We often refer to operating successfully as being “focused.” Jennifer Michelsen just happens to take that stance literally. In her early career, Jennifer worked in the biotech industry, did media planning and was even a correspondent for a Swiss medical device manufacturer. She transitioned into marketing for large investment companies, and eventually retired young to become a full-time mom.
Homelife was bliss, until Jennifer’s husband Matt Michelsen began having problems stemming from Computer Vision Syndrome, and the couple decided to take action. Jennifer and Matt teamed up with former Oakley eyewear GM Joe Croft to create products that would help future generations of computer addicts and gaming fanatics. In 2006, Gunnar Optiks was born.
As a marketing guru, mother and wife, Jennifer prioritizes all things with pleasantly intense balance. Whether she’s tweeting vital promotions for Gunnar, rolling red carpet-style with celebrity endorsers, cooking dinner for her kids or keeping all her family appointments, Jennifer is all about focus.
UrbLife.com recently gathered some insight from Jennifer Michelsen’s wealth of knowledge, as she discussed inspirations and anxieties that entrepreneurs face, and how she manages to keep her eyes on the prize at all times!
Tell us about Gunnar Optiks and your role in the company.
Jennifer Michelsen: Years ago, my husband was diagnosed with Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). We were relieved that his symptoms were not due to a more serious health issue. The solution offered at that time was reading glasses. We discussed the issue with our good friend, Joe Croft, formerly at Oakley, and together in 2006, we co-founded Gunnar Optiks.
In October 2008, after years of RD&D, working with the medical and optical communities, finding the best solution and using next generation materials and technology, we launched Gunnar Optiks eyewear. Our eyewear is designed specifically for use when viewing digital devices. Our off-the-shelf and RX eyewear is a preventive measure for computer eye strain. We are dedicated to bringing awareness to the issue of visual health and how it relates to our digital world. We are committed to making sure the future is bright!
What was your biggest inspiration to become an entrepreneur?
JM: We were inspired to start Gunnar because we are passionate about vision and committed to making sure the future is bright for generations to come! When my son Gunnar was 3-years-old, we sat down at the computer to Google coloring pages from a television show and he said, “It’s at PBSKIDS.org.” In that moment, I realized that my children’s generation will be on some form of digital device, starting at an early age, for longer hours than we ever were.
Gunnar’s generation is born digital. The statistics for amount of time spent on a digital device for ages 3+ are staggering. Consider the visual ramifications to his generation, as well as those of us that are already completely ‘wired’?
What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever had to overcome to move forward in your career?
JM: The biggest challenge I have faced is admitting that I am not Superwoman. It is difficult to acknowledge limitations, but I have found it easier to overcome obstacles once I did.
If you could go back in time and give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
JM: Just one? Haha! My advice would be to slow down and enjoy life.
What are some factors that you think hold people back from success in running their own companies?
JM: People are generally held back or even defeated by not having a clear vision of business objectives and a well-defined mission. It is impossible to be all things to all people. We haved turned down very attractive opportunities because they are not in line with our objectives. In order to be successful, you have to stay focused – no pun intended!
How do you balance running a company and having a family? Do you have any special guidelines or philosophies you live by for balance?
JM: My children are my priority and my family always comes first. It is not easy to balance everything, but I am fortunate to have an amazing team at Gunnar and I have flexibility with my schedule.
What is an average day in your life like, start to finish?
JM: My average day is a race from start to finish: Wake up before dawn to throw on my Gunnars and workout while reading through all my news sources, emails, social media and voicemail – thank you iPad! Wake up my kids, make breakfast, lunches, snacks; get them ready and off to school, camp, etc. My days are generally filled with meetings, calls, travel and more meetings!
Pick up my kids, and begin after school sports, activites, homework; while I continue my emails and calls. We unplug from 5:00 until our kids go to bed. Once the kids are asleep, I finish work and spend time with my husband. On the weekends we ‘try’ to relax and enjoy family and friends.
Throw in the occassional studio time with Snoop Dogg, courtesy of DJ Whoo Kid; movie set with 50 Cent; Hollywood awards show or Las Vegas hacker conference and you have my life in a nutshell…
What do you have coming up for your company for the rest of 2010?
JM: We recently released our 3D line of eyewear and are preparing for the launch of our Artist Collections and new styles and colors. In collaboration with MadCatz, we will release limited edition eyewear for Call of Duty: Black Ops later this year.
We are working on several co-designing projects and will be making some big announcements soon. People can check out our events, product releases, announcements and news via our website at gunnars.com. Along with the rest of the free world, we are also on Facebook and Twitter.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps, as an entrepreneur, wife and mother?
JM: Believe in yourself. Surround yourself with positive and supportive people. Persevere. Work your a$$ off. Have fun!