Dive into the world of the CEV Collection with Jamal Robinson. Jamal shares his humble beginnings in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to creating a globally recognized eyewear brand. Jamal’s journey is a masterclass in innovation and diversity. Discover how his vision for business and philanthropy comes to life through CEV’s culturally inspired designs and strategic collaborations, including a notable partnership with cultural icon Dame Dash. Prepare for an inspiring story that melds entrepreneurial spirit with a commitment to diversity, setting a new standard in the eyewear industry. Join us for a captivating conversation that’s not just about eyewear but about making a real impact.
Key Objectives :
Discovering Jamal Robinson: A Journey from Fort Wayne to CEV Collection
Dr. Darryl Glover:
I always like to start by understanding who I’m talking to. Where are you from? Where did you receive your education? And, if you don’t mind sharing, perhaps a fun fact about yourself, my man.
I love that. My name is Jamal Robinson, and I’m the co-founder of CEV Collection, originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana. We’ll delve into this a bit later, but my co-founder is also from Fort Wayne. I attended Northrop High School, which I consider the best. After high school, I played college soccer and obtained my degree from W.G.U. Indiana. That’s where my story begins, and we’ll dive deeper during the show. A fun fact about me—well, actually, about my wife—is that she’s the great-granddaughter of the last Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, making her a princess of Ethiopia.
Jamal’s Vision: Changing the World Through Business and Philanthropy
Dr. Darryl Glover:
Let’s get this ball rolling, man. Today, I really want to dive into your life, Jamal. To start, let’s discuss your ‘why’. What drives you?
My vision is to change the world through business and philanthropy by creating global enterprises. This enables others to live their dream through our company’s mission. The primary focus is to change the world, using business and philanthropy as my vehicles. This involves enabling others to fulfill their potential through our company’s mission. It all stems from working with people who believe in what they do, whether they’re designers or creatives. When they join our team, they’re embracing that vision. That’s my overarching vision, my reason for doing what I do. I firmly believe everyone has the opportunity to make the world a better place, one person at a time. That’s what drives me; it’s my North Star, the essence of who I am as an individual.
Building The CEV Collection: The Story Behind the Brand
Dr. Darryl Glover:
I think that’s also a part of the CEV collection. How does that all come together as well?
I ran my first company for about ten years. My business partner in CEV Collection, Jalen Smith, and I are both from Fort Wayne, Indiana. A mutual connection, Mike Alito, who is Jalen’s business manager and one of my good friends, brought us together. Mike runs a family office practice for athletes called Rise Sports Advisors. He knew about my previous eyewear company and had a mentee, Jalen Smith, a football player from Notre Dame, who embraced the mantra “Clear Eye View.”
Jalen is entrepreneurial, and he and Michael were exploring opportunities related to his mantra. When Michael learned about my background, he thought it was the perfect time to connect us.
We had two options: Jalen could join my previous company, or we could start something new. We started a new venture, as my previous one had been running for about ten years. Jalen, known as one of the best college football players, suffered a significant injury in his last game against Ohio State. However, his mantra, clear eye view, which embodies focused vision, determined belief, and earned dreams, helped him persevere. This became the foundation of our brand, CEV Collection.
Jalen recovered from his injury and was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. He’s been in the NFL for about 7-8 years now and recently signed with the Las Vegas Raiders. This collaboration was perfectly timed. When I met Jalen, I knew immediately he was good people, similar to the chemistry we have, Dr. Glover. Our relationship is a perfect balance, and we’ve achieved amazing things with a bright future ahead.
The CEV Collection Partnerships for Growth: Navigating the Eyewear Industry
I saw a Forbes article about Shaq’s successful eyewear business as part of his business portfolio. I contacted ABG and expressed my interest in speaking with the person managing Shaq’s eyewear business. They directed me to James Shyer. I met with James at a Vision Expo, possibly the one where we first met, Dr. Glover. He was incredibly open and supportive, saying he liked what we were doing and that we should stay in touch.
A few years later, to scale up, we partnered with Zyloware, one of the oldest and most established suppliers in the market, to help build out our optical line. The journey so far underscores the importance of relationships and alignment with the right partners in retail and business. This synergy is what has brought us to this point.
Dr. Darryl Glover:
I wouldn’t be where I am today without some fantastic mentors. I love everything you’re doing, my friend. I want to discuss the importance of suppliers with diverse backgrounds or bringing a diverse flavor to the frame board. This seems especially relevant in the current climate, as I believe patients are demanding it. Could you share your perspective on this from CEV’s viewpoint? I think it would help eyecare professionals and optical shops understand and address any gaps in their practice.
I appreciate that. CEV Collection’s vision is to empower everyone to see their true selves. Our brand DNA is to create elevated eyewear with culturally inspired designs. Consumers are increasingly interested in the story behind the product. They prefer brands that give back and have diverse ownership or a mission beyond just making a profit. Our industry needs to recognize that our clientele is diverse.
We’re serving a global community, and it’s vital for businesses to listen to their customers and respond accordingly. Having diverse representation in suppliers reflects the world we live in. It’s essential to examine how businesses spend their money, especially considering the socioeconomic disparities highlighted by events like the murder of George Floyd in 2020. We need to be intentional about investing in minority and diverse suppliers. This is about more than just business; it’s about leveling the playing field and acknowledging past shortcomings.
It’s crucial for businesses to diversify their spending, from lab equipment to service technicians to frames and contractors. Once people become aware of these disparities, they often make positive changes. Our industry is friendly and cooperative, and this attitude can help drive change. The commitments and pledges made by large corporations in 2020 reflect a growing awareness and responsibility to make the world a better place.
Iconic Collaborations: The CEV Collection and Dame Dash’s Eyewear Venture
Dr. Darryl Glover:
I need to know if it was your dream to collaborate with Dame Dash. I know you recently started a podcast, and it seems like you’re using it as a platform to create partnerships. But I won’t steal the thunder for those who might not know Dame Dash.
I appreciate that. Yes, our dream was to engage in a major collaboration like this. Dame Dash is a cultural icon and a significant part of black culture globally. He co-founded Rockefeller Records with Jay-Z, who is married to Beyoncé for those unfamiliar with Jay-Z. Jay-Z is, well, a billionaire.
Right, and Dame was his co-founder, along with another partner. Dame was pivotal in growing the business into a global brand and was instrumental in developing Rocawear, Roc Films, and the movie “Paid in Full.” Dame has always been an independent thinker and someone who encourages others not to sell themselves short. Collaborating with him on a limited line of sunglasses was a perfect fit. My wife actually invited me to a private dinner where I met him and his team. We instantly hit it off, similar to our chemistry.
I suggested they should let me know if they were ever interested in sunglasses. About a year ago, at Vision Expo East in New York, we met up and talked about business and life. It led to us working together on an exclusive frame now available on our website. The collaboration has been so successful that we have a second release planned for Q1 of 2024.
CEV’s focus is on creating elevated eyewear with culturally inspired designs, and working with a cultural icon like Dame was a perfect match. Collaborating with him and his team has been an exciting and rewarding experience.