25 Apr 2017 - Ryan Schoenike, co-founder of Norton Point, a sustainable eyewear company has an interesting background.
With his degree in economics and work experience in the D.C. market in utilities and solar, he is well steeped in the challenges of making the world a better place environmentally—in an economical manner.
Co-founders that complement each other
Schoenike got together with Rob Ianelli, a college buddy he met while studying abroad in China, to see if they could do their own thing…together.
Schoenike had the business, economics and lobbying understanding that is useful when taking on a social impact challenge. Ianelli was a serial entrepreneur with experience in eyewear and ties to Martha’s Vineyard where the firm hung out their shingle in 2015.
One man’s trash is another man’s core material
Plastics are the core material when making a pair of sunglasses. In developing a social impact startup, Schoenike was aware of the unique challenge of reclaiming and utilizing ocean plastics.
Single use plastic that is used and thrown away often ends up in the ocean. A few years back it was estimated there was $100 Billion dollars worth of this material in our oceans. Schoenike worked with scientists and other with a vested interest in recovering ocean plastics and putting it to use.
The two focused on a way they could help reclaim this material in Haiti—creating a local source of business—and reusing the material to form their glasses.
Co-founders on the move…to opposite coasts
While they initially launched in Martha’s Vineyard, the pair quickly realized that the island was not the best place to grow a business. As Schoenike puts it, the people around them were working on island time while they were working on ‘get stuff done time.’
A few years into their business they now work on opposite coasts.
Ianelli is in L.A.—the seat of fashion, a year-round sunglass consumption market with a local port to receive materials. Schoenike is in D.C. where he can continue to tap into the policy, science and business relationships that help him evolve the economics of the business model.