Student entrepreneur sees bright future in sunglasses

ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Daniel Fine , a junior at Penn's Wharton School, with his folding sunglasses.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Daniel Fine , a junior at Penn's Wharton School, with his folding sunglasses.
Posted: December 20, 2013

D ANIEL FINE, 20, of University City, a junior at Penn's Wharton School, is the founder and CEO of Team Brotherly Love, the Fine Cos. and the Millennial Fund. Last year, he started Glass-U, a sunglass company. Entrepreneurs' Organization named him one of the world's top 30 young entrepreneurs. He plans to launch a firm called Dosed next year.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Glass-U?

A: My brother Jake was diagnosed with Type 1 juvenile diabetes when I was 11, and we launched Team Brotherly Love, a nonprofit dedicated to saving lives and finding a cure. Through our fundraising, one of the initiatives was called "Cross Against Diabetes" and we sold apparel and that was part of the impetus.

Q: How did Glass-U get started?

A: We were a Wharton Venture Initiation Program company in the fall of 2012, the only one led by an undergraduate that semester. [The program helps Penn students build businesses.]

Q: And the biz model?

A: We have three lines of fully folding sunglasses: originals, which are designs without logos on them; licensed, which has school, team and event logos and are licensed to 185 universities and events like Lollapalooza and the Rose Bowl; and custom, for companies who want their logo or brand on the sunglasses.

Q: What segment contributes the most revenue?

A: Our custom [wholesale] line accounts for the largest percent of revenue. We're also building our GURU network, which is our campus distribution channel, and we have student reps at 82 campuses.

Q: What do sunglasses cost?

A: Direct to consumer is $9.95; custom is half that.

Q: What differentiates Glass-U from other sunglasses?

A: We're often compared to Ray-Bans, which also fold over but cost $165. Our ability to put school logos on glasses is big. We have competitors, but the closest sells for twice what we do.

Q: Who's the typical customer for Glass-U sunglasses?

A: College students are our target, but kids like them, and moms and grandparents are buying our originals.

Q: Where are they sold?

A: Online at Glass-U.com, on college campuses, and we're talking with big-box stores.

Q: Employees?

A: Five, either full- or part-time. It's been mostly students getting class credit for working with us.

Q: Tell me about Dosed.

A: It's an app for diabetics who have to dose based on blood-glucose level and the number of carbs they eat. The app is intended to streamline the process and make it safer. My brother is co-founder, and a third co-founder is developing the app.


On Twitter: @MHinkelman

Online: ph.ly/YourBusiness

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