Q&A with new college grad/entrepreneur Matthew Guruge
Matthew Guruge of New Ipswich and two fellow Wheaton College students founded sunglasses maker Tints
Matthew Guruge of New Ipswich, who with two fellow Wheaton College students founded sunglasses maker Tints, which since its founding late last year has sold more than 5,000 pairs internationally and struck up business deals with big-name companies.
What was the biggest life-changing experience you had in college? For New Hampshire native Matthew Guruge, a full-time student-athlete at Wheaton College in Massachusetts (and a former intern at NHBR), it was becoming the CEO of a company whose mission perfectly coincides with college life: “Live for the Weekend.”
It all started in 2013, in the basement of the college’s library, when his friends and eventual business partners Harry Bramhall and Nishon Radhakrishan decided that paying upwards of $250 for a pair of Wayfarer shades, all in the name of fashion, was nearly impossible to afford — especially for a college student.
Keeping a limited budget in mind, Bramhall, now president and product manager of the company they named Tints, ultimately formulated their product, which retail for $25: a classic frame design, two UV 400, scratch-resistant, polarized lenses, mixed with a combination of durable, reusable and lightweight materials.
As for marketing? They’ve relied on social media and their trending hashtags: #L4TW and #showmeyourtints.
Since its founding, the company has sold more than 5,000 pairs internationally and struck up business deals with some big-name companies. The company has also developed some new merchandise that will be available soon.
Q. How did you get Tints up and running?
A. From idea, the first step was make a design of what they wanted to do exactly. This step didn't take too long, and Harry (Bramhall) and Nish (Radhakrishan) quickly came up with the design of traditional Wayfarer frames with bamboo temples. The second step took about six months, which was finding a manufacturer who could produce a high-quality prototype of the design at a reasonable price.
They finally found a manufacturer that produced a good sample and convinced Nish's dad to put up the money for the first order. Then they got 500 glasses in at the beginning of June and sold out of them almost immediately, which is when they noticed they had something big on their hands.
Q. What new business deals and merchandise have you developed?
A. We will be launching our new site, and introduce a all-black model and clothing options. We have also designed and will be launching glow-in-the-dark Electric Dance Music glasses for a series of events we will be doing in the summer with the company DJs of Boston. We also just finalized a deal with Jack Daniel’s to make their Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey sunglasses. We’ll be partnering with Meadowbrook this year to be a vendor at the concert hall.
We have increased our retail outreach to five stores and will continue to grow that number as the summer comes. We also designed and will be selling shirts with a special pocket that holds our glasses perfectly.
Finally, the last major thing we will be doing is getting our own custom etcher and offering custom-etched Tints for individuals and businesses with less than a two-week turnaround by the summer.
Q. You’re going to have a lot more time to dedicate to the company after graduating; what are your plans for that and the future of Tints?
A. The plan for this summer is for Nish, Tyler Hurst (our graphic designer) and I to work full-time on Tints from our homes. We are looking to expand Tints through our events with DJs of Boston, our custom glasses portion and with new and exciting products. The goal for Tints is to have a stellar summer this year, have a strong funding round and expand our marketing and sales from there.
Q. Do you ever see Tints having its own storefront, or will it remain completely on-line and in other retail stores?
A. The end goal is actually to have our own storefronts. We may be getting a kiosk this summer at Pheasant Lane Mall (in Nashua) as a starting point to see how we do running our own retail operation.
Q. How many people are working with Tints?
A. As our team stands now, we have six sales associates, who reach out to retail stores, three resellers who sell the product directly and eight college reps who show the product around, spread the word.
Q. What retail stores are you planning on working with?
A. Right now we are working with smaller boutique type stores and skate/surf/sports shops. We are hoping to expand to larger chain stores like EMS, Urban Outfitters and Eastern Boarder.
Q. How stressful was it being a full-time student and a CEO?
A. Unlike (being a) student-athlete (Harry and I both played lacrosse at Wheaton), being a CEO doesn't really mesh with being a student. One has to take priority, and I'd have to say I'm a CEO first. Keeping up with school, then, was a bit of a struggle because homework was often the last thing I got to in any given day and the last thing I thought about. Luckily, I only had to make it through two course-light semesters doing both.
Q. You graduated from Wheaton on May 11, but until then your college life definitely aligned with the Tints mission. How are you hoping to continue that after graduation?
A. I think the Tints mission is really about doing whatever you'd do if you weren't at work, and Tints has never felt like work for me. So I plan on enjoying every day I get to work at something I love.
The great thing about Tints is that nightlife comes with the job, both with our own events and networking/mingling, so I get the best of both worlds. I am just excited to be able to put 12 hours a day into Tints, instead of worrying about distractions like college.