Hey, my name is Joseph Wood and I am the founder of Native Shades Wooden Sunglasses and Watch Co. I am sure the title of this article will grab some peoples attention, some in a good way and others unfortunately in a not so good way. Yes as your assuming I was in prison at one point in my life and I also know that in the world we live in this knowledge may bring about assumptions regarding my character `and questions regarding the integrity of my company Native Shades. Hopefully this article will change those peoples minds. I also realize that some people may have been through similar situations or have loved ones who have. Hopefully this article can give those people inspiration and hope for the future of themselves or people they know that may have been incarcerated or are going through any struggles in life that may leave them feeling imprisoned either mentally or physically. I am hoping with this article to of course bring notice to Native Shades but also to help interpret what the Native Shades message really is.
Since I was a kid I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur, that or a basketball player (still working on it). Don't worry I'm not about to tell my whole life story. I am going to have to spill a bit though to get the full message across. So naturally growing up I have always been trying different business ventures and ways to invest money. Unfortunately along the way, as a lot of people can understand, life didn't go as planed. In short like most people I have experienced good times in my life as well as some not so good times. We can probably all agree we would rather not experience these not so good times if we don't have to. However sometimes these "bad times" can turn out to be the biggest blessings. For me what I thought was one of the worst times in my life ended up having a major influence on me starting the company Native Shades and the message behind it.
That period in my life I am referring to is the times I was incarcerated or "locked up". Yes I said times! Apparently I don't learn the first time. Like I said, without telling my whole life story I will try to sum it all up to my last "stint" of 3 and a half years that I did. Up until my teenage years I did very well in school and never really got into much trouble. Outside of school however I was exposed to some more harsh realities of life at an early age such as drug addiction within my family. I grew up with divorced parents and lived with my mother who battled her own addiction and so did my father. Both parents loved me though they had their problems so I don't want it to seem like I had a horrible childhood. What I experienced in childhood however is in no way an excuse for my choices that got me incarcerated however it may have had an influence.
The first time I got "locked up" was when I was 15 years old for running from the cops because I had weed on me. Shortly after that I was sent to a wilderness program and later a residential treatment center (all lasting about a year) after my mom lost custody of me and my little sister for failing a drug test. At this point I started questioning a lot about God and why me this time when I was actually trying to do good and I also felt my mom didn't deserve that. She never used in front of me and I understand her use may have had a lot to do with my former step dad and her divorce from him because of his use of drugs. Anyways during this time is really when I started reading a lot more and learning about a lot of subjects like meditation and self help stuff that was very useful later on.
My mom and dad soon worked out there differences and worked with DFACS(deparment of family and children services) and got us back and out of there. I started doing real good again in school but soon a lot of what I read and learned faded and I started hanging out with old friends and started getting in situations I knew I shouldn't be in. After being back in regular life and starting back high school I soon naturally like some of my other friends wanted a car. I also wanted nice clothes and to be able to go do some of the activities that my other friends were able to do. However my parents did not have the type of money to give me. So to have all this of course I got job. When my patience wore thin and the job wasn't getting me what I wanted quick enough, being the entrepreneur that I am, I had the bright idea to start selling weed (that's sarcasm by the way). What I ended up getting was a beat up old Ford Taurus and a fresh intent to distribute charge.
After that I had to do a few months in jail and then got out and had to complete a program called drug court. When I went to jail my mom did not take it well at all and I will regret it the rest of my life. She started back using and suffered from severe depression. When I got out and started drug court my mom soon after suffered a major accident when she feel down the stairs causing severe brain damage that almost killed her. I soon feel into a depression my self and started drinking a lot and hanging out with my friends all night when I had a curfew for drug court. I ended up in and out of jail for violation after violation for not being home and failing breathalyzers. I never prayed so hard in my life for my mom to make it and she did. She came out of a coma and I was able to spend another year with her.
