Two University alumni have ventured into the realm of Los Angeles entrepreneurship with the final stages of establishing their own luxury sunglass brand, Vilassar, and a documentary series that follows the journey of entrepreneurs throughout the world.
Tyler Reynolds and Philip Ozorkiewicz met when they were both upperclassmen at the University. Reynolds said he was diving deep into his studies to support his goal of becoming an optometrist, while Ozorkiewicz imagined himself as a smoke jumper, a firefighter that parachutes into areas with wildfires.
The two discussed the idea of starting a company while at the University, though they didn’t know that this was the beginning of a business partnership. After graduating a year apart, the two reunited in Los Angeles with the intention of making Vilassar a reality. Now, three years in the making, the company is expected to launch its product near the summer of 2017.
Through the experiences of the last few years, Reynolds and Ozorkiewicz were inspired to show the many facets of entrepreneurship that aren’t normally showcased through mainstream media.
“A lot of people have this kind of fantasy thought about what entrepreneur life is like — they see ‘Entourage’ or they see ‘Silicon Valley,’ or ‘Shark Tank’ where there’s million-dollar deals done in a matter of seconds,” Ozorkiewicz said. “That’s all Hollywood. So to go out there and talk to entrepreneurs as we’re traveling around the world, it highlights their struggles.”
The documentary, titled “My American Dream,” is currently filming, and the production will be making stops in eight cities: Los Angeles, Kansas City, New York City, London, France, Nice, Monte Carlo and Barcelona. At each destination, Reynolds and Ozorkiewicz plan to meet up with both struggling and thriving entrepreneurs to show the realities of start-up companies in different countries. The series will consistently hover around the question, “Is the American dream still alive?”
John Lynch, the director of the “My American Dream,” came onto the project at the request of Reynolds. The two became good friends prior to the project while living in Los Angeles. Lynch said he was quite hesitant at first because the project required him to abandon his work in Los Angeles to travel with the production. He originally acted only as a source of filmmaking advice for Reynolds and Ozorkiewicz, though his hesitation was evaporated when the two quickly followed through with all of his suggestions.
“I started getting scared. I was like ‘I might actually have to do this trip now,’ because these guys were accomplishing all the things I told them to get,” Lynch said.
Soon after, the editor, “Divergent” series actor Leonardo Santaiti, was brought onboard, the group started to solidify a vision through creative meetings, which is when Lynch said he became excited about the project and began to see potential.
Filming is expected to wrap in late November with a release around the summer of 2017. Ozorkiewicz said the search for television distributors will commence once they have enough footage to showcase.
Ozorkiewicz said he attributes a great deal of his and Reynold’s accomplishments to the experiences they received at the University.
“There’s something magical about KU and Lawrence that you don’t find at just about any other university or college town. It’s a pretty rare thing,” Ozorkiewicz said. “I think that, in and of itself, is what drove Tyler and I to try to be unique and passionate to create a strong brand.”
— Edited by Missy Minear