Jamaican-Born Woman Teams with Best Friend to Start Eyewear Brand in the U.S.

Nancey Harris - Jamaican-Born Woman Teams with Best Friend to Start Eyewear Brand in the US

When friends Nancey Harris and Tracy Green compared notes and discovered they’d each lost their expensive glasses within a year of getting them, it was the eureka moment that led to the formation of Vontélle Eyewear.

Launched in October 2020, the startup is completely self-funded. Harris is the COO and Green is the CEO of Vontélle Eyewear. They named the company after Green’s middle name, that in French translates to “you go” or “there she goes.” Vontélle Eyewear features 37 unique ethnic patterns that cater to Black women and reflects African, Caribbean and Latin cultures. Harris is Jamaican-born and Green is of Latin descent.

“The person who most inspires me is my mother, Rose, who has a work ethic unlike any other person that I’ve ever known,” said Harris to Jamaicans.com. “She tells me stories about how she began working in her father’s restaurant in Montego Bay when she was 13. She came to America to create a better life for her family and recently retired at 72. My goal has always been to make her proud.”

Harris and Green wanted to replace their lost eyewear from a Black-owned brand and discovered they couldn’t find anything that was fashionable, stylish, and had an ethnic flair. They decided to launch their own brand and the two attended an industry eyewear show in Paris where they found that there were no African-American designers.

Rwanda Wayfarers with Mask

Rwanda Wayfarers with Mask

Launched during the pandemic, it wasn’t COVID-19 that presented the biggest challenges for the brand. The eyeglass industry is dominated exclusively by European and Asian males. Even at the Paris event, few African-Americans were present. Designers and manufacturers the founders spoke with didn’t understand their vision, didn’t want to work with Black women, and some sought to take advantage by overcharging.

Vontélle Eyewear is already hard at work creating their Fall/Winter Collection 2021-2022. In addition to its popular patterns of Kente cloth and Latin prints, some of the new designs will incorporate wood and other types of materials that celebrate African culture. Prices are affordable, ranging from $99-$349. In addition to sunglasses, the company also fills prescriptions.

“Although I have worked as a successful sales executive in corporate America, I always knew I’d take the entrepreneurial path,” said Harris. “There were two choices; I could either work tirelessly for someone else or blaze my own trail and create my own success story and legacy.”

Kente Collection Green and Mask

Kente Collection Green and Mask

The exclusive brand has partnered with WIN (Women in Need), to provide a portion of proceeds and eyewear to women and families in need. WIN is a New York-based organization that’s the largest provider of family shelter and supportive housing in the city with 12 shelters. The brand also has plans to collaborate with optometrists to offer free eye exams and provide eyewear.

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Photo Source: Nancey Harris photos by Darren Talent. Product shots – Matt Frisbie

About the author

Denise Lee