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No Barriers Podcast Episode 115: Radical Vision with Two Blind Brothers



Our hosts, Erik and Tom, speak with their “two favorite Manning brothers,” Bradford and Bryan. Known as the Two Blind Brothers, they discuss how they turned the challenges in their lives into a hugely successful clothing brand that donates 100% of its profits. This episode is brought to you by longtime No Barriers supporter, Prudential.

We are honored that Prudential is sponsoring today’s podcast highlighting people who are alchemists.

Bradford and Bryan Manning are two blind brothers on a mission to cure blindness. At a young age, they were diagnosed with an eye disease that causes blindness over time.

To fight back, they left their former careers to start Two Blind Brothers, a small charitable clothing company that donates 100% of its profits to drive life-changing research for a cure for blindness.

Their condition inspired special attention to detail, a passion that carries over into the construction of their clothing line.

Two Blind Brothers focuses on quality, comfort, and “sense of touch.”

Thank you again to Prudential for supporting our podcast today and for allowing us to elevate these diverse and unique voices.

Resources: 

Shop: https://twoblindbrothers.com/

Shop Blind: https://twoblindbrothers.com/pages/shop-blind-monthly-challenge

Watch Bryan and Bradford on Ellen

“If you don’t go out and find challenges in your life, they’ll find you. On the other side is if you think back to the times in your life where it was the most challenging, that’s when all of your big growth came. That’s the parts of your life where you’re probably most proud, came from going out, seeking that challenge, overcoming it and becoming a better person on the other side.”

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Episode Transcript

We are honored that Prudential's sponsoring today's podcast, highlighting people who are true alchemists.

Bryan : If you don't go out and find challenges in your life, they'll find you. On the other side is if you think back to the times in your life where it was the most challenging, that's when all of your big growth came. That's the parts of your life where you're probably most proud, came from going out, seeking that challenge, overcoming it and becoming a better person on the other side.

Erik : It's easy to talk about the successes, but what doesn't get talked about enough is the struggle. My name is

Erik :. I've gotten the chance to ascend Mount Everest, to climb the tallest mountain in every continent, to kayak the Grand Canyon and I happen to be blind.

Erik : It's been a struggle to live what I call a no barriers life. To define it, to push the parameters of what it means. And part of the equation is diving into the learning process and trying to illuminate the universal elements that exist along the way. And that unexplored terrain between those dark places we find ourselves in the summit exists a map. That map, that way forward is what we call no barriers.

Tom : Welcome to the No Barriers Podcast. I'm Tom Lillig. Eric and I have two great guests on this episode. Bradford and Bryan Manning are brothers out on a mission to cure blindness. At a young age, they were diagnosed with an eye disease that causes blindness over time. To fight back, they left their careers to start Two Blind Brothers, a charitable clothing company that donates 100% of its profits to drive life-changing research for cure for blindness.

Tom : Their eye condition inspired a special attention to detail, a passion that carries over into the construction of their clothing lines. Two Blind Brothers focuses on quality, comfort and a sense of touch. I think you'll enjoy our conversation with them. Take a listen.

Erik : Welcome to the no barriers podcast. Thanks Tom for joining us today. We got the two blind brothers, Bryan and Bradford. It was so great to meet you guys at the New York No Barrier summit, so we got a chance to sit down and you ran a workshop for us and that's how we got to know you. But you're known by everyone. You guys are famous and it's so exciting to hear your voices this morning.

Tom : Let me be the first to say that you guys are my favorite Manning brothers. Forget those other guys. You guys are my favorite Manning brothers of all time.

Brad : That is a real compliment, because I'm not even sure we are each other's favorite Manning brothers. I very much appreciate it.

Erik : Hey, well I want to start out because I know going on the Ellen Show was just introduced. You guys were already well-known and on your way, but being on Ellen introduced you to so many new community and customers and everything. But I'm a little bit lost because she did this joke where she pulled out a purse and it was lost on the blind. It was very visual, this humor. What the heck happened? Did she pull out a giant check or... What is she doing? Because the whole audience was laughing.

Bryan : Well, it was lost on Brad and I too at first. You actually-

Erik : Yeah, we're totally left out of the joke.

