Business to Know

Business to KnowTom Stewart, co-founder of Sunski Sunglsses, shares his story of launching his company, his lessons learned along the way, his advice for other entrepreneurs and where he loves to eat, drink, hike and surf in San Francisco, California as part of the Dirt Road Travels city travel guide for San Francisco.

San Francisco, California

Sunski Sunglasses

"The Australia surf trip was pivotal for me and Sunski, as if it was the ultimate intersection of passion and fate."

Recommendations:
Surf Ocean Beach
Hike Lands End
Golden Gate Park
The De Young Museum
Conservatory of Flowers
Surf Fort Point
Saint Frank Coffee
Outerlands
Hook Fish Co

Sunski Sunglasses

"The Australia surf trip was pivotal for me and Sunski, as if it was the ultimate intersection of passion and fate."

Recommended by:
  
Tom Stewart, Co-Founder of Sunski

My Story

"This started as purely a love of the ocean.

My dad grew up as a lifeguard in a house my grandfather built in the 1950s in a frontier beach town in New Jersey. It was a humble, special place.

I spent a ton of time down there as a kid, and there was a real frontier feel. I still remember the wildness of it. It was this incredible place for a young boy to be in awe of the natural environment. My dad got me on a surfboard and I was infatuated with waves. I just wanted to surf and be in the water.

That love of the outdoors faded in college just because of getting wrapped up in other things and as I came out of school I started to think a little bit more about the outdoors. 'What's it all for? What's the most important thing? How do I want to arrange my day and how do I want to live life as a free adult out of school?'

I come from a very humble and incredibly supportive family. My grandfather was a master craftsmen pattern maker, my dad was the first to go to college and get a masters, and he and my mom doubled down yet again so that my brothers and I could go to the best schools they could find. 

The curiosity of faraway places was there from a young age. We always dreamed of travel, and we were lucky enough to take a few special trips when I was a kid that opened my eyes to the world at large. My parents built the beginnings of this approach to life that I'm now trying to live out to the fullest. Maybe it's just the idyllic American journey of living to the highest level, experiencing life beyond the transactional, and reaching a higher level of fulfillment. They never put it in those words of course, but in retrospect it's clear how much momentum they gave me for this pursuit. 

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After I graduated, I went on a surf trip to Australia. 

It was a grade A surf trip. It was a totally new experience - just a road trip cruising with nowhere to go. We had no plans. It was just a guidebook, a rental car, two surfboards that we bought for $200, a couple fishing rods and a cooler.

We drove around for three months just peeking around corners, setting up our tents and surfing. It was the Pacific Ocean, so there's serious surf there: real waves, power, excitement, awe, fear.

It was just such an incredible, freeing experience. I learned so much about how important surfing and the ocean was to my well-being. I found myself really grounded in that activity and just the sheer love for it that I knew that I had deep down.

Surfing's a self-preservation system, one that drives why we get up in the morning. I love the idea of being able to experience my outdoor passions on a daily basis without it taking away from my work. It means changing the expectation that they're not a reward or something only for weekends, but rather an integral part of your daily existence. It's part of what you do, part of how you plan your time, and ultimately what makes me feel most empowered to achieve success personally and professionally.

I do my best work when I'm kind of following my instincts that first came out on that surf trip. Australia was so important to me just for that reason, not to mention the fact that on the fifth day of the trip I wandered into a thrift store and bought five pairs of vintage sunglasses that would be the inspiration for Sunski today. No matter how you slice it, my Australia trip was pivotal for the Sunski story. It was kind of like the ultimate intersection of passion and fate, a mix of outdoor adventure, product discovery, and lessons for a life lived to the fullest."

 

My Advice for Others

"When you talk about living life to the fullest, the biggest thing was finding out what I liked to do for fun before I decided what I was going to do for work. I don't give much advice, but that's one piece I feel strongly about: try to find what you love to do for fun before you decide what you'll do for work. If those two things can overlap or be one in the same, you can be on top of the world. 

Thanks to graduating during a recession when there wasn't much to do for a college grad, I got to pursue other things like music, travel and adventure right after I left school. I learned a lot about what fulfills me before I went out into the workplace and before I was presented with job opportunities. I worked as a bartender for years, just grinding and figuring it out. 

If I took an office job immediately after graduation I'd have had no time for self-learning about what really mattered to me. 

Even if you're 22 or 23, there's a lot that's expected of you when the paychecks are at a certain level, and there's no time for that personal development.

Just give yourself that time to figure out what really makes you want to get up in the morning. You'll have that north star you've nurtured in tandem with your professional life, and things will be in better balance. 

What I Love Most about San Francisco

"San Francisco really has it all. It's on the beach, you can surf or ski every weekend, and it's an incredible city. I'm just enamored by this place. It's a cultural icon and cosmopolitan beacon and it's just surrounded by some of the most incredible nature in the world. It's the epicenter of the entrepreneurial spirit in America. There's just so much here, it's insane to me still. I wake up every day in awe of what is around this peninsula. I've just been peeling the onion day after day for 6 years now, falling more in love with this city. It's the perfect blend of city, culture and the great outdoors."

My San Francisco Musts

"From a surf perspective, Ocean Beach is my favorite place, which is at the westernmost part of Golden Gate Park in the Outer Sunset where our office is. There's incredible hiking through Sutro Baths into Lands End and up towards the Golden Gate Bridge. Golden Gate Park, the Central Park of San Francisco, has the de Young Museum, Conservatory of Flowers, and hundreds of other hidden treasures. 

My favorite cappuccino is at Saint Franks in Russian Hill. Favorite neighborhood restaurant in the Outer Sunset has to be Outerlands. There's also a fantastic new seafood spot called Hook Fish Co that's a definite must."

Sunski Sunglasses

Links:

WebsiteSocialYelp
Sunski Sunglasses
 Location
Tom Stewart
Sunski Sunglasses
San Francisco
 Map
Surf Ocean Beach
"There's fantastic surf at Ocean Beach. Just don't tell too many people about it."
-122.51073400000001
37.75939210000001
Hike Lands End
"A rocky coastline with views out to the Golden Gate Bridge."
-122.51157999999998
37.7797129
Golden Gate Park
"The hippy ethos still lives on in that bubble around Golden Gate Park."
-122.43444340000002
37.7792586
The De Young Museum
"A true masterpiece of a building."
-122.46867550000002
37.771469
Conservatory of Flowers
"An incredible greenhouse filled with beautiful flowers."
-122.46024820000002
37.772608
Surf Fort Point
"There's a surf spot under Golden Gate Bridge that's not for the faint of heart."
-122.47825510000001
37.8199286
Saint Frank Coffee
"The best cappuccino in San Francisco."
-122.41028940000001
37.7794661
Outerlands
"Just take the leap, and you’ll figure everything out."
-122.5050273
37.7602623
Hook Fish Co
"All sustainably sourced, rod and reel caught fish that's really tasty."
-122.50690259999999
37.76238070000001
Sunski Sunglasses
"The Australia surf trip was pivotal for me and Sunski, as if it was the ultimate intersection of passion and fate."
-122.50886500000001
37.761058

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