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Rising Stars: Meet Michael Billingslea

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Billingslea. Them and their team share their story with us below:

Michael Billingslea founded Charlie x Wood initially after destroying a new pair of designer sunglasses while mountain biking. He flipped off the bike on a trail and destroyed the 2-day old prescription shades. In an attempt to salvage the lens, he placed them in frames made from an Amazon box. Although the box didn’t work well, it spurred his interest in creating products with quality that matched the premium price point, ecologically friendly, and socially conscious. 

Our Founder, Michael Billingslea picked Charlie x Wood as a reminder that we all represent more than ourselves, and we have a duty to do it well. The name Charlie is an epicene name intended to be inclusive across genders. 

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Ha! It’s been as smooth as climbing a mountain! It’s not easy to start a business and run it alone. It’s an emotional struggle, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’ve had plenty of days of driving around from store to store and event to event only to be rejected. Way more days filled with rejection than acceptance. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of having a lot of inventory stolen very early on. Being a very positive and optimistic person, I’ve always focused on the upside. So, my inventory was stolen, at least that means people liked it enough to take it. Granted I hope that never happens again. 

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
My background is in retailing, in fact, I have a degree in it. My career has been primarily focused on the grocery industry leveraging insights and analytics to be an effective category manager. I’m one of the few people that were able to get a degree in something that I’ve loved for decades. I’m proud of my ability to accurately see the needs of the customer base that I serve. 

What matters most to you? Why?
We are dedicated to finding partners that will allow us to create beautiful products, contribute to our community and grow our local economy. We are focused on hiring and training from socially and economically disadvantaged communities providing them with lifelong skills that they can use to contribute and compete in today’s society. We will continue to extend opportunities to diverse individuals that are often not given a fair opportunity to learn and grow in a stable, welcoming work environment. 

I believe that if given the opportunity to be successful we can all be successful. It’s important to me because of the lack of diverse opportunity that’s readily available to people from the communities that I came from. 

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