Bryan : If you watch the video closely, right before we went out to go on the Ellen Show, we're like, "Hey, what advice do you have? What could we possibly do? We are a 10 out of 10 on the nervous scale. I've never been more terrified in my entire life. They said the only rule, there's two rules. Don't try and out funny Ellen and whatever happens, be excited. And we said, "Okay."

Bryan : She pulls out her purse, and I'd seen her a million times, when she pulls out her purse it's always like she has kooky crazy things in there that she's going out with that night. I start getting excited and actually as you're watching the video, I look at Brad and start shaking him to get him more excited. Then the check comes up and she goes, "We want to give you this check." And Brad and I have no idea if it's for $2 or a million dollars. We were like, "Giant check." Then she starts writing on it. We have just enough vision to be like, "Oh my God, this is a big check." And you actually-

Erik : Are you guys craning your heads forward, trying to look at what she's doing?

Bryan : Leaning, and then to get closer, we both stand up out of the chair, half because we were excited, half because we want to know what the heck is going on in front of us. And so we lean on and then we see it and it was just this absolute moment of just joy and euphoria beyond belief. Really could not have been any more just all struck. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

Erik : All right, well, knock me over with a feather. What was the check for? How much?

Brad : 35,000.

Erik : Whoa. That's amazing.

Brad : Which at that point was exactly how much Two Blind Brothers had done in sales up, because we had just started the project six months earlier. We had doubled our sales upon receiving that check.

Erik : That's great. You guys set up this business, and it's not like some businesses like, "Okay, we're going to get 5% to charity or 10%. Oh, we're going to give 20%." You guys give 100% of profits to charity, to a research for blindness. That's pretty bold decision you guys made. Do you just always go big in your lives or what?

Brad : No. What's so funny is a lot of people will ask us about it and they'll dig in. The point that Bryan and I, the point that's important for people to understand is this project was never set up to be a business first of all. It was designed for two reasons. One, for Bryan and I to have a lot of fun, and two to do something nice for the Foundation Fighting Blindness, which is an organization we've been involved with since we were kids.

Brad : If we had never gotten any publicity, if we had only sold 100 shirts to our friends, that was the measure of success for us. People are like, "Wow, so innovative. They're 100%..." We never expected that we actually have to give anything away, so it was a very easy project to set up.

Erik : But you're so out of the box. It's such a different paradigm that it actually winds up being this huge advantage, and your business strategy, which as it turns out, it wasn't really your intention in that prescribed way. Which is a lot of your message it seems like.

Bryan : We talk about this a lot when it comes down to starting a business, being an entrepreneur, any of this stuff. Brad and I, we're not a great business plan. We didn't have a business plan. I think that's probably step one where we made a mistake. But the thing that's so incredible about the modern era is if you have something you care tremendously about, for us it was curing blindness, for somebody listening it might be helping the deaf community or anything.

Bryan : Brad and I just had our message and our mission to give 100% of profits to help cure blindness, and then because of what social is these days, we could go find the people that care just as much as we did about it and wanted to be a part of this adventure and this journey. That power is so unbelievable and I think it's still a little under not known widely enough yet. I think more, there's a lot more Two Blind Brothers coming down the pipe from people that just have a passion for it.

Tom : Well let's go back to how it actually started. I think that Brad, you mentioned it was something you wanted to do for fun and with your brother, which is great, because you're brothers and sometimes not always fun. But you guys want them to do something fun together, but then also Bryan, you talked about just leasing the business with that purpose. Just leasing it with this core purpose. But let's go back to the beginning. Whose idea was it? Come on, the cards on the table, who came up with the big idea.

Brad : Here's what happened. Bryan and I were walking around New York City, probably about six years ago now, and we're walking down and so we walked a clothing store. Bryan and I were like, especially if we're in crowds or we go out to bars or something, we'll lose each other everywhere we go. But Bryan has this booming, natural, obnoxiously loud voice, so you can actually hear him anywhere he is.

