Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

QSII company brought back to life with a kickstart

[Northwood Sunglass Co.]
Stephen Turliuk of Northwood Sunglass Co. sports a pair of the company's sunglasses made from wood and hemp fibre. The company got its start through the Queen's Summer Innovation Initiative in 2013. (Supplied Photo)

A company that got its start through Queen’s Summer Innovation Initiative (QSII) is looking to get a crowd-funding boost.

Northwood Sunglass Co., which makes sunglasses from local wood, stone and hemp fibre, has launched a campaign through online crowdsourcing site Kickstarter.

These glasses are sleek and fashionable, and make a statement.

That statement, for Northwood, is sustainability.

As Mitchell Purcell, BSc’13, explains, the wood used to make the glasses comes from sustainably-harvested forests in Ontario and Quebec and is provided from the cut-offs at a skateboard manufacturer. The frames are reinforced with hemp fibre, which makes them extremely durable.

Reclaimed, repurposed adds up to less waste.

While there are other wood sunglasses available, many feature exotic hardwoods and can be costly, both for the wallet and the environment.

“That’s not really the market we are going for,” Mr. Purcell says. “We are going for people who care about the planet. The idea of wooden glasses is something that is sustainable. You don’t want to be cutting down a tree that takes 300 years to grow and is going extinct in some rainforest.”

After exploring other avenues upon completion of the QSII program, Mr. Purcell and teammate Stephen Turliuk, BSc’13, resurrected Northwood earlier this year. They credit QSII with providing them with the tools they need to start their own business.

“I love the program,” Mr. Purcell says. “Coming from an engineering background I didn’t have a ton of actual business knowledge. I may have been entrepreneurial but I sort of was stumbling around when I was doing it. It was really nice to get some concrete information from people who have done it before and studied this. Also, the independence you have after the first two weeks was really, really great. They basically said ‘Get in your groups and the rest of the summer is what you make it.’”

Another key element of QSII is the weekly meetings where the various groups present their products and get feedback from the other members of the program. Mr. Purcell said it helped him learn the value of a team structure in entrepreneurship.

 “It was just really nice how you could really see how a team can benefit the business,” he says. “You are able to split up different tasks to people and we were able to get way more accomplished than on our own.”

Ahead of the launch, Northwood has focused on raising their profile primarily through social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Already there are many followers eagerly awaiting a chance to buy their own pair of Northwoods. If all goes well with the Kickstarter campaign, they will get their chance in January.

For more on QSII and the Queen’s Innovation Connector go to queensinnovation.ca/