8 years. $90 million. This is the success story of Blenders Eyewear
Little did Chase Fisher know the day he wore a $5 pair of neon green “beater” sunglasses to see his favorite DJ at a downtown San Diego nightclub, that he would leave with a business idea.
Sporting this $5 pair of neon sunglasses, he received overwhelmingly positive responses. After doing some market research, he realized the eyewear market was heavily dominated by a small group of players that leveraged substantial controls on all pricing, distribution, and manufacturing. He quickly learned this was the reason that prices for eyewear were so out of whack. Where were the choices for eyewear that were relevant, affordable and dependable? He realized there was a major void in the market between high-end designer sunglasses and low-end beater shades.
With some help from his neighbor, Blake - a graphic designer, who crafted a logo and Facebook page, along with a $2,000 loan from his roommate which covered a trademark, website domain, first round of sunglasses and stickers, Blenders Eyewear was born.
The name was inspired by the street that Chase and Blake lived on - Hornblend Street. The name fit perfectly for the mixing and matching of various colors they wanted to use, and the local beachy lifestyle in San Diego.
Blenders was launched at San Diego’s State Entrepreneur Day. Quickly, Chase learned he needed more colors and styles to offer his target audience if he wanted to be successful. Without any cash, but a winning plan, he managed to create a successful crowdfunding campaign through Indiegogo. This campaign showcased affordable sunglasses with bright colors, patterned frames, and tinted lenses. They were on trend. They were stylish. They caught everyone’s eyes.
With a bountiful circulation of social media, demand for initial designs started to arrive, along with requests for purchasing details. Continuing to generate true grassroots marketing tactics, sunglasses and stickers were passed around local beaches, pool parties, and music festivals to gain exposure and win over brand popularity. Blenders sunglasses even appeared on the faces of DJs on stage and other artists that frequented San Diego.
8 years into the journey, Blenders was valued at $90 million. Safilo, a billion-dollar eyewear giant, and the parent brand of Smith Optics, Carrera and Polaroid Eyewear, bought a 70% stake in the local San Diego startup in 2019. Chase Fisher still remains CEO.
This partnership is a win-win. Blenders can now expand internationally at a much greater scale. Blenders has an unparalleled understanding of its target audience - the millennials and generation Z. And Safilo now has gained a better tap into this younger market.
What started with Chase selling pairs of Blenders sunglasses from his backpack he has made a household name for himself. Blenders is now a premium lifestyle brand specializing in fresh, vibrant comfortable sunglasses and snow goggles that are founded on fun, and designed for adventure, all priced between $20 - $95. Blenders now represents a brand standing for passion, progress and a life in forward motion.
This journey did not come quick nor easy though. Blenders only really exploded in 2016 - hitting more than a million in sales for the first time. Roughly 95% of their sales have been transacted through ecommerce with a direct to consumer business model to reduce overall expenses. There is a brick and mortar location in Pacific Beach, with a few more in the works in other states. The benefit of eCommerce at this level is that you can run with your data and analytics. Wherever your data is most prominent, you can put stores in those locations and know there is already demand for your product.
When interviewed by SDVoyager, some of Chase’s descriptions of this journey were "emotional rollercoaster” and “innumerable sacrifices”. Some of the biggest struggles encountered along the way were figuring out:
- Cash Flow
- Inventory Management
- Manufacturing and lead times
- And managing employees and building a team
He learned very early that he knew nothing. But that was okay. He learned by doing. He learned that cash is gasoline. He learned that customer service is an investment and not an expense. He learned that entrepreneurship is lonely and damn hard work. Work that no education system can prepare you for. It’s one that you have to build yourself.
In Chase’s words: “You are going to be liked by some, loved by others, criticized by a handful, and disliked by few. Therefore, it makes the most sense to do what you want regardless of how people think or what they say.”
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