Brad : Even though Bryan and I have some functional vision, we lost each other in this store, we come out a half an hour later and we had bought the same exact, super cozy shirt. Then when we came out of the store and we're like, "Well, how the hell did this happen?" We realized that at least the way that Bryan and I shop and buy clothes is we'll grab something, decided we liked the way it feels, and then we'll do all the other work to talk to the sales associate, is it the right size, is it the right color, is it a men's shirt? Made that mistake once.

Bryan : He wears a beautiful blouse? I'll tell you, it's a sight to behold for a lot of reasons.

Brad : But around this same time, there was a big story that was getting some... Actually, it had happened earlier but Bryan and I were catching up with the Foundation Fighting Blindness on it, the story of Yannick Duwe who was one of the early clinical trial patients of the LUXTURNA treatment, which is a gene therapy that treats Leber's congenital amaurosis, the RPE65 gene.

Brad : The conflation of just that being on our minds and then having this coincidence we thought, "Well, what if there's something to this? This is something that could be our way to give back and make tangible the biotech advancements, the medical revolution that has been just so exciting." We thought, "Maybe this is our method. We'll make the softest shirts that we possibly can and we'll give back by donating 100% to the preclinical researchers.

Erik : Did you guys have experienced, sewing or manufacturing clothing?

Bryan : Brad and I, just to give some hope to any entrepreneur out there, Brad and I had no background in fashion, manufacturing, branding, E-commerce, web development, marketing, basically anything we needed to start this business. We had no background in whatsoever. I worked at a data company doing sales, which I love. Brad worked at an investment firm, and we just, we had two great things going for us.

Bryan : One, we had just an awesome network of unbelievable people that just we could not have done this without. We had friends in New York. My now wife was a buyer and in fashion for big brand called Macleria, so she put in a lot of work. We just had a lot of friends donate a lot of work. Two, we just made a ton of mistakes but people were super forgiving. Just I think our mission, our 100% of profits, all of that, just led into people being a little more forgiving of a mistake and they allowed us to fail, get better, grow and all of a sudden become who we are today.

Erik : All right, I'm stuck on the fact that your buyer became your wife. Good move. That's impressive.

Bryan : We were dating beforehand. She only [crosstalk 00:12:13] caveated that way.

Erik : All right. Well, it sounds like you're learning more than business.

Bryan : That's every day, every day.

Tom : When you guys were kids growing up, what was the dream? Was it always to work together or was it always... Well, it doesn't sound like it was always to be in fashion, but was it always doing something together and do something with a purpose or did that come later?

Brad : Well, I will say the most challenging part of Two Blind Brothers is not the word blind. Bryan and I have always been close. I think we would have always been close regardless, but I think the shared experience of the eye condition maybe brought us together in interesting ways. We didn't know a lot of people who had vision impairments, who were blind.

Brad : We had this shared experience, whether it was comradery or competitiveness or commiserating around it. We had a lot of fun together. We always, whether it was going to our favorite diner and trying to order everything on the breakfast menu to see if we could finish it, or selling sand dollars that we found on the beach when we were kids. We've always really had a lot of fun together.

Brad : But I think one of the things that's happened through the growth of this project is that now we're connected with lots of people who have gone through this experience, and it's morphed from something that just started as fun and something that just started as a passion, to something that actually feels pretty akin to a sense of responsibility.

Brad : Bryan and I feel like we're connected to people all the time that are going through situations that we went through, and to be able to almost go back in time and be able to give that piece of advice or share that perspective. Whatever the size of it is, however it happened, we have some small level of a platform now and I think we both feel very connected on that front now. That's the driving force behind Two Blind Brothers these days.

Erik : That's cool because you are in that position where you can help so many people and it's bigger than you guys now.

Bryan : Way bigger than us.

Erik : But there must be times where Brad wants to go left and Bryan wants to go right. How do you make these decisions? It's an art to, you can't fire each other.

Brad : Well Erik, I'll [crosstalk 00:14:49]-

Erik : Do you arm wrestle?

Brad : We just figure out our differences and we're very... No, I'm just kidding. No.

