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Wood You

THE EXPERT: Luke Winter JOB TITLE: Owner, Woodzee Inc.

Written By: Genesis Gonzalez

Photographed By: Shannon Rosen

Life is too short not to do what makes you happy! It can be spending time with family or friends, traveling the world, or exploring new cuisines. There are so many things that can excite us, but do we ever really take the time to do just that? Luke Winter knows what makes him happy, and the amazing thing is that he does it every day. For Winter, it is about doing something good for the environment, sharing with others the true value in helping the world, and becoming more involved and conscious of the materials we use on a daily basis. He took this happiness and love for fashion and transformed it into a creative work of art that is not only stylish, but has also helped so many organizations while educating those who wear the product proudly.

Woodzee is a unique brand in which every sunglass and product, such as toothbrushes, is created from a variety of woods, such as zebrawood and even buffalo horn. With the use of natural materials, Woodzee produces products that are both stylish and well-tailored to each individual, but allows the consumer to recycle each pair. Whether you are looking for a new pair or your current one has broken, Woodzee transforms the old back to new without having to simply throw away. This is a brand that speaks volumes to passion, creativity, and true happiness. For those lucky enough to wear Woodzee, they are putting style to good use.

Q: With a name like Woodzee, has there always been a love for all things nature and the outdoors?

Luke Winter: Yes, of course! Growing up, my mom always referred to me as a monkey because I was always climbing trees. I love being outside. I actually give my children a hard time because when I was a kid, the last thing I wanted to do was be in the house, unless it was raining of course. The kids today seem to be more into media, computers, and TV. I live on a creek and every day after work I go out to the creek. I have three dogs, and I go exploring and hiking. I love being outside!

Q: Sunglasses are a very unique niche when it comes to creating a brand. Was it always going to be sunglasses?

LW: It’s really hard to get into the clothing business,  because everybody would like to do that. It’s really competitive, and you have to have a niche. If you’re trying to start another clothing company, you’re one of millions. With sunglasses, there are plenty of brands out there, but I felt there was a better chance for me to succeed doing this.

Q: What are some of the materials that are used to create Woodzee sunglasses?

LW: Our price point line is acetate, a plant plastic, which is made from cellulose—and those are $65. The next level up, we use bamboo, and those retail for $75, and then the next level up we call “exotic wood, ” which can be anywhere between a pear wood tree, to skateboards, to zebrawood,  to walnut, to beechwood. The next level up would be recycled wood, when we use recycled wine barrels and whiskey barrels. And finally at the top, we use recycled buffalo horn to do our prescription frames because I didn’t want to use petroleum- based plastics. I thought it was really cool and unique, and not many people are using buffalo horn. It’s really beautiful, and no two pairs are the same in appearance because it’s naturally occurring material, and they’re hypoallergenic. They eventually mold to your body shape with your body heat over time. It’s really cool material. I basically create products, but I charge by the material.

Q: With every purchase, consumers are able to donate to an organization. How did the inspiration come about for this?

LW: We started with The Tree Project, and my thought behind that came from a famous shoe company that did one. I thought it was a pretty cool, successful idea, but I wanted to take it to the next level, so when a consumer makes a purchase when they checkout, they can select more than the actual foundation—they have a choice. I’m doing something for them, but I’m actually educating them at the same time. They can learn about the foundation that their donation is going towards. My hope is that beyond just making a donation, they might really like what that foundation is about and continue to give on their own or even participate and help them.

Alpine-Whiskey-Smoke

Q: Do you feel there is a greater awareness among consumers?

LW: Yes, it’s been great! The hardest part is getting everything ironed out. Each foundation consists of setting up a contract and lots of dialogue. It takes time to build relationships, and everything that we do is a contract. We’re held accountable if we don’t do what we say, and with that being said, there’s a lot of work involved to build these relationships. But, we’re constantly growing our world, and it’s fun. We’re currently working with Plant-It 2020, Trees for the Future, Forest&Life, and Men of the Trees. Each one has a different story and application of what they do with the funds that are donated. It’s just really cool to see them grow. Hopefully, more and more consumers get excited about doing much more than just buying products. You think about things and what makes you happy, and for me, it’s doing good deeds and showing my kids that I’m building a nice company, or helping others. If we can inspire someone just to do one nice, little, good thing in their day, the world’s a better place. We can’t change the world, but we can hopefully inspire people to make some positive steps.

Q: When it comes to recycling, consumers who have purchased a pair of sunglasses can recycle them. How did this process come about?

LW: That’s a good question! When I began, I wanted to deliver the best product and the best service. No sunglass is going to last forever. For me, in addition to reaching out to the media, the best marketing is word of mouth—that’s my philosophy on building Woodzee. I want people to be very impressed with our service and products, and so with that in mind, I decided to offer the recycle program, which encompasses everything I just said. To be able to be sustainable, to reuse someone’s glasses that either want a new pair, or they broke them or whatever, we can take the parts and use them to repair others or to shred them for packaging—so the life keeps on going. At the same time, we reward the consumer for giving us a chance and believing in us by giving them a new pair at 40 percent off for life. Hopefully, they’ll tell their friends, and they’ll tell their friends.

Q: Woodzee also creates children’s sunglasses. How has the response been for those products?

LW: I’m glad you asked! I have children myself. My youngest is going to be eight. My two older kids are in high school, and they wear glasses no problem; I can give them something I sell, but I didn’t have anything for my little guy. I didn’t want to leave him out. I wanted Woodzee for the whole family, so I came out with a kid one called the Sprout. My thought behind that was obviously, children are really rough on things, but it’s not too early to get kids involved and educated about doing the right thing and using the right materials.

Q: In addition to the great sunglasses, what other products does Woodzee produce?

LW: Everybody has a smart phone, so we’re starting to get into that business. And why not use wood? It’s  beautiful, and you can engrave it. You can grow new trees, and you can recycle old, used materials, from buildings or whatever, to be reused for a new product. But the most exciting new product that we’ve done is the toothbrush. It’s not a money maker at all! I think I sell them for really, really low cost, but it’s more about the point. Everybody brushes their teeth worldwide, but why are they made of plastic? There’s no need for that. Every toothbrush that you use, you eventually dispose of—just think about all the toothbrushes worldwide being thrown to the ground for no reason, when we can use them out of wood. That truly summarizes my whole outlook on how things are going right now and how I’d like them to go.

Q: Do you have some goals set for the next three to five years for Woodzee?

LW: I’ve got some goals, and it will be sooner than that! I’m not sure, but I’m pretty confident we’re one of the only companies that has a full-time recycled sunglass line of recycled materials. That’s what I’m most passionate about. I’m going to expand and do other projects, and use materials that have already been used for other things, say a barn, or work shed, or a bench, and turn it into a sunglass. I want to take something that was already made, and instead of throwing it away or burning it, create something new out of it. Besides going into more recyclable materials, I’m going to start making them in California.

Woodzee Inc.
232 Broadway St
Chico, CA 95928
877.370.1777
www.woodzee.com