Chico alumnus creates local, eco-friendly sunglasses company

Luke Winter
Luke Winter, creator of Woodzee sunglasses, started his education at Cuesta College and went on to create his own eco-friendly product and company. Photo credit: Taylor Sinclair

When Luke Winter told people he was going to start his own eco-friendly sunglasses company, people laughed and told him he was going to fail. Now he is founder and owner of Woodzee, a successful sunglasses company that makes its product out of wood.

Winter started his college career at Cuesta College where he found his passion for entrepreneurship. He continued on to Chico State where he would study geography and take hold of his love for the environment.

“I took a couple business classes and I took an entrepreneur class, and it basically changed my life,” Winter said. “It gave me the idea and passion to start my own business. Right there, I decided I wanted to self-employ.”

Winter became involved in environmentalism during his time at Chico State. After graduating, Winter opened up his first business in downtown Chico: Trucker. Three years ago, Trucker became the first store in Chico to start using reusable bags.

“Slowly over time, as I got older, I got more attuned with the environment, and I felt guilty because we don’t do a good job at taking care of the planet,” Winter said. “My whole thing is you don’t have to be a hippie to do what’s right. My point is: everybody should be more environmentally responsible.”

After running Trucker for some time, Winter became burnt out, he said. When he got days off from the store, he would spend his time creating Woodzee.

“I worked six days a week with Trucker so on my days off, I started Woodzee,” Winter said. “I wanted to bring culture to Chico. People laughed at me and told me I was going to fail. Once I put my mind to something, I go after it.”

Keeping it local is very significant to Winter, he said. He even wants to change the manufacturing of the sunglasses from China to Chico.

“I love Chico; my family and business are here, and I’m not planning to uproot anything,” Winter said.

Winter’s future plans for Woodzee are to help it grow as large as it can and to help influence others to be eco-friendly.

“Ideally my dream would be to grow Woodzee into a large company in Chico — to grow it as big as I can get it,” Winter said. “I can’t save the world, but I hope to influence others.”

Taylor Sinclair can be reached at [email protected] or @TaySinclair17 on Twitter.