Bryan : You Know what, it's actually really funny, because a lot of people enter into a business with a friend or a coworker or somebody they know, and they have no background of fighting with one another. Brad and I have been fighting for 33 years. Are you telling me that you and the guy that you've known for six months are going to be better at disagreeing than 30 years of shared misery? I don't think so.

Bryan : Brad and I do think a lot of alike. We have a lot of the same values, a lot of the same north stars. When we don't disagree, actually one really important thing is when we went to start this business, we sat down and said, "Hey, whatever happens with this business will happen. But we're always going to be brothers, so every decision needs to be a brother's first decision."

Bryan : And if you disagree wholeheartedly and you say, absolutely not, the other one has to back down and if one says, I really believe in this, and we trust each other implicitly, it actually has been a big advantage in some situations. Because if Brad says, "I believe so strongly this is a great idea." I go, "You know what, if you believe that and I trust you, I think you're smart, and go for it. I just-

Erik : Beautiful.

Bryan : ... believe in your ability."

Erik : Is there an example that maybe one of you had to pull the other along a little bit.

Bryan : Yeah, I got one. Two years ago, we were running our Shop Blind campaign, which we probably can talk a bunch of out. But Brad says, "Bryan, I believe that this is going to be way bigger than we possibly have ever dreamed. I want to order probably three times the amount of inventory we had sold ever in the... five times than we'd ever sold in the business. Shipping containers of stuff."

Bryan : And I was like, "Brad, you're..." I can't swear on this podcast, but blanking insane. And he just goes, "Bryan, I'm telling you, I just have this gut feeling. I believe so strongly in this. I think the metrics are right. I'm telling you it's going to happen." I go, "You know what, you believe it that much, you're on. Go for it. We'll rock and roll, we'll do it all." We actually ended up selling out of even that much.

Erik : Wow.

Bryan : If it was up to me, we would have had half the inventory, half the revenue, half the growth, half the everything, and thanks to his belligerence, we ended up getting to a great place.

Erik : I think that's a beautiful message because even within my experience at No Barriers, we're a team and sometimes somebody will have an idea. And I'm like, "I don't know." But I'm not sure. I'm not persuaded, but they love it so much. I'm like, "Who am I to rain on their prey? You got to follow as well as you lead."

Erik : You guys mentioned Shop Blind, so I just think that is the coolest campaign. You're two blind brothers, and then you have this campaign where people buy clothing blind and they got to trust you guys. I freaking love this idea. Tell everyone about it.

Bryan : It's awesome. You know what, you guys asked about credit earlier, and this is one of my least favorite things in the world to ever do. But I'm going to give Brad some credit here. He conceptualized a lot of this idea and built it out, so bravo to you, Bradford.

Brad : Wow. That feels good to hear.

Tom : We have this recorded, so you can play [crosstalk 00:18:33]-

Bryan : I know.

Tom : ... over and over again, Brad.

Erik : You make it a sound bite.

Bryan : His birthday's in like a month, so I'm thinking this might just be his present. You know what I mean? I think it would be a good thing for his whole year. But Shop Blind is this incredible campaign. When you're blind or visually impaired, Brad and I's experience is you have... The best ability you learn is to trust people.

Bryan : Is the shopkeeper to give you the correct change or the cashier to give you the correct change. A taxi to drop you off on the right street corner. The person crossing the street to actually be looking to see if it's actually a street crossing sign. All of these moments of trust all are 99.9% of the time paid back. We wanted to try and give people, shoppers and customers to Two Blind Brothers, the chance to experience that. The chance to trust us.

Bryan : We blacked out everything on our website, took it all down, a giant insult to our graphic design team. We put up four price points and just said, "Will you trust us? Will you shop blind? Will you buy something you cannot see and believe that we're going to send you something amazing in return?" We thought there might be some good media around it, but what ended up happening is people had just so much fun.

Bryan : They had so much joy and the experience was so, it just was so unique and so different and such a great experience that it just blossomed into being a absolute cornerstone of our business.

Tom : It just seems like one of these decisions that are counterintuitive that keep making you guys roll forward in a different way.

