The key to success for 21-year-old Nick Ost is not being afraid of failure, but seeing it as a way to learn.
Described as having an entrepreneurial mindset by one of his mentors, the Puyallup native and University of Portland junior is always trying to figure out how he can make ideas happen.
When Ost was in high school, he started Sacks of Love, nonprofit that aims to spread awareness for male health issues, specifically testicular cancer.
But his entrepreneurial drive didn’t stop once he graduated from Puyallup High School.
“Ever since Nick was a freshman, two weeks after he got on campus (at the University of Portland), he connected with this entrepreneurship center and has been tinkering with and starting all kinds of things really since he has been on our campus,” said Peter Rachor, director for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Franz Center for Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
Ost started a sunglasses company with a fellow student, Paul Dilley, his freshman year of college, but it just never took off.
“We basically had two grand and wanted to start a business,” Ost said. “Our initial idea was to do artwork on sunglasses, but we just didn’t have enough money to do it.”
Rage Shades, as Ost and Dilley called their company, barely broke even, but the duo didn’t give up.
At an event where the two were trying to sell the last of their Rage Shades, they noticed somebody wearing sunglasses with artwork on the side — exactly what they were trying to accomplish.
Those sunglasses were Townie Shades, from a company owned by Derrik Shockman and Alex Muir. They had the product Ost and Dilley wanted to sell, but were lacking expertise in social media and marketing.
“We ended up sending them an email telling them that we had all of these expertise but no product to sell,” the 2012 Puyallup High grad said. “We ended up forming a new company with them about a year ago. Since then, we’ve just been growing the business from there.”
Now that Townie Shades have taken off, Shockman, Muir, Ost and Dilley are now making their brand authentic in the Seattle region and all the different regions they are trying to expand into.
“People have really embraced that,” Ost said. “We’ve worked a lot on the quality of the product and the designs and teaming up with nonprofits.”
Their shades feature skylines of Tacoma, Seattle and San Francisco. The Seattle skyline-inspired sunglasses come in colors to represent the Seahawks and the Mariners, and all support local charities through each pair purchased. So far, Townies has donated $10,000 to local charities in the Seattle area.
The Mariners-themed pairs donate 10 percent to the Boys and Girls Club of King County, the Seahawks-themed ones give 12 percent to Seattle Children’s, and their Seattle Gray shades donates one meal per sunglasses to Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission.
“It’s a proven business model,” Ost said of the company’s support of local charities. “It just makes sense for us that we are trying to represent regional authenticity, and that’s hard to do if you’re not part of the community. It’s our way to give back to the community that is supporting us as we grow. It made sense for us for what we want our brand to become.”
For more information on Townie Shades, visit townieshades.com.