Former Fremantle player Tommy Sheridan was sitting on his couch watching the NFL, having just been delisted by the Dockers when he saw the then-New York Giants wide-receiver Odell Beckham Jr rock up to Monday night football wearing RIXX sunglasses.
Sheridan had gifted ‘OBJ’ several pairs of sunglasses months earlier and was overcome to see one of the NFL’s biggest names and fashion icons representing his brand.
“OBJ was walking into the game in a Calvin Klein suit and rocking our No. 1 sellers, the Champagne Orbits,” Sheridan told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“It was unbelievable timing especially as I’d recently just been told my time was up at Fremantle and I was feeling quite flat.
“I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing… OBJ was in my sunglasses!”
Beckham Jr had worn the sunglasses first in 2016, but it was that moment at the end of 2018 that hit home for Sheridan.
“I hadn’t gifted him any new shades so it was just incredibly satisfying to know that he’d actually looked after them… that was a massive moment for us,” he said.
That moment, which was just one month after RIXX’s second birthday, was testament to the hard work Sheridan and business partner Coen Rodgers had done in the three years prior to launching their business.
The business partners met in the most unlikely fashion following Sheridan’s first season in the AFL in 2012.
Sheridan was out celebrating the end of the season at a bar in Fremantle when he met Rodgers, who was with a group of friends at the same venue.
In a time where social media was starting to hit its straps, Sheridan and his then-housemate Hayden Crozier (now with the Western Bulldogs) would often upload their FIFA PlayStation antics on Instagram which received a strong following.
Rodgers, a passionate Fremantle supporter, recognised the players and began a conversation with them.
“They started chirping us saying things like we’d smack you boys in a game of FIFA and so we invited them over to our place for a competitive game,” Sheridan explained.
Sheridan and former Fremantle player Alex Forster then began challenging Rodgers and his friends to a weekly game on Sunday night for cash.
The friendship grew and they began hanging out more.
“We felt bad because we kept taking their cash but after three games we realized how much we liked the blokes and we ended up becoming great mates,” Sheridan explained.
Sheridan began his second year of university in 2015, which involved marketing as a unit for the semester, whilst trying to come up with an idea for a product that was a reflection of what he believed in. Rodgers, who was working as an accountant at the time, decided he wanted to do something different in his life and challenge himself a little more.
Overlooking Cottesloe Beach, eating at their favourite Thai restaurant at sunset in 2015, Sheridan and Rodgers began discussing business ideas and the idea to develop an Australian-owned sunglasses company made complete sense.
“I said to Coen, ‘Mate, I honestly don’t have a pair of sunglasses and nor do I know a good Australian brand that creates them,'” Sheridan said.
From there, Sheridan put a pause on University and the idea behind RIXX Eyewear was born. The two driven, young men spent 12 months planning and developing their business concept before launching the product in September 2016 at Stables bar with family and close friends.
As a company, RIXX value ‘Class Through Clarity’ and the business plan followed this motto.
Sheridan and Rodgers began developing products, focusing on an incredible attention to detail.
“Our focus was on handmade Italian Mazzucchelli acetate frames, nylon lenses and German engineered OBE hinges to provide not only supreme quality but also first-rate durability,” Sheridan said.
“We really wanted to provide a new state of mind whilst people rocked our sunglasses with pure confidence.”
Through the support of their family and friends and graphic designer Brandon Davies, RIXX had established a prototype that satisfied Sheridan and Rodgers’ initial vision.
RIXX drew up six unisex, male and female styles focusing on a perfect blend of metals and acetates, accommodating for everyone until they found their niche.
With the business launched and products ready to sell, Sheridan and Rodgers had to determine how best to market their product to their target audience.
At the time, Sheridan was living with then-Fremantle teammate Lachie Weller (currently with Gold Coast) and his now-fiancée Nicola Hewitt.
The couple, who hail from the Gold Coast, were RIXX’s first models.
“I guess when you start a business you lean on the people around you to be able to help and support you,” Sheridan said.
“Lachie and Nicola, among others, were pivotal in that, in fact they were amazing!”
In the early days of the business, Sheridan and Rodgers were operating out of Rodgers’ family home in Perth, with his rumpus room converted into a makeshift stockroom and office.
“We are incredibly grateful for all the support we have had over the years from our friends and family,” Rodgers told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“Without them we would not be here talking to you today ahead of our third birthday celebrations.”
“Both of our families were crucial in getting us started, bearing all the antics and taking on some shocking jobs to help us get by.”
Facing the challenges of starting up a small business and both managing full-time workloads, Sheridan would use his one-hour lunch break at Fremantle to process and ship orders.
“We’d promised our customers the best possible experience and so I would go home on my lunch break to Coen’s house, which was roughly 15 minutes from the footy club and package orders,” Sheridan said.
“I was doing that for close to three months to try and support Coen while he was working full-time and to make sure our customers received their sunglasses as soon as possible… that was the hustle it required.”
Rodgers now works full-time for the company with other areas of the business outsourced to freelance staff.
With Sheridan now in Sydney after joining the GWS Giants as a delisted free agent at the end of last season, the duo no longer live in the same state but stay in touch regularly over the phone as they continue to expand over East.
RIXX’s popularity has grown exponentially since 2016 and the company will reach its third year in operation at the end of September.
International models Emily Ratajkowski, Alessanda Ambrosio, Elsa Hosk and Shanina Shaik have sported the sunglasses, Jessica Alba has even given them a shout out online but one of Sheridan’s proudest moments was when Australian mega-star actor Margot Robbie rocked a pair of the Havana Draiz.
Sheridan had sent Robbie selections from the RIXX collection months earlier through Nicola Hewitt’s family friend. It’s fair to say the Gold Coast connections paid off!
“I remember sitting on the team bus (in June 2017) as we were heading to the hotel for an away game in Brisbane and my sister messaged me a photo of Margot asking if she was wearing RIXX sunglasses,” he recalled.
“I had a real good look and sure enough she had been photographed walking through the LAX airport in our sunglasses.”
For Sheridan and Rodgers that was a turning point.
“Seeing Margot wear our sunglasses was massive, especially given the popularity of Wolf of Wall Street at the time… we really felt our credibility as a brand rise” Sheridan said.
“It was so motivating to see because we’d worked so hard for so long and this had only increased our brands awareness even more. This really did inspire us to continue growing our business.”
But, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the duo.
Sheridan and Rodgers set clear objectives earlier this year regarding what they wanted to achieve with RIXX, most notably stocking their sunglasses in stores.
The small business from Perth is slowly but surely ticking their goals off the list with online store The Iconic and a number of other, smaller physical outlets stocking their products.
Their dream for RIXX is lofty – to become Australia’s largest sunglasses brand ever.
But, for now Sheridan is embracing everything that comes with owning and operating your own business.
“I don’t want to be defined as just a footy player,” he said.
“Don’t get me wrong being an athlete is amazing and it’s been my goal since I was four to hold the premiership cup aloft and bring it back to the Riddells Creek clubrooms for everyone to see.
“But, it’s not the only thing I want to be remembered for.”
Use the code ‘AFLPA20’ to receive 20 per cent off your own RIXX Eyewear purchase.