And just like that, something happens that can change your life and the lives of others forever…
For Omaha’s James Hermsen, a carpenter by trade, it was that moment he stepped on and broke his glasses while helping a friend frame a straw-bale house. With a cordless drill in hand, he fixed his glasses and kept working. But, that was not the end of it.
“When you’re a carpenter, you’re trying to figure things out, you’re working with different materials. I’ve applied those techniques to eyewear,” he says. “I just kept expanding on the concept by continually refining it, modifying it, trying different parts and pieces. That’s how I invented the glasses” – and came to found Spokiz (pronounced spoke-eyes), an innovative eyewear company that eventually supplanted carpentry as James’s full-time focus.
Spokiz patented glasses are hinge-less, instead utilizing a band that contours to the user’s head and prevents sliding, making it ideal for action sports, active lifestyles and special needs applications. “If you live and love hard, Spokiz are for you.” (They’re sold at a number of outlets around the country, including almost three dozen dealers in Nebraska and Iowa.)
“It’s a niche brand and it has a cult following,” says James, who operates out of tool- and parts-filled office in the Hot Shops Art Center.
“I had a woman call me from Alaska who’s going to paddle in the Grand Canyon, and she wants a pair that will fit underneath her helmet. A lot of people reach out to me who have heard of me and it’s a lot of word of mouth.”
More recently, James has followed the Spokiz path to a new area of focus – a head strap designed for surgical magnifying eyewear.
“Anyone practicing in the operating room can benefit from this strap. It pulls the weight off the nose and the ears and displaces it to the back of the head,” James says.
The Suh-Hermsen Ergonomic Surgical Loup Head Strap relieves strain, including back and neck pain, and fatigue for surgeons, clearing the way for more accurate and efficient procedures. It was developed in partnership with UNeMed, the technology transfer and commercialization office for the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
That’s not the only invention that James has collaborated on with Dr. Donny Suh, Chief of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Adult Strabismus Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. They also developed the Suh-HermsenMedical Eyewear Adapter, a game-changing innovation for children with microtia and other facial anomalies.
“I had the background in construction and was able to manifest the design into a working model. Dr. Suh put research behind it,” James says.
Now internationally-known, their glasses were first presented at ARVO’s (Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology) International Eye Research Meeting in May 2016. Since then, “I’m guessing we’ve helped close to 150-200 patients,” James says.
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