Mixing Business and Pleasure, an Entrepreneurial Success
Sebastian Cabrera knows firsthand what it’s like to have it all, then lose it all.
When the recession hit in late 2008, “everything went to the ground.” His parents—who had immigrated to the United States in 2005 were living the American Dream and carrying with them the entrepreneurial spirit that was born in them from their native Bogota, Colombia.
In Colombia, Cabrera’s father was a public administrator and his mother a general surgeon, but they both managed a business in the beauty industry—a niche market that included managing a specialized weight-loss spa and they distributed beauty products via e-commerce throughout several countries in Latin America.
They came to the United States to provide their two sons with the opportunity to get a world-class education in America. But their plan was disrupted by serious road blocks.
“The economic crisis that hit the United States hit us pretty hard. My parents who had been managing their business from America just couldn’t do it. My dad had to quit his job and my parents eventually lost their business. They lost everything. They went from being working professionals to working at a car dealership and moving from a house to a one-bedroom apartment,” said Cabrera.
Despite the struggles of his parents to stay afloat and weather the economic downfall, the experience didn’t taint his hopes of one day becoming an entrepreneur himself and starting his own business. It is for that perseverance that Cabrera was chosen to be Member of the Month, presented by Ford.
After all, if there was one thing Cabrera’s parents held on to after losing everything, was the idea that attaining a solid education in the United States was, in fact, the way toward keeping the American Dream alive.
“It was my parents’ resilience and their idea of being an entrepreneur and the social impact I could create that gave me the motivation I needed to begin,” said Cabrera.
Even though times were tough, his parents helped sustain his education, helping him and his younger brother Felipe obtain a college degree at the University of San Francisco. Cabrera holds a Bachelor of Science degree in international business and a master’s degree in Entrepreneurship and Management.
At 26-years-old, Cabrera, who lives in San Leandro, was recently honored as an ‘Emerging Entrepreneur’ by Silicon Valley Latino Magazine. Just two years ago, he launched OT Optical– an eyewear company specializing in both prescription and trendy eyewear, at a fraction of the cost compared to most, if not all, optical stores.
His inspiration for focusing on eyewear was a result of his many travels throughout Asia and Europe.
“I became a sucker for sunglasses when I was traveling as a graduate student. But, when I started to look at the price tags, I noticed they were really expensive across the board. So when I got back to the United States and after doing some research, I decided to open up my own company,” said Cabrera.
Starting OT Optical was also inspired after having walked into an eyewear store once and noticing that the “nice, polarized lenses” he wanted “were expensive and the frames all looked the same…and wanted something different.”
From the company’s inception, Cabrera has seen both growth and success.
He believes it’s a result of his competitive prices and overall approach in helping reach his customers and fulfill his mission of putting people first.
“I offer prescription sun wear at a fraction of the cost so that both the lenses and the frames are affordable to anyone,” said Cabrera. “It can get really costly when you have to purchase prescription eyewear and that is generally across the industry.”
The eyewear OT Optical offers is diverse, colorful, different and trendy. Most of the lenses and frames are made by independent designers across America and the rest of the globe.
Cabrera wants people to have options in their eyewear by having different colors, designs, shapes and sizes. His company operates via web at OT Optical.com and can be accessed anywhere across America.
With the many collections of eyewear he currently offers, frames and lenses start at only $75—a true bargain for both quality and style.
Cabrera believes his eyewear “will make you look great, give you perfect vision and help your budget too.” With already five employees helping him handle orders including expert help from his mother who oversees all prescriptions—business is headed in the right direction.
Just last year, Cabrera added himself to the group of eyewear designers on his website after being inspired by a lifelong passion that came with him from his native Colombia: futbol.
An avid soccer fan, the sport has played a major role in both his upbringing and way of life. Since the tender age of six, Cabrera spent time on the grassy, green stadiums of Bogota, eventually becoming a top notch player. By the time he was a seventeen, he was recruited to play for the Millionarios Futbol Club–Colombia’s premier professional, division one soccer team.
His dream of becoming a professional soccer player ended when he got injured in his left knee–right around the same time his parents decided to uproot from Colombia and start a new life in the United States. At USF, he continued to play soccer in the positions of fullback and right-back until his injuries returned.
“Soccer was at that time and continues to be my life and it’s in my blood,” said Cabrera.
That’s why when he was introduced to the idea of combining soccer and golf—FOOTGOLF—he was instantly captivated by the relatively new and upcoming sport (which is growing in popularity across America, especially in the bay area) and what he could do to incorporate his eyewear company.
At an event last year, the founders of FOOTGOLF, which was founded in 2013, liked Cabrera’s eyewear collection and offered to partner with him. As a result, Cabrera launched his own eyewear designs around the theme of soccer which he launched on his company’s sister site of ‘OT Sun wear.’ With FIFA World Cup right around the corner, Cabrera wants his customers and others to not only watch the games on TV, but also do it in style. In addition, with his brother, he started a social network for the players of the sport titled FootGolfer.com
“For me as an entrepreneur, it’s amazing to be a part of something I love—I operate my businesses through the web and with the use of technology and at the same time, combine my business with what I love doing most as a pleasure, soccer. It’s the best of both worlds,” said Cabrera.