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What better way to help people see the vision than actually helping them have... vision?
Dallas Cowboys’ Jaylon Smith is bringing premium design to optical lenses and sunglasses through his eyewear line, CEV Collection. His mission is to inspire action in every individual with big dreams and strong ambition — perfect for people who truly have a “clear eye view” perspective on this thing called life.
As the acronym for “Clear Eye View,” CEV is Smith’s life mantra exemplified. Throughout his entire football career, he has lived by this. He knows that with a focused vision, one can accomplish anything — even the impossible.
The mantra became vital during Smith’s senior year at Notre Dame because during his last game he almost had a career-ending injury. Going from being a top-five NFL draft pick to the possibility of never being able to play again could have crushed Smith. But instead, he continued to trust God and the plan he had. Thanks to that “Clear Eve View” mentality, his story didn’t end there. Smith continued to work hard, to train, and, most importantly, to heal and it wasn’t long before he was selected by the Dallas Cowboys and became a leader both on and off of the field.
“It’s how I live my life, it’s a part of my core values. [CEV] is how I live my life,” said Smith in an interview with REVOLT for National Black Business Month. “Having a focused vision, a determined belief, and earned dreams has guided me to where I am today and allows me to make decisions and just to operate throughout my entire life.”
For Smith, the focus is more than just himself. “This mentality also grounds me and encourages me to live for the man above,” he continued. As someone who’s passionate about whatever he puts his mind to, it was imperative that his business matched who he is as an individual.
“As a very aesthetic guy, I’ve always loved style and creativity,” said Smith explaining the vision behind the company. “So that is the focus for the first pillar of Clear Eye View. I think I look damn good in sunglasses and eyewear specifically, so I just really wanted to be a part of something that was different than your typical clothing brand or just coming out with a t-shirt line. I wanted to do something that was unique — that could help people and allow our culture to show our style and creativity through our eyewear.”
This is where he says his brother, friend, and business partner all-in-one comes in. “Jamal is an expert in the eyewear industry, but he’s also my brother and friend and so it was only a matter of time before we became family. So, having him to be the guide to execute the vision is a true blessing,” Smith expressed.
The two both hail from Fort Wayne, Indiana and have always been focused on using the resources and success in their own respective careers to bring back to the community. Alignment is the driving force of the partnership that Smith and Robinson have to bring CEV to life. But, it’s bigger than just the two of them.
“For me, it’s all about alignment and principle before we even get to business,” said Robinson referencing the importance of partnerships. “Jaylon and I are both from the same city, we both aspire to uplift others — specifically in the Black community and in our culture, and so we aligned on those principles and our belief in what we see in the world, and also what we believe we can do in the world. We also aligned on the value of our partnership and how we both aim to do something different. With my experience in the eyewear space, I knew that partnering with Jaylon would only propel what we felt that we could do in the industry as a whole, which is creating a line of glasses that are trendy and affordable and inspired by our culture.”
This is a belief that’s important for Smith as the founder of the Minority Entrepreneurship Institute (MEI). His organization was created on the strength of helping to close the economic and educational gap in minority communities across the midwest and southeast through entrepreneurship. Through MEI, Smith is helping to provide other Black founders with the resources that they need to be successful.
“My purpose is to help others and to put smiles on people’s faces,” said the Dallas Cowboy linebacker. “MEI is something that’s dear to my heart. Since I’ve been blessed to be around the right people and to gain access to mentors who have helped me understand value over cost and gaining access to quality relationships, I wanted to do the same for others who may have not been in the position to be surrounded by people like that.”
At MEI, Smith and his team provide financial funding, mentorship, and strategic planning for the Black and brown community. With only 2% of venture dollars distributed to Black owners and entrepreneurs, Smith understands firsthand the setbacks that business owners who look like him face.
“Equity creates freedom and until we have financial equity, it will continue to be hard for us to really achieve true equality, and so that’s really what I’ve been doing with MEI. Tackling the problem of all of these Black and brown companies with great ideas but no resources to bring them to life. My goal is to help them to, not only execute that vision but to gain knowledge on how to understand the business model and put together all of the things that you need to run a successful company in the U.S.”
The vision that he has for MEI goes hand-in-hand with the outlook that both he and Robinson have when it comes to CEV collection.
“My purpose in life is to inspire others and CEV is a beacon, a guidepost, and an example of my journey in life,” continued Robinson. “Now, it’s our hope that CEV can be the same for others. As Jay and I continue to build this company, we want to be able to look back and say that CEV Collection was a beacon of hope for others to see what’s possible. When most people see an athlete entrepreneur, they think that they’re just putting their name on something and that’s not the case for Jaylon. He’s building businesses and making an impact because, think about it, how many Black-owned companies have you heard of in the eyewear space?”
Smith wants more people to know the importance of your own identity and style.
“I want people to understand that there’s confidence in style and that it’s okay to be yourself because there’s no real judgment,” he chimed. “Only one person can judge us, so be you. Find a way to articulate your style and your vision in your own way.”