Brad : Yeah. And that really came through testing. There are other creative things that we've tried, and then when we happen to launch that in a small way, the marketplace, especially if you're doing things on E-commerce, on social, you get feedback right away. We could see that that was resonating with people in a way that even our main brand story and typical E-commerce store didn't, so we've been very blessed with that campaign.

Tom : It's great, and we'll put some links in the show notes so everybody can experience what that was all about. Maybe you could share one of the more challenging moments. Whether it be in business or just through growing up, that has been something that's been a big hallmark of your lives that you always remember and take with.

Bryan : The really interesting part is the challenges, they grow up with you. When you have a degenerative disease Stargardt that over the course of 10, 15 years, you lose your vision, your challenges grow up. When you're in first grade, not being able to see the chalkboard and needing to get up and deal with the pressure of the class, or in high school when kids start picking on you and bullying you differently. In college, when you can't recognize faces anymore and you've overcome a couple of problems and you can't recognize faces and you feel bad from a social perspective. Then when you get to the working world, trying to navigate being a professional with an eye disease.

Bryan : But one thing that's been really fascinating with Two Blind Brothers, actually tall that, and as you guys all know and talk about, is getting past each one of those hurdles makes getting past the next hurdle even easier. Getting past the first grade, standing up, seeing the chalkboard, makes dealing with the bully in middle school easier because you've already done it. Then when you deal with the annoying teacher in high school, you've already accomplished five other things, so you're like, "I can go do this too."

Bryan : One thing that's been really challenging and great in two different ways for Brad and I is getting all the messages from the families. We get people who reach out to us, like I'm sure you do, Erik, who say, "Hey, can I talk? I want to hear about... I want to get some advice. I just want to talk to somebody who's gone through this." And you sit there and you're like, "What's the best advice I can give them? How could I help the most? What can I do to make this the easiest process for them? What advice would I want to hear going back in a time machine?"

Bryan : It's a blessing because you get to do that, but it's also really challenging because you want to make sure you're doing the best possible job in the world because you're going to be a touch point for help, and you want to make sure when you're giving help, you're giving the best help you can.

Erik : Well, you mentioned challenges and not seeing the board, and I really loved your TED Talk when you talked about your experiences going blind. I didn't love the fact that you guys went blind, but I thought it was really poignant because it made me realize how empathetic, and I don't want to put words in your mouth, but how empathetic we should be to people who go through a challenge like that.

Erik : You can't see the board. You're so embarrassed. You don't want to tell your teacher. You'd rather be dumb than blind. It just made me realize how easy it is for most people to hide. You just hide and you dig in and you never come out of whatever it is. How did you guys not hide? It sounds like you had amazing parents.

Brad : This is the whole story of Bryan and I's life. It's our core message. It's such a fascinating thing because we didn't have perspective on it until much later in life. I think one of the things that's so critical to realize is that when you face that hard moment, it is both horrible and wonderful at the same time. Because of exactly what Bryan was mentioning, which is that with our particular condition, you don't have the option to hide.

Brad : Well, now you end up having to call forth that creativity, that assertiveness, that resourcefulness, to get you through that. It's like we got to where we are because of the struggles that we had and we want to continue to really emphasize that to people. We're not here to say, we're so blessed that we had this particular challenge and that we wish this on everybody. But to live a life without bumping up against those issues, that really is an impairment.

Brad : You don't want the physical impairment to become a psychological one. But if you can actually embrace those challenges, whatever they are in life or have the foresight to find challenges and face them, you end up teaching yourself things that are so much more valuable than those hindrances that you thought you had.

Erik : But in that specific TED Talk, you talked about... Which one of you was it where you said, "I couldn't see the board and I couldn't answer the question when the teacher called on me, and it was easier, instead of saying, 'I can't see the board,' it was easier to say in your mind, I'm just dumb. Let people think I'm dumb." I just think that's such a powerful story. One, I guess I'm relating because I went blind just before my freshman year in high school and I flunked algebra one my first year, because of that reason. I was barely learning braille.

Erik : It was impossible for me to be an advocate for myself. I could not speak the words. Man, I am struggling. I cannot see the board, I barely know braille. These equations, I'm trying to read them under my fingertips. This is just too much for me. I couldn't do it.

