How Ombraz Reduces Barriers to Purchase for International Customers With ShipBob [Case Study]

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“It’s a pain to pick, pack, and print the labels, and manage the storage. It would be a huge stress for us to do it ourselves, but the fact that ShipBob takes care of it all, both the savings in costs and time, is invaluable to our business.” 

Nikolai Paloni, Co-Founder of Ombraz Sunglasses

Learn how sunglasses brand Ombraz went from a successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to becoming an international brand in under two years.

Customer Profile

Ombraz Armless Sunglasses is taking the anxiety out of owning a quality pair of sunglasses by making them both comfortable and unbreakable. Its patent-pending, armless design comes with frames that are attached directly to an adjustable, elegant cord that secures the glasses comfortably to your face. For every pair of Ombraz purchased, 20 mangrove trees are planted in impoverished areas in Madagascar.

nikolai - ombraz case study

Key metrics:

  • 2018: started fulfilling orders with ShipBob
  • 3 ShipBob locations utilized in 2 countries (so far)
  • 7 continents and 55 countries shipped to 
  • $163,671 raised on Indiegogo
  • 1,468 crowdfunding backers

Based in Seattle, Washington and founded in 2017 by Jensen Brehm and Nikolai Paloni, Ombraz offers an armless alternative to traditional, uncomfortable, and easy-to-break sunglasses. Ombraz sunglasses are made with a built-in, custom-woven, and recycled poly cord that’s both lightweight and comfortable. 

The brand name was inspired by the Italian word ‘ombra’ which means ‘shade’ — shade for your eyes and shade for the great landscapes. Ombraz is an industry leader in carbon sequestration through mangrove tree planting. In partnership with Eden Reforestation Projects, 20 mangrove trees are planted for each pair of Ombraz sold. 

In 2018, Ombraz launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, raising $163,671 from 1,468 backers in over 55 countries. To better serve their customers from around the world, Ombraz is adding new international shipping options, including shipping within Europe and Canada. 

We sat down with Nikolai Paloni, co-founder of Ombraz, to learn more about what it’s like creating an international brand presence. 

A look behind the lens at Ombraz

As told to ShipBob by Nikolai Paloni, Co-Founder of Ombraz Sunglasses. 

The original concept of Ombraz was thought up by my business partner, Jensen Brehm, during a trip to India. He was on a camel safari when someone accidentally sat on his sunglasses. Having sunglasses is a necessity in the desert, so Jensen had to come up with a way to ‘MacGyver’ his sunglasses back to life. He took a piece of twine, wrapped it around the broken hinges, and tied that around his head — and voila, the first pair of Ombraz sunglasses were born.

Jensen soon realized that his twine-wrapped sunglasses worked better than a traditional pair of sunglasses. They stayed on better, they didn’t break, they didn’t fall off, and they were super comfortable because the hard arms didn’t squeeze the sides of his head. 

When Jensen came back from his India trip, I immediately recognized this story as a potential business idea, and years laters, people were still coming up to Jensen and asking about his sunglasses. At the time, Jensen and I were working on a different business idea, which involved running corporate nature-based offsite retreats. Through this experience, we discovered that we really enjoyed working together. 

Jensen still had the ‘original’ pair of Ombraz and I encouraged him to explore the concept more. He started doing sketches and soon took me on to make the idea a reality. 

From ideation to building international

In the Spring of 2018, we launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. ShipBob was one of the first to reach out to us about fulfillment. They offered us easy-to-understand, competitive rates right off the bat, which hooked us in. They ended up shipping our very first backer reward and they’ve been fulfilling all ecommerce orders for us ever since.

ShipBob has a great customer support team that is really easy to work with. They are always there to answer our questions. We’re super grateful for their help in creating processes and solutions to our pain points; they made our lives a lot easier from the very beginning.

About a year and a half after building out our business, we figured it was time to optimize some of our processes, including returns. The ability to work with one of the co-founders of ShipBob to launch a new, custom returns process was awesome. Returns were taking a lot of time and resources to process on our end, but ShipBob was super helpful and critical in creating a solution for us. It consisted of integrating ShipBob’s technology with Loop, which makes receiving a return easier for our warehouse team by including all the data they need right on the shipping label.

“I worked at Amazon for several years and was heavily involved in some of their supply chain and logistics business. When we initially embarked on this business journey, I had an understanding of what to look for in a fulfillment partner. ShipBob’s costs are great and fulfillment times are wonderful.”

Nikolai Paloni, Co-Founder of Ombraz Sunglasses

REI carries our products, and ShipBob even fulfills our retail orders which is a huge time savings for us.

Since we’re a team of two, our entire tech stack is very simple. Our online store is on Shopify, and we use tools like Privy, Lucky Orange, Loop, and MailChimp for marketing purposes, and of course, ShipBob for everything fulfillment. 

We focus our marketing efforts in both the US and Canada. Our marketing is visual-based involving very little text, so nothing gets lost in translation. We rely heavily on imagery, feel, and energy to carry our message across, making marketing internationally easier. 

Moving inventory to Canada and Europe

Through our crowdfunding campaign, we ended up shipping to 55 different countries and all 50 states. There’s a pair of Ombraz on every continent, so international shipping is very important to us — not only in terms of costs but also the customer experience. 

When I found out ShipBob was expanding into both Canada and Europe, I knew we wanted to expand our physical footprint with them. This would offer us the ability to reduce taxes and tariffs that come with international shipping. Now, Canadian-based orders will see a large reduction in shipping costs. 

“We want everyone to get their Ombraz in a few days or less with no duties at delivery. Our goal is to remove the barriers to purchase. Now, a customer can get their package without spending an extra 25 euros or Canadian dollars on duties and taxes after purchasing a pair of sunglasses.”

Nikolai Paloni, Co-Founder of Ombraz Sunglasses

We found that sending inventory to Europe involved less paperwork and was faster than expected. The process of getting inventory sent to ShipBob’s fulfillment center location in Europe was very streamlined. 

Although we’re just starting out in Europe and Canada, there is still a lot to learn, but ShipBob has helped us extensively throughout the process and we look forward to accelerating our growth outside of North America. 

Looking ahead in style

While we’re looking forward to continuing to optimize and expand the ShipBob fulfillment centers we put inventory in, we’re also very excited about our upcoming pre-sale launch for two new style frames. This winter, we plan to launch a few limited edition styles offering unique colors. 

We’ve had success with only one frame style on the market, but there’s a lot of opportunities for us to expand our offering. For instance, we’ve had hundreds of pilots reach out about offering a non-polarized option of Ombraz since all dials in cockpits are polarized. Plus, pilots have to wear headsets all the time and the arms of traditional sunglasses get in the way, which is very uncomfortable. 

Ultimately, our goal is to focus on creating new styles and convert the entire market over to armless sunglasses, and we need the right international fulfillment partner to do that. At the end of the day, it comes down to costs and customer service, and ShipBob crushes it in both areas. 

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Written By:

Shannon Callarman is a Content Marketing Specialist at ShipBob. She researches and writes everything you need to know about the latest trends and best practices in ecommerce.

Read all posts written by Shannon Callarman