While I was in drug court I ended up getting sent to a half way house for my violations. While there I was given a pass home for Christmas. The day after Christmas I woke up to check on my mom and found her passed away from what was believed an accidental overdose from the medications she was taking for her injuries. After that I feel into a very deep depression and started drinking more than ever while still in drug court and soon found my self in and out of jail again until finally I was sent to prison. One night instead of going home for my drug court curfew I decided to stay out and drink. I ended up drinking with some friends that night and was asked to give another friend a ride home since I hadn't drink near as much as him. I figured no problem since I was just getting started and only had a couple drinks. That ride ended up leading to my tire blowing out us going into a ditch and myself and friends going to the hospital for injuries. We did all recover but when drug court found out about the accident I was arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
That day the world collapsed on me. The woman that loved me more than anything in the world was gone, my family and friends slowly had disappeared the months leading up to court, and 12 years honestly felt like a lifetime at 21. As far as I knew anything could happen in prison within that time which could turn into a lifetime. That was the closest I came to suicide though I soon snapped out of that mind set. Im not going to get to heavy into the details of what prison is like so I can cover the more important points for the sake of this article. Yes it is a bad place and you have to worry about violence and what not however what I did learn is that you can make use of your time no matter were you are.
I started to think about my mom a lot and how it would hurt her so much to see me in a place like this. I thought of friends as well and other people my age going to college and starting their lives and new families. I honestly was envious and jealous. While every one was out their living their lives I was going to be sitting in a cell for the next 12 years. I soon began to read a lot to pass the time as a lot of prisoners do. The stuff that I read about and learned when I was younger in the wilderness program started to come back. I started to pick up more books on a more "conscious" level. One book in particular though set off a big change in me and that was The Ageless Body and Timeless Mind by Deepak Chopra. That book spoke a lot about everything being energetic beings, the unlimited potential of our consciousness and how we are all connected. I began to get a lot better understanding of what all the meditation and stuff I learned about when I was younger was saying. I ended up reading more books by him however after that I started to pick up all types of books I normally wouldn't read. I soon started observing my situation more and trying to be in the "now". I saw how even in prison the choices made in any moment could greatly effect what will happen what happens next and way into the future.
I soon started focusing more on my health and what I wanted to do with my life when I did get out of prison. I soon began to accept my situation and tried to make the best of it. I started working out more though I did play a lot of basketball before which kept me in somewhat decent shape. I also gave up smoking and stayed away from drugs( yes smoking and drugs are in prison ). I started to read more on all types of subjects that might be useful later on in life. I made it a rule to myself anytime I went to the library to get a fictional book for entertainment and a educational book to prepare for the future. I seemed to be more and more drawn to a lot of ancient spiritual teachings. I read stuff on zen, shamanism, taoism, eastern medicine, native american medicine and a lot more. I kept having the question that almost all of these books addressed what am I truly and what is life and death. I started to see what they where saying that this "self" is more than just our body. I saw that myself and every other human have a lot more potential than we know.
So Im going to fast forward it some. After being in prison some months I ended up in contact with an attorney that was going to represent me in the beginning however because the money was not available I was represented by a public defender. The attorney said that my sentence was a little to the extreme and told me how to file a sentence reduction hearing. She ended up actually representing me and got my sentence reduced to five years so I ended up serving 3 and half and was paroled out. Leading up to getting out I actually started to become nervous because now I felt like I got my life back after finding out I was not going to be serving the next 12 years in prison. After I got out I told myself whatever I did not to forget what I had learned and to keep the good habits I had developed.
After being released It was overwhelming at first. I was sleeping on my grand parents couch, had no job, my license suspended for two more years and on top of that was now a convicted felon. I Immediately new I had to get a Job and I did within a week. However I realized I could get a job however getting a good job was a different story. I remember subway ended up backing out of hiring me the day after telling me I was hired due to my record. I figured going to college might at least improve my chances which i soon found out my record limited as well after trying to go into the health field. So I ended up studying business and basically working fast food and labor jobs for the next couple years. During these two years I started researching more on the internet about about ways to make money and start businesses online. I tried my hand at a few things such as selling college texbooks online as well as starting a health website with a bunch of information that lacked a plan to monetize. I ended up trying several other businesses just for side incomes while I worked a minimum wage job as well to make ends meat.
