When Chiquita Searle lost 80 per cent of her income in 10 days a few years ago, she decided it was "really dangerous" to only have one source of money coming in.

A huge deal for her PR agency turned into a "dodgy client" who wouldn't pay up and with her gig the only way to cover the bills she faced a "very scary situation".

The Melbourne resident searched for a side hustle and settled on launching her own eyewear brand, adorned with her name Chiquita.

She started selling sunglasses but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and everyone was in lockdown the sales dropped down to "literally nothing", she said.

She started off selling sunglasses but sales plummeted when the pandemic started. Picture: Supplied
She started off selling sunglasses but sales plummeted when the pandemic started. Picture: Supplied


But then she struck on a new idea. With everyone stuck at home glued to their devices for hours, why not introduce a range of blue light glasses. These are designed with lenses that block or filter out blue light given off from digital screens, which reportedly protects eyes from glare and helps reduce potential damage to the retina.

"People are working from home and not going back to the office and they more aware of eye health and how it can be compromised due to harmful blue light," she told news.com.au. "People also want to look good constantly on Instagram and need something appealing to the eye as well as doing good for the eye."

To make it happen, Ms Searle decided to use the controversial early withdrawal scheme and take out $20,000 from her super, despite her accountant strongly advocating against it.

More than $37 billion was taken from retirement funds through the Federal Government's early release of superannuation scheme.

Ms Searle admits because she is self-employed she hadn't put money into her super for almost two years and the withdrawal left the balance under $100,000 - but she isn't worried about retirement.

"I did it as I believe in the business and business idea and it's a solid investment," she explained. "I'm not just going out and spending it on eBay, but investing it in me and my future as I want eyewear to become my main source of income."

She said the $20,000 went quickly too with $6000 spent on stock, $2000 on a photo shoot and $3000 put towards marketing, SEO and Facebook advertising. She also spent $1600 each on two courses on e-commerce and Instagram. A virtual assistance was hired to do influencer outreach too.

She admits that competition is tough with the likes of big brand names like Oscar Wylee, Bailey Nelson and Quay.

The blue light glasses she saw an opportunity for when COVID-19 hit and people started working from home more. Picture: Supplied
The blue light glasses she saw an opportunity for when COVID-19 hit and people started working from home more. Picture: Supplied

 

However, she doesn't regret the investment having sold 200 glasses in the last three months.

It wasn't just about the blue light feature either with frames a major focus of the business.

The 40-year-old had been wearing glasses since she was in high school but felt a lot of "shame" and embarrassment around wearing them, particularly as she didn't think the frame's designs were cool.

It made her see a gap in the Aussie market for bold frames.

"I now wear statement glasses - the bigger the better - but they are always bold," she said

"But when I looked for striking glasses, I struggled to find them. When the opportunity came to design them I thought I don't want to perpetuate the current market, they are boring and have a conservative look for 80-year-olds. I'm going to make statement frames."

She believes the super funds gave her business the boost to grow. Picture: Supplied
She believes the super funds gave her business the boost to grow. Picture: Supplied


Her blue light eyewear costs $199 and comes in two styles, with matt frames more popular than the shiny option.

Future plans include three new designs for the blue light eyewear, being stocked in 50 wholesalers by the end of the year and the ultimate dream is to have her products available at retailer The Iconic.

"I'm going to focus on blue light and transition to that more than sunglasses. People are more concerned about brand wearing with sunglasses, but not with blue lights so there is an opportunity to capitalise on that," she said. "I've only done women's eyewear so far and I get a lot of men contacting me."

Originally published as Woman's risky move with $20k super



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