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Adam Moyer’s success is an entrepreneur’s dream.

Using $500 from his savings account, the Oakton High School alumnus (Class of 2000) turned his side business of selling sunglasses into a brand drawing celebrity wearers like rapper Snoop Dogg, actresses Jessica Alba and Natalie Portman and Disney’s pop star Selena Gomez.

The origins of Moyer’s Knockaround sunglasses came from the San Diego sun. After graduating from Oakton and later the University of Virginia with a studio art degree, Moyer and his then-fiancé now-wife Meredith moved to San Diego in 2005, where he was attending the University of California for his master’s degree.

“The first thing you notice in San Diego is the sun,” Moyer said. Expensive brand sunglasses are easy enough to find, Moyer said, but he was looking for something you would not mind accidently leaving on the beach or finding broken at the bottom of a backpack.

“I was pretty naive about the whole thing. I went online and Googled ‘cheap sunglasses.’ I bought 300 [pairs] and put my logo on them,” Moyer said, adding that he would sell the glasses to friends and classmates initially.

Having never taken a business class, Moyer said, he had to learn about marketing and running a business on the fly.

“I started the whole company [in 2005] with $500 from my savings and the 300 [sunglasses] took a big chunk of that,” he said.

Today, Moyer, 31, plans huge marketing events. For example, in May, 20,000 pairs of Knockaround sunglasses were given away during a San Diego Padres baseball game. In June, another 18,000 pairs were handed out during a Yankees game.

Business began to flourish in 2008 after Moyer graduated from grad school.

“Why did it work? I’ve been asking myself that,” Moyer said of his success. “There was a place in the market for affordable sunglasses… But it’s also about hard work and dedication. I was the only employee until 2009.”

Today, he has 14 employees. Located in downtown San Diego, Moyer’s business is dominated by online sales through Knockaround.com, which takes some 150,000 orders each year. Typical orders are for multiple pairs of sunglasses Moyer said. The price of sunglasses ranges from $7 to $30. Knockaround Sunglasses has a Facebook following of nearly 300,000.

“‘Knockaround’ is a word that my dad used all the time when I grew up,” said Moyer, whose company also sells t-shirts, bags, belts and hats. “’Knockaround’ to me means something that you can count on. Something that is affordable, that you can have for years… My dad would have his old pair of Nikes that he would call his ‘knockaround sneakers.’”

Adam Moyer is one of three children of Dennis and Christina Moyer, who live in Oak Hill.

Dennis Moyer remembers telling his children that everybody has to start at the bottom and work their way up. But his son Adam Moyer would prove dad wrong.

“The very first time Adam talked about the idea of owning his own business was when he was about 16,” said Dennis Moyer, a commercial real estate lawyer. While driving out to the University of Virginia to visit Adam’s older sister Emily, father and son discussed Adam’s future.

“He said, ‘I think I want to be president’ and I said, ‘Well, of what?’ and he said, ‘Of my own company,’ and I said, ‘Well, most people have to work their way up.’ And, lo and behold, years later he’s started at the top,” Dennis Moyer explained. “Early on, he had that entrepreneurial spark…

“No one thought it was going to take off like this… He graduated and realized how poor the job market was for [graduate students with art degrees]. I think he said, ‘Hey this isn’t a bad way of making money.’”

Adam and his wife Meredith, who was his high school sweetheart, moved out to California on their own, starting life with very little help from back home, Dennis said.

“To see the Knockaround logo and then seeing Adam and his wife Meredith projected on the Yankees big screen is really exciting,” Dennis said.

Earlier this summer, Adam Moyer was the guest speaker at Oakton High School’s graduation.

“Adam was just really well respected. He was a leader. He was driven and creative and had this vision,” said Veronica Cruz Burchard, a former Oakton High School teacher and Moyer’s yearbook advisor. “The theme for the yearbook that year [the “unknown” of after high school life] was really his theme and he really carried that through from the first page to the last [a 400-page yearbook].”

Moyer’s June 14 visit to Oakton reprised his role on stage during an Oakton ceremony. During his own graduation in 2000, Moyer introduced the guest speaker.

“My message to the graduating students [this year], which is something you hear a lot, is just do something,” he said. “But my twist was to do it right now… I think a lot of 18-year-olds in high school right now feel like they have to follow a track.”

A knockaround idea, he said, can become a career.

“Growing up, I had Oakleys and Ray-Bans and you’d leave them at the beach… I wanted to offer something that was affordable, but the stuff on the market was just generic and boring,” he said. “People want to buy into a brand.”

Learn more about Knockaround sunglasses at Knockaround.com.

hhobbs@fairfaxtimes.com