Future Is Bright for Young NJ Sunglasses Inventor

Summer sunshine in your eyes? Check out Matthew Sheffield's Shady Eyedeas styles and design your own cool shades for 19 bucks...

Last year, we published a piece about this tenacious teen entrepreneur from West Windsor. He’s the brains behind Shady Eyedeas, a new line of funky, colorful sunglasses with interchangeable frames, lenses and stems.

Now a rising sophomore at Lehigh University, Sheffield, 19, says he’s experienced a lot of bumps, but everything is rolling along fine. Here’s an update on this interesting inventor…

After Sheffield got a bit of funding from the indiegogo.com crowd-funding site as well as the Baker Institute’s Eureka! Competition at Lehigh, he was able to launch his business. Just a few months ago, his first shipment of components for 5,000 sunglasses arrived on his doorstep. Now Shadys are being scooped up by customers in the U.S. and U.K.—as well as Kuwait, where one very exhuberant fan purchases lots of styles on a regular basis.

As the story goes, the young entrepreneur had been shopping online for a pair of new shades a couple of years ago, when he had a brainstorm. Since all sunglasses are basically combinations of the same components—frames, arms and lenses—he got input from an engineer and then introduced a proprietary mechanism that easily transforms sunglasses styles without any tools. With just a snap, the patent-pending system locks the individual parts together.

Business took off quickly because Sheffield reckons that two pairs of Shadys, each $19, allow customers to create up to 16 variations. And three pairs can be transformed into a whopping 81 pairs. And—get this—his entire collection of Shadys can be switched out to become more than 25,000 unique pairs. Wow! That means you could wear a different pair every day for 68 years.

Recently, Sheffield also upgraded his original design, and his improved frames are virtually unbreakable, he says, even if you drop or sit on them.

I just visited the Shady Eyedeas site myself and it was really fun to create my own custom shades, step by step. You can choose your fave colors for the front frame of the sunglasses, right arm, left arm and lenses.

Sheffield says he will offer free shipping to New Jersey Monthly readers who use promo code njmonthly at checkout.

What’s next for the Shady Eyedeas brand? “Our goal is to expand into children’s sunglasses and grow our retail business in boutique-type beach shops and mass marketers,” Sheffield says. “As of early July, we’ll also encourage customers to return to the site to order individual parts to customize to their heart’s content." That means, for example, you can buy one orange arm and one green one, or even two different color lenses, for a few bucks apiece.

Sheffield says that schools, sports teams, clubs and brides are all interested in buying Shadys in bulk to celebrate their signature colors.

And how did Sheffield feel when, after eating, breathing and sleeping Shadys for more than a year, his first delivery of more than 5,000 pieces arrived on his doorstep? “It was pretty surreal when the product I envisioned for so long became a reality. Getting to finally wear a pair and show them off to friends and even random strangers was an indescribable moment.”

At the end of our interview, I just had to ask the obvious question, “Once your first shipment of parts arrived and you had 25,000 possible combinations at your fingertips, what was the first color combo you wore?” He matter-of-factly replied, “Brown and white—my Lehigh colors.”

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