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How a Louisville native built an international sunglasses brand with an eye toward impact

It was never part of the plan to just sell sunglasses for money — from day one, driving positive impact through charitable giving has been a core part of their mission.

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A man sits on the top shelf of a warehouse shelf unit filled with boxes of sunglasses

Shady Rays supports like-minded organizations who create a meaningful change in their communities like current Impact partners: Roc Solid Foundation, First Descents, Feeding America, and The V Foundation for Cancer Research.

Photo by Shady Rays

In 2012, Chris Ratterman set out to solve the problem of lost and broken sunglasses. (Why pay hundreds of dollars for a pair of shades just to lose, break, or scratch them?) So from a spare room at his parents’ home in Louisville, Shady Rays was born.

Fast forward a decade, and the company has been named one of the fastest-growing lifestyle eyewear brands in the country. We recently caught up with him to chat about what he’s learned + what excites him about the brand.

What was your biggest goal when creating Shady Rays, and what sets the brand apart?
Shady Rays is all about providing a great pair of high-quality, polarized shades at a fraction of the cost of other big name retail brands. You shouldn’t have to worry about sunglasses falling off your face, or getting scratched while you’re out being active. That’s why we’re the only brand offering Lost & Broken Protection — it takes the worry out of wearing your favorite shades.

Every day, I wake up excited because we get to build a meaningful brand that does good in the world. Our team finds a lot of purpose in the fact that we donate meals through Feeding America.

In the early days of Shady Rays, who made the biggest impact?
Definitely my dad. He was retired when Shady Rays began, and I still had a full-time job. He set up shop in his and my mom’s formal living room. From a card table with a label printer, he packed and shipped almost every single order himself — driving each day’s orders to the post office in St. Matthews. I couldn’t have done it without him.

What advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs?

Be patient — it takes 10 years to become an overnight success. Shop Shady Rays.*

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