Lessons Learned: Do It Your Way

Chase Denison is a freshman undergraduate in the Stern School of Business. Chase is the founder and owner of Vybe Sunglasses. He is also a captain of NYU's Baseball Team.

As entrepreneurs, we seem to fall into a habitual cycle trying to mirror other successful entrepreneurs we know and revere. We follow their footsteps to accomplish our own goals. Most people think in terms of a set of “rules” scribed in stone on how to be a successful entrepreneur.

Well to that, I say— no. Rather than playing by the rules, I chose to focus on my goals and what I needed to do to achieve them. I chose to do it my way.

When I was 14, my brother and I joined forces co-founding and operating our own clothing company for a year and half. Then, I had an idea: fully customizable and interchangeable sunglasses. I had a vision, and ran with it.

The Denison Brothers

We had to bring an idea from a piece of paper to life. A team of teenagers with a limited budget trying to develop a product the world had never seen before with no guidance in the product development world. But when it was all said and done, we made it happen for under $5,000, which is virtually unheard of in the consumer product space. So how did this happen?

First, we needed an engineer to transform my idea on notebook paper, into a 3D Printed ready-file. Instead of going to a local engineer, we ventured over to freelance platform oDesk and hired an engineer from Canada for only $500. After working with our engineer and producing several different prototypes through a company in Sweden for $30-40 a pair, we settled on a design, and turned our attention towards finding a manufacturer.

How in the world were three kids going to find a factory to produce thousands of sunglasses? We sent hundreds of email inquiries to eyewear factories across the globe. We stayed up until the crack of dawn daily to communicate with our potential factories who resided in different time zones. After weeks of filtering through factories, we finally landed with one in Asia, whom we still use today.

We then competed at the Charlotte Venture Challenge and placed 2nd in the undergraduate section which caused offers and interest to start rolling in. We chose two investors. One sent us an email expressing interest but our reply back to schedule a meeting got stuck in the drafts folder for over a month before we even realized. Luckily, we eventually sent our reply back. Our other investor found us on the internet before we even had product. He resides in Texas, and coincidentally is the former global controller of Maui Jim Sunglasses.

A few months later, we finally picked up palettes of thousands of sunglasses. All of which was once just a sketch on a notebook.

Who would have thought that a group of teenagers from a small southern town would be spending a weekend in Texas sleeping on a guy’s couch that they met on the Internet while they sold sunglasses? Who would have thought a guy who typically invests in commercial property would invest in an entrepreneur who, an hour before their first meeting, was sitting at a high school desk?

Team Vybe pitching to the Shark Tank managing director

Don’t follow the rules that go against your gut instinct. Don’t follow the footsteps of others. Use your own feet. Pave your own path. Others will be quick to judge and critique if you are doing something the “wrong” way.

The fact is, there are no “wrong” goals that you achieve. If you have the results and accomplish your goals, what rule even matters? I challenge you to go against the rules, push the status quo, and breakthrough into a sphere of results that will make others question the way they do things.

It doesn’t matter if you don't go about your business the way everyone else has, as long as you make it happen. It doesn't matter how you accomplish your goals, as long as you do. You can try and follow the footsteps of others, and try and be like everyone else. But what is the point of that? Who says you have to run your business in a suit and tie? If you get results, does your suit and tie even matter?

Never mind the suit, the tie, the rules. Do it your way.