SAN DIEGO -- Chase Fisher looks like your typical Pacific Beach bro. The 31-year-old surfer is tanned and freckled, his hair gelled back to give that permanent ocean-wet vibe. With bright-colored shades slung around his neck, he looks more like a DJ than a retail entrepreneur.
But Fisher is the sole owner of Blenders, a rapidly growing sunglass company whose brand has recently exploded online. The retailer plays up its roots in San Diego, pulling inspiration from the local lifestyle to influence its design and branding. People around the world are buying sunglasses he's named after local neighborhoods. The North Park Collection -- a series of glasses that sports a classic, rounded rim -- is a customer favorite.
Although Blenders has been around since 2011, the company's popularity has recently hit a fever pitch. In 2016, the company brought in $1.3 million in sales. This year, Fisher expects the company to hit $45 million.
A San Diego State University alum, Fisher is as SoCal as a guy can get. Raised in Santa Barbara, he's been surfing since he was 6 years old -- becoming a sponsored amateur athlete from the time he was 13 through college. It was this early exposure to brand sponsorship -- the use of "influencers" before they were called influencers -- that contributed to Blenders growth. Today, the company sponsors athletes who align with their brand, including professional surfer Lakey Peterson, snowboarder Jessika Jenson, and wakesurfer Austin Keen.
Fisher said its a bit surreal.
"When I was a kid, I was always trying to get sponsored by companies," Fisher said. "I'm now the guy on the other side, approving sponsorships for athletes, which is pretty cool."
What's the big deal with these sunglasses?
While it would seem the market was not in need of yet another sunglass brand, Fisher perceived a gaping hole in the market. During college, he spent a lot of time at the beach as a surf coach. Everywhere he looked, he saw the same sunglasses: Oakleys and Ray-Bans, two brands that carry hefty price tags. One night in 2011, he was headed to see a DJ at San Diego's FLUXX nightclub and decided to go shopping first for some new clothes. He went to Target and bought a pair of cheap, neon green sunglasses to wear that night.
"People kept coming up to me saying, these are crazy! Let me try them on,'" Fisher said. "They were literally prying them off my face."
Fisher said the moment made him realize there was demand for colorful, beachy sunglasses that were more fashionable (and sturdier) than the Target variety.