Hi, I'm Ming, a co-founder of The Rocket Eyewear Company, a niche sunglasses brand based in Singapore.
There are many articles online about how to start a sunglasses brand or how someone sold "$10,000 worth of sunglasses in 30 days."
Instead of writing a step-by-step guide, I will share six questions to ask yourself (with my thoughts) that can help you build a successful eyewear brand that resonates with customers.
1. What product do you want to make?
Contemporary startup literature encourages us to start with the customer, but most of us start off thinking about products, and you don't need to reverse this natural way of thinking. So let’s have it— what type of glasses or sunglasses do you want to make? Think in terms of details like shape, colour, materials and the like.
2. Who's your target customer?
If someone put a gun to your head and said you had to sell 10 pairs by tomorrow, who would you approach? These 10 early adopters would be your target customers. Family and friends do not count! :)
3. Why are they going to buy your product?
Notice that I didn't ask you what your unique value proposition was or what set you apart from every other brand. I believe these questions can derail great ideas and lead many aspiring entrepreneurs down rabbit holes.
Just because something is unique doesn’t mean that people will buy it. In contrast, competition is a good sign because it validates an existing need.
There are numerous examples of successful brands all selling basically the same product and thriving (e.g. Nike and Adidas, North Face and Patagonia etc.)! How? The answer boils down to the emotional connections these companies forge with their customers.
In my opinion, all you need to answer is why someone out there would buy from you. You can disregard concerns about competition for now.
4. How are you going to advertise your products to your target customer?
Did you know that most direct-to-consumer brands spend anywhere from 20% to 50% of their revenue on advertising? In other words, for every $100 you make, you may have to spend up to $50 on acquiring customers.
So really think through who your target customers are and how you're going to reach them.
Ideally, your target customers are within arm’s reach. Having a clear idea of your target customer without a marketing strategy isn’t helpful if you need to spend a high percentage of revenue to reach them.
5. What sales channels are you going to use?
In the world of online sales, there are two main channels for selling products: your own website or a marketplace like Amazon. I won't go into too much detail, but each channel presents its own set of opportunities and challenges.
If you decide to sell through your own website and ever plan to sell prescription eyewear—great, we have an app called LensAdvizor that helps you do just that!
6. Where are you going to get your products made?
There are many areas in the world where you can find high-quality eyewear manufacturers, with China, Italy and Japan among the best-known locations for manufacturing. To find a good manufacturer, you can attend an optical fair. Alibaba is also a place to start.
One piece of advice: choose quality.
Before investing in inventory, I would obsess over the above six questions and refine my answers until I have a conviction about my answers.
Nothing beats empirical evidence, so start small and test. Maybe you can work part-time at a sunglass kiosk in your local mall to see what customers like.