The Dame brothers, Brooks, Tanner and Taylor, co-founders of Boise’s Proof Eyewear, walked away from the business deal offered when they appeared on TV’s “Shark Tank” in 2013.
Though they opted to build their business on their own without help from the show’s entrepreneurs, that sole appearance years ago continues to have ripple effects, said Tanner Dame. Every time the brothers go to trade shows, they hear the same refrain, “I’ve seen you somewhere,” people say, referring to the show.
“It’s kind of crazy. Because it’s been almost four years,” Dame said.
But every time a rerun of their episode airs, as its did recently, Proof sees an uptick in orders on its website.
“We never know ahead of time,” Dame said. “We just come in in the morning and see this increase and start getting texts about ‘Shark Tank.’”
The brothers, natives of Ontario, Oregon, make their products by focusing on sustainable materials like wood and other biodegradable materials. Proof Eyewear opened its “flagship” store in 2015 in Boise’s Bodo neighborhood, close to JUMP and the J.R. Simplot campus. Proofsells its signature sunglasses there.
Even in an era of growing e-commerce, having a physical location where people can see their sunglasses up close and try them on is vital for the company, Dame said.
“Glasses are something you put on your face,” he said. “You want something you’re excited about and proud to wear. The other piece is that we’re proud of where we’re from. This is an opportunity to create more culture. Even if people aren’t buying, they can still come to this space, enjoy it, admire the artwork.”
The company reports annual sales of $1.6 million and remains debt-free. It is working with eight international distributors. Sunglasses range in price from $75 to $140. Among the company’s bestsellers is “Ontario Wood,” retailing for $115.
Proof Eyewear employs eight people full-time, three part-time. The company channels 12 percent of its profits into charitable causes. The staff spends a day together every month, volunteering for a different organization. They’ve helped the Boise Rescue Mission, Ridge to Rivers and others.
In November, the Dame brothers and any staffers who can pay their own airfare will head to Nepal. Nepal joins the growing list of developing countries where Proof Eyewear has supported eye clinics, donated to schools, provided micro loans, planted trees through environmental initiatives and more.
The Dame brothers discussed their roots (including their father’s business, Woodgrain Millwork), their worries about that first “Shark Tank” appearance and more in this 2016 interview.