After a while I kept coming across a website called Oberlo which allowed people to drop ship products from another website Ali Express on to your own website. Basically you are selling a wholesalers product for them and marking up the price and collecting the profit. So after seeing it over and over I started to watch a lot of videos on Youtube about drop shipping. I ended up giving it a try and started to research products to sell. After coming up with a list of trending products for some reason wooden sunglasses stuck out. I did a lot of research as far as how much competition their was and how often wooden sunglasses were being searched for online. After that I decided to come up with a name. After a bunch of contemplation I came up with Native Shades. I wanted a name with some meaning and to me it represented the teachings that inspired me in prison as well as the natural material the product was made of.
After getting my first few sales and seeing that there were actually some really cool sunglasses I started pursing it a lot more. I started learning about online advertising and website seo which led me to starting a blog on the website. Soon I realized I not could only make an extra income with this I could also do something positive with it. I figured I could provide a cool looking product and I could also drop information about some of the stuff I learned in the blog at the same time. I began to see many other creative ways to promote a cool product and at the same time encourage a healthier lifestyle.
After researching different styles of sunglasses to add to my website I soon discovered wooden watches as well. Realizing the two just went together I ended up making both available on the website and I am glad I did. After adding the watches I soon saw more sales for the watches than the sunglasses. I began to look more into my competitors and discovered their are some real quality wood watches out there that you don't find in a lot of jewelry or department stores. I soon saw a lot of my suppliers offered branding and allowed your companies logo to be engraved on the products. I soon did this but the problem with that was that people would still be able to find the same exact product just with a different logo. So I started digging deeper into suppliers and found craftsmen that can do full customization and designs unique to your brand. I soon started sending my ideas and what I was looking for in the watches and sunglasses back and fourth with manufacturers. I told myself if Im going to do this I might as well do it right and try to provide some of the best quality products.
So here I am I have been in business over a year and half now and still progressing. This is a message of motivation. This is for the people that have obstacles every day in life in hopes that you don't give up and no matter how many times you fall keep getting up and doing it better and better each time. Hopefully this article can give some inspiration from my story and shed light on the Native Shades message. The message is one of growth and receiving nourishment from the storms that you face in life just like everything else in nature. This isn't a message that I have reached success because only you can determine what success is. To me success is not something that can be achieved in a materialistic sense , it is more of a mindset. Some of the so called "most successful" people in life have many similar traits which stem from consistency and not giving up. I have found many people are going to want you to give up and will not like what your doing no matter what it is. These are the times when true strength is born and when i believe the growing phase takes place. I recently made a post on reddit that blew up briefly and ended up on the front page of reddit. The post was basically the shorter version of this article and was and "Ask Me Anything" post. It was soon taken down because of inadequate proof of who I actually was. I learned a lot from that post though. While many people showed support and liked the post and the message behind it I also received a lot of criticism. Apparently there are a lot of people that can't stand drop shipping. I was called a scam artist, fraud, a scumbag , and many other names. I do suspect some of it may have been a competitor. However their were also people completely offended I was a former prisoner. Someone accused me of having kidnapping charges and aggravated assault charges. Though with a lot of positive comments and questions and enough up votes to go to the front page I cannot deny the negative comments bothered me. The point is that this happens to people constantly when they are chasing their dreams and have a vision or goal.
Hopefully over time Native Shades can reach more and more people an send a message of inspiration and overcoming adversity. So enough about me below is a link to the newest styles and collections available on Kickstarter. Thanks for any support and hope this article gives some hope to those overcoming and facing life's trials and tribulations!
Written by Joseph Wood, founder of Native Shades Wooden Sunglasses and Watch Co.