Bryan : That was my experience, frankly on my first day of high school. As you know, or anybody who has a disability knows, you don't ask for a ton, you always have this little, I wish for one day, I just could see fine and that's what I'd want. Just one day of being okay, being normal, quote unquote. When you're 12 or 13 years old, I always just sat at the back of this classroom and being like, "I hope nobody notices me. I hope no one calls on me. I'll be a normal kid today. No big deal. I just I'll get my normal day."

Bryan : The teacher called on me and just, we went down this whole rabbit hole and then eventually he's just like, "Do the problem." I just said loud that I was blind and the worst part was it came out in the worst possible way. Instead of it getting introduced to kids that I had met for a little bit or I just had a little more relationship with, it came out in just a absolute, terrible moment.

Bryan : But the cool part in there, in that devastating, tragic moment, is that I all of a sudden had gone through the worst version of it. It wasn't going to get worse from there, so I could be more content, more happy understanding that the worst disability wasn't the eyesight thing. That wasn't hurting me. It was not being authentic to myself. I could still go to that next class. It was this idea that I was less than that was killing me, not because I couldn't see well.

Tom : If you go back to that moment, if you go back to that time in your life, is it something that you just needed to leave through by yourself or by yourself, Brad? Or was there someone there to give you that assist? Did you have a rope team back then? I'd love to hear how you navigated through that?

Brad : Well, we had our parents who were our role models. A little mental jujitsu that they did on us is they relegated our eyesight issue to be like nothing. It was never really brought up in the... It just never occurred to us because of the way that they framed it that it was ever an excuse or, it's so sad that you have to deal with this. Or man, if you had perfect eyesight, you wouldn't have had that issue.

Brad : It was like your one friend is dumb, your other friend's short and ugly and you have bad eyesight and we're all the same. So just March forward. That was like really the idea that you're no better and you're no worse. We all, life is just a series of challenges and that's the way it goes and you're just grateful for the tools that you do have.

Erik : They weren't experts in blindness. How the heck did they know that?

Brad : Well, you know what, my mom tells a story. I just think part of it is their DNA. My mom as we speak, and you'll appreciate this, Erik, as we speak, my mom is on the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire. She's 62 years old. This is her 10th trip on the trail. She still has Maine left and then she's going to finish in Harpers Ferry over the next couple of trips so we can all celebrate with her. But she has been a go getter her whole life.

Brad : One thing that she said around the story of us getting diagnosed with Stargardt's disease is, she did say when we were diagnosed that she was really crushed. But at the age of seven, when we were told this, she did notice that when we got home the next day, it was almost like it was water under the bridge to our seven-year-old minds. We were just interested in going out, hanging out with our friends, playing video games, whatever we were doing moving forward and she thought it's very important that I don't project this fear and anxiety that I'm feeling now onto the kids.

Brad : It really did not matter at all to Brad in that moment, so why would I want to interfere with that perspective? I don't know. It was good fortune, wisdom that somehow they had that they were able to do that for us.

Erik : Absolutely. They have specific advice for you too, right? Around blindness?

Bryan : The specific advice was more in line with that. It just wasn't allowed to be an excuse. Figure it out. Hey, this is really simple. I remember when I was a kid in middle school, I failed a math test. I just didn't do well. My mom comes to me and says, "Bryan, you failed the math test. We got to talk about this." And I go, "I couldn't see it." Just get my excuse out, no big deal.

Erik : Get them out early.

Bryan : Yeah, just throw it out early and see what she does. And she just goes, "Okay, no problem. That's not good. What we're going to do is on Saturday morning, we're going to wake up early. We're going to go to the school. We're going to bring in your teacher. We're going to talk about how they're writing on the board, we're going to find you a better seat. We're going to get all the paperwork in large.

Bryan : We're going to give you larger books. We're going to give you better magnifiers. We're going to do all of this. That's what all Saturday, all the weekend, all the next week is going to be." And she goes, "Did you fail though, before we do all this work, did you fail because you didn't study or you couldn't see the test?" And I was like, "wow. I didn't study."

