By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
Many people collect stamps, comic books and trading cards. Juliette Nelson collects glasses. While working in South Korea several years ago, she found that she could buy various styles and colors of eyeglass frames to match her wardrobe without stretching her wallet. At one point, Nelson had almost 20 different pairs.
Eventually, she decided that the next pair of glasses she would buy would be one she designed herself. Nelson launched NURILENS in 2020 to supply handcrafted wooden eyeglasses with blue-light blocking lenses.
“Our mantra is to see through the lens of your purpose,” said Nelson, founder and CEO of NURILENS. “For me, the goal of designing the frames is to allow people to step out as their best selves, really celebrate people for who they are and allow them to step out of the box and show their authenticity.”
While Nelson cannot remember exactly why she landed on wooden frames, she does not regret the decision. Her use of wood as opposed to metal makes her eyewear environmentally sustainable.
She also learned that wood symbolizes growth and longevity, which speaks to NURILENS’ purpose of encouraging customers to envision and pursue their goals through their eyeglass frames.
Nelson specifically ensured that her lenses would filter blue light rays, which are commonly emitted from digital devices. These rays tend to cause eye strain and negatively affect sleep patterns. The lenses are also ultrahydrophobic so they are water and oil resistant, which makes them much easier to clean.
As a child of Afro-Caribbean immigrants, Nelson has used NURILENS to advocate for better eye health for African American communities.
According to the National Eye Institute, African Americans are at increased risk of developing cataract, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, a diabetes complication that causes vision loss and blindness.
“There’s not enough insight that is pushed through my community and other African American communities in general about the importance of keeping up to date with your eye health because it impacts the entire ecosystem that is the human body,” said Nelson. “NURILENS has a dedication to ensuring that we’re also providing information.”
NURILENS’ best-selling glasses are the Montego Bay Oak, a nod to the Jamaican city, and the 1804 Kevazingo, which commemorates the year that Haiti became the world’s first Black republic.
Currently, customers can shop for the wooden frames online, but Nelson is looking into bringing her frames to brick-and-mortar stores. She also hopes to inspire students to study optometry and ophthalmology.
“What I would love is really for NURILENS to continue to grow in being that resource that not only sells glasses but provides the resources and tools so that people are making better decisions about their vision health,” said Nelson.
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