How small sunglasses company Proof grew out of a failed attempt to make a ski pole

Kelsey Dayton

Proof Small Sunglasses Company Garage Grown Gear

It started with a wooden ski pole, or at least an attempt to create a wooden ski pole. When that failed, Brooks Dame switched plans and instead tried sunglasses. That was 2011.

Today Proof Eyewear sells dozens of frames and lens variations, many still made of wood.

“There is literally a pair of glasses for everyone you know,” said Vierra Reid, marketing director with the company. “You can go plain Jane or fire lenses.”

You can get Proof sunglasses created from ebony, black maple, mahogany, bamboo, cotton-based plastic and even old skateboards, among other materials. There are even prescription ones so that no matter what, you can wear Proof, Vierra said.

All the glasses are built with great attention to detail and the spring loaded hinges don’t fit tight around your head, Vierra said.

Startup Story

Proof Small Sunglasses Company Garage Grown Gear

Brooks, Tanner and Taylor Dame, the founders of Proof, like to say they have sawdust in their veins.

Their grandfather Bud Dame started Woodgrain Millworks in Idaho. It started as a small local mill. It’s now a global company. The family business is what prompted Brooks to try that wooden ski pole, and then retro-looking wooden sunglasses.

The company landed a spot on ABC’s “Shark Tank” in 2013, and from there demand soared. But the brothers knew they didn’t want to be just another big sunglasses brand.

Proof Small Sunglasses Company Garage Grown Gear

They focused on developing a sustainable brand using materials like a cotton-based plastic and wood. They also wanted a product that was true to their roots.

“Every frame has its own story,” Vierra said.

The brothers grew up in Idaho fishing, skiing and hiking. They wanted a pair of sunglasses they’d wear while out boating or fishing. (Hint: the wooden-framed sunglasses even float if dropped in water).

The names of Proof frames pay tribute to Idaho and their family. There’s the Bud after their grandfather, and the McCall after the city near Boise.

Quotes etched in the frames, like “Don’t forget your roots,” “Be you, not them” and “Never stop believing,” reflect their values.

Those values include giving back. Last year the small sunglasses company raised more than $20,000 to build eye clinics in India, the country where about a third of the world’s blind people live, Vierra said. It’s partnering with the Nature Conservancy to raise money to preserve Idaho wildlife habitat. And this year its philanthropy efforts are focused on El Salvador.

Proof Small Sunglasses Company Garage Grown Gear

What’s Ahead

As the company’s impact on its community and the world is growing, so are its products.

A new premium collection features glasses created from exotic woods.

“They are so beautiful and yet so durable,” Vierra said.

A new partnership with Carl Zeiss will provide glasses with the life-time warrantied lenses.

The company is developing wrap-sunglasses geared specifically to outdoor pursuits.

While Proof Eyewear continues to expand its offerings, in shapes, styles and materials, one of its original frames, the Ontario, remains the most popular. You have the choice of Ontario Wood, Ontario Skate and Ontario Eco.

“Everyone loves the Ontario,” Vierra said. “That’s the frame everybody can pull off.”

She should know. She’s seen all the proof.

Proof eyewearStartup stories

1 comment



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