Erik : No, you were in the corner. I've heard you guys talk about embracing blindness and challenge and stuff like that. Do you think you really get to the point where you embrace it in some ways?

Bryan : Yeah. This is the one of those goofy, things is if you don't go out and find challenges in your life, they'll find you. No one gets to escape through everything. On the other side is if you think back to the times in your life where it was the most challenging, the most difficult times, usually if you got through them, that's when all of your big growth came. That's when all of your greatest successes came. That's the parts of your life where you're probably most proud, came from going out, seeking that challenge, embracing it, overcoming it and becoming a better person on the other side. We are big advocates for, go out, find a challenge and just go get past it. Sometimes it's the best thing you can possibly do.

Tom : We talked before about the big moments on Ellen, which it's got to be seen by millions and millions of people. But what I'm curious about, and I'm sure that that was incredibly life-giving and fulfilling, but I'm really curious about what drives the most satisfaction in your business life now? What is it that you wake up in the morning and are just so fulfilled by? Is there anything that stands out to you?

Brad : I really think that there are two main things for us. One is we just like the competition of growing the business. I think a lot of entrepreneurs or people who are running organizations can relate to that, to watch the metrics, to test things with the team, to try to figure out your costs. There's something that's just really fun about that and we just naturally enjoy that a lot.

Brad : But then there's the mission side and the community side, and Bryan and I, I don't think we would ever find in another project, is just the fact that we get to have real conversations with people that you think about the fact that somebody who's just diagnosed, who just lost their eyesight, comes in and say, "Hey, what is step one? How do I figure this out?" And maybe you don't have all the answers for them. But to be able to help them out 1%, and to think about what that can do over a lifetime is very, very satisfying for us.

Brad : The other thing too, and I'm just sure just knowing your story, Erik, and the things that you've accomplished, is it's like man, nothing you off more than watching somebody who's letting either their psychology or their self limiting beliefs get in their way. You'd rather see them crash and burn crazy than to never try because they don't believe in themselves. And helping people take that step towards embracing their challenge, towards trying to overcome that obstacle, is something that we're very passionate about.

Tom : That's great. Can you give us a hint of a little bit of what's coming down the pike next?

Bryan : We just launched the Shop Blind Monthly Challenge. We get so many people coming back every month, shopping every month because it changes over constantly. We created a program where people can sign up and we're going to send them very special, very exclusive items, to just keep the spirit and the dream of Shop Blind alive. We have unbelievable products coming down the pipe and the crazy part about a clothing business is that we... and manufacturing in general, we have to start planning for November, December last week. From that perspective, we're just making awesome, cool new stuff that Brad and I are adoring.

Bryan : Two, the thing that's probably more important than any of it, is Brad and I are always trying to build the community. Talk to as many families as we can, put out as much good information as we can, be as helpful and as there for people as we possibly can. I would say for us, it's make unbelievable products so that we can donate more money to charity and meet more awesome, incredible people so we can help spread awareness, help spread empowerment and frankly, hope that somebody comes and usurps us as the two blind brothers. We're open for the unsighted sisters or the-

Tom : I love it.

Bryan : ... can't see cousins. whatever you want to call yourself already.

Tom : I love it.

Erik : Nice, and an ongoing message from the last hour is make challenge into your narrative, into a strength. It actually makes you stand out. It's a hard lesson for a lot of us to learn. Your whole clothing line is around that idea. You guys, because you can't see, you focus, as you said, on quality, on how it feels. Tell me about that piece of the business to end up here. You put a lot of braille on your clothing line. I don't know this, but isn't there some tactal stuff that you can feel on the clothing?

Bryan : I'm going to take this because I have a utter passion for fabric now. That is the sentence sales version Bryan never thought would be uttered out of my mouth. That was six years ago. I would have gone like, that guy's a weirdo. But so Brad and I, I can go into all the details as to why, but Brad and I make this tri-blend fabric from cotton and bamboo and spandex one from Lycra, which makes the shirts soft, they make them durable and it makes it move with you like a second skin. If you could imagine a cloud that loves you, giving you a hug, that's what putting on a Two Blind Brothers shirt feels like.

Tom : I love that image.

