We had the good fortune of connecting with Kaleb Abbott and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kaleb, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
My journey in starting SunSnap Kids began when I first became a practicing optometrist in Colorado and quickly realized the high percentage of children who do not regularly wear sunglasses. According to the World Health Organization, up to 80% of UV light exposure occurs before the age of 18, however, the vast majority of young children hardly ever wear sunglasses. This is especially problematic in Denver where we have over 300 days of sunshine each year and where our high elevation further intensifies UV light exposure.
As an optometrist, I am trained to diagnose a myriad of ocular conditions which arise from excess UV light exposure including premature cataracts, eye growths, retinal damage, ocular inflammation, premature aging of the eye, and even eyelid cancers. The childhood risk of many of these conditions can be greatly alleviated or even eliminated with the regular use of sunglasses.
After discussing sun protection with parents I learned that the number one barrier to parents purchasing sunglasses for their children was the fear of the children losing the sunglasses. This led to me and two partners teaming up to try to design a pair of kid sunglasses that wouldn’t get lost like normal sunglasses. After almost a year of product development and testing, we debuted our first few pairs of Snappies on December 7, 2019, at a charity event raising money for Just for J. The Snappies were a hit and since then we have launched 6 additional SKUs.
Until then kid sunglasses were nothing more than adult sunglasses made smaller and with more fun colors. Snappies are a unique type of sunglasses that utilize slap bracelets so when not being worn, can snap onto kids’ wrists, bicycle handlebars, backpacks, etc…so that these sunglasses won’t get misplaced. While being worn, they also firmly snap to the child’s head, making them especially useful for active kids.
Our initial goal was simply to figure out a way to encourage kids to wear sunglasses more often but quickly became about creating a pair of sunglasses that kids wouldn’t lose. Although our business is still young, we like to think that there are at least some children out there wearing Snappies who otherwise would not be wearing any sun protection and whose eyes now are at less risk of irreversible UV light damage. Snappies are not the perfect pair of sunglasses, nor are they for every child, but as long as they are protecting some young and developing eyes in the world then we know we are doing our job!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a practicing optometrist in Denver. Like the majority of business minded optometrists, I assumed that whatever business I started would be an optometry practice. Not very many optometrists venture into the unknown of product development after spending the better part of a decade focusing solely on healthcare training. That is probably what sets me apart from most business-minded optometrists — at this point it is hard to say if it is a good or bad thing. The challenges of starting SunSnap Kids was that every step was one into a dark abyss. I had no experience in product research and development, product testing, marketing, advertising, website creation, shipping orders, customer relations, etc… None of the schooling or training in my 20s prepared me for starting a business like this, it only taught me that a business like this needed to be created. I think that is when you know that life is moving you in the right direction though; when despite the fact that you are ill-prepared and in over your head, you have an inmeasurable desire to move forward because you know you may be able to make a positive difference in the world. That is one of the biggest lessons I have learned. While logic certainly has its place in life, sometimes passion and perserverence can overcome what seems insurmountable or illogical. The world needs people who see a problem and use whatever skills or talents they have to try and fix said problem. If everyone did that, the world would be a better place. Although it is far to early to know degree to which SunSnap Kids will impact the health of kids’ eyes in Colorado or the US, I know that we at SunSnap Kids are passionate and dedicated to helping as many kids as possible. If whoever reading this has an idea which they believe could positively impact society, I encourage to forge your own path and boldly pursue your dream. While it may not work, it may either give you the experience you need for your next idea to work or it may end up opening a door leading to your next big adventure.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My family and I really enjoy Stanley Marketplace and we frequently take friends and family there to hang out at Stanley Beer Hall or Cheluna. Maria’s Empanadas, Misaki, and Denver Biscuit company are our favorite restaurants there.
Since Denver has so much to offer a week long trip depends on who is visiting us. If this friend enjoys visiting breweries we usually go to Station 26 or Cerebral. If the person visiting enjoys sightseeing we take the metro downtown to walk around Union Station, Coors Field, and the museum district before taking a trip to Red Rocks Ampitheatre.
Some hikes close to Denver that we take friends on include Mt Falcon, Windy Saddle Lookout Mountain, or any hike at Chautauqua.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I dedicate this shoutout to Shelly Brenckman who graciously provided all the support and connections possible to see another Texas A&M University startup launched. She was always there to answer any questions, connect me with any person, or provide any guidance possible during this journey!