Seeing Clearly

The co-founders behind Genusee on making eyewear with a mission


Ali Rose VanOverbeke (left) and Jack Burns photographed in Flint

While volunteering with American Red Cross in 2016, Ali Rose VanOverbeke saw how much plastic is used to provide water bottles to Flint residents. The metro Detroit native, who lived in New York City for 10 years studying and working in fashion, knew she wanted to help, and teamed up with her former Parson’s classmate Jack Burns to launch Genusee. The company manufactures eyeglasses from up-cycled plastic bottles, and donates 1 percent of proceeds from every pair to the Community Foundation of Greater Flint. “We have four main goals of impact: reducing plastic waste, creating jobs, encouraging a circular economy, and giving back to Flint,” VanOverbeke says. “Eyeglasses checked all the buckets for us.”

Genusee has launched its first style, and is working with a Roseville company on its initial production run, which entails cleaning, barreling, and running bottles through a processor to be turned into plastic pellets that can be injected into molds shaped like eye glass arms and rims. By 2019, they’ll be operating out of Flint, and by 2020 they hope to have hired 15 locals.

“We believe that business should be a tool that is used for good,” Burns says. “We want our customers to know that they are making change with every purchase.”

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