Erik : Oh my God, that might be the best [crosstalk 00:38:23] marketing sentence I've ever heard. A cloud that loves you [crosstalk 00:38:27].

Brad : If Bryan was born like 30 years prior, he would have been the ShamWow salesman for sure.

Erik : Oh my gosh, that's amazing.

Bryan : Basically this tri-blend fabric is incredible and so we adore it. We put it on everything we basically make. But then we had this... Actually my wife who is working at Two Blind Brothers at the time had this idea of, what else can we do on these shirts? On the bottom right hand of basically everything we make, we put the color of the shirt in raised braille.

Erik : Cool.

Bryan : If you're wearing a navy or a forest or a gray or whatever, you know what shirt you're wearing and we thought it was just very aesthetically beautiful and it had some cool function to it, but a woman reached out and had this just awesome moment. Because she goes, "Hey, I love your clothing, and I go through my closet and I feel where there's the softest shirt, then I pull it out, and then I know what color it is."

Bryan : She goes, "I can pull up my app, I can look at the color, I can do all of that. But sometimes in the morning when I'm getting ready, I don't want to use my phone. I just want to get ready." That made the whole thing feels so worth it. That was just such a cool, simple idea to just add a little more functionality to our garment.

Erik : I love that. Because that app, I can't use that app either. I tried it on some clothes and it's like midnight [stafar 00:39:55]. I'm like, "What the hell is that? I don't even know what color is that." Then one was like chartreuse or something. I'm like, "I can't remember what chartreuse is. Just give me a normal color."

Bryan : I found out my eyes are mountain mist, which I liked the sound of it. Blue seems a little easier for me.

Erik : Okay, yeah. Right. Guys, thank you so much. It's been a total blast. I haven't laughed this hard on a podcast in a long time, so it's wonderful to hang with you guys. Thanks for being a part of the No Barriers rope team.

Tom : Bryan and Brad, you guys, as I said before, my favorite Mannings, but I will forever keep with me that image of the cloud that loves me. That needs to be memorialized. We need to put that in stone. That's brilliant. I love it.

Bryan : You know what, it might be my headstone. That might be my epitaph. Just that feels like a good one, as good as any. At least when you're walking through and be like, what did that guy do?

Brad : No, thank you all, and obviously, Erik's been in a unique role model for us too. It's funny to tell these stories in the context of Erik's accomplishments as well and just really appreciate. When we have the opportunity to come to the No Barriers event in New York, and not just Erik, but the whole community of people that are doing things that underscore a lot of what we're talking about today.

Brad : It's very special and from our perspective, the narrative around some of these conditions and situations that people find themselves in has changed dramatically since we were kids. I think a lot of the No Barriers community is in part responsible for that.

Erik : This one guy came to that New York summit. I remember him saying, "I've always felt like a zebra around horses, and I came to the summit and it's all zebras." So go zebras, right?

Bryan : That's awesome. Go zebras.

Tom : Go zebras.

Bryan : Not as good, Tom, as the cloud statement bad it's not bad.

Tom : We're all zebras and that cloud is always hugging us. You guys-

Bryan : Always around you.

Tom : Our community loves you, and thank you so much for your time today on this podcast. I know that every listener is going to get something out of it. Go out and get that fabric because they are going to love that. So we'll have all our [crosstalk 00:42:23]-

Erik : Yeah, go out and get the Shop Blind a subscription. It's such a great idea. I'm going to do it too. All right. C Thanks guys.

Erik : All right, thanks guys.

Bryan : Thank you everyone. We'll see you soon.

Erik : Thanks Tom. No Barriers to everyone. Thanks again to Prudential for supporting our podcast today and for allowing us to elevate these unique and diverse voices. The production team behind this podcast includes Senior Producer Pauline Shaffer, sound design editing and mixing by Tyler Cottman and marketing support by Heather Zoccali, Stevie DiNardo, Erica Howey and Alex Schaffer. Special thanks to The Dan Ryan band for our intro song guidance. Thanks to all of you for listening. If you enjoy this podcast, we encourage you to subscribe to it, share it and give us a review. Show notes can be found at nobarrierspodcast.com.


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