school way with respect, craftsmanship and excellence. “Humble, caring, hardworking people are blessings,” he said.
“The life of an entrepreneur is never in balance,” explained Jason. “You’re going to have incredible highs and lows. After making our landmark sales that would turn the tide for our company and feeling like I was on top of the world, I received a call from my wife with news that there would be health complications with our son that was about to come into this world, and shortly after that I would lose my son and then my father. The life was knocked out of me. That is why it’s important to surround yourself with people who can go the distance with you, not when it’s easy but when it’s incredibly tough.”
Jason’s father was Wes Adams, a successful contractor from Las Vegas who put work ethic and integrity as the guiding principle of each and every lesson he taught his children. Jason noted that one of the most important things his father did for him before passing was to connect him with the man who would become BEX’s CFO/COO, Brian Gardner.
“My personal trials ignited an incredible spark in Brian,” shared Jason. “He dug in even deeper and created even more new opportunities for our business.”
“That’s just what people do for one another,” Brian told us. “When someone on the team needs help, you help them. You find it within yourself to help carry the load. So often in business today we hear about how a leader or a team dropped the ball. It’s rare to find associates who carry the ball for you when you need it most. Our team believes this forges a bond that can transcend the pitfalls of business.”
The road to success was never easy for Jason and his team. Early in his BEX’s history he tried to build a factory in Italy. It proved to be a costly mistake. He ended up with nothing after burning through all his savings. “I learned one of the hardest and most important lessons of my life,” said Jason. “You have to be strong enough to face that most days it’s going to be a risk-filled lonely world if you’re an entrepreneur.” He and his new wife struggled to figure out how to go on with just $600 to their name.
Jason then had to take a long, humiliating trip to see his father and explain his mistake across a desk at his office. Much to Jason’s surprise, his dad started laughing and said, “Well, you won’t be doing that again anytime soon, will ya?”
Jason walked out with no more money in his account than when he walked in, but with an invaluable lesson. Jason can tell you story after story about the hard knocks he has taken while growing as an entrepreneur. He strives to stay grounded and humble while always keeping his eye on the prize. He believes this is one of the most important elements of building and maintaining BEX as a great company and a brand with meaning.
“Never sacrifice who you are or what you stand for, especially when you fall,” he said.
Jason still stands when anyone enters the room. His genuine kindness and manners that seem to be from a different era are as disruptive as his sunglasses’ price point. He’s going to arrive 15 minutes ahead of time, remember your name, honor his promises and leave you with more than you asked for. Perhaps that is the key to his ultimate success.