Chase Fisher got his multi-million dollar business idea at a San Diego nightclub in 2011.
Fisher, who had just graduated from San Diego State University, was surprised at how many people complimented the inexpensive neon green sunglasses he wore as an accessory:? Let me try them, ”said Fisher CNBC do it.
This gave birth to the idea for what is now a $ 90 million business: Blenders Eyewear.
The reaction to his cheap sunglasses made Fisher realize that there was an untapped market for stylish sunglasses that weren’t as expensive as the big names, which he could cash in on.
Fisher borrowed $ 2,000 from his roommate and started the sunglasses company Blenders Eyewear (named after Hornblend, the street he lived on). Fisher began selling his product in his backpack on the beach where he worked as a surf instructor.
In three years, Blenders has made over $ 1 million in revenue. And in December 2019, Blenders was valued at $ 90 million after the Italian eyewear company, the Safilo group, announced that it would acquire 70% of the company.
“I was a surf coach. I spent nine hours a day at the beach noticing people and the expensive sunglasses they wore,” says Fisher, now 32. He bought his own sunglasses from Target because he “couldn’t afford the sunglasses I actually wanted,” like Gucci, Oakley, or Ray-Ban, which can cost hundreds of dollars.
“There wasn’t much of a competitor or brand between the two that offered cool style sunglasses that were affordable, quality and comfortable,” he says. So “I decided to go out and make our own.”
The idea of starting his own business also motivated Fisher, who had always struggled in school with dyslexia. “In the darkest and most difficult times of your life, you can create opportunities,” he says.
So in 2011, Fisher started Blenders with his neighbor, Blake Jensen, a graphic designer. Jensen created a few mockup sunglasses and the pair shared them on Facebook for comments.
“I was quick to bring fans to this Facebook group”, inviting all of his friends and family, Fisher talks about the company’s first social media presence, which garnered 1,500 followers in just a few months. “Before we knew it, we had hundreds of likes and a lot of people [complimenting the sunglasses’ design]. “
These positive reactions validated Fisher’s idea and gave him the confidence to ask his roommate to borrow the $ 2,000 with a promise to repay the loan with a 25% return (or a total of $ 2,500. ) in six months.
Fisher then spent eight months trying to bring his designs to life, searching online and Google for things like “how to find a manufacturer” and researching trading tips. When he found a manufacturer, his first order was for 300 pairs of sunglasses – which cost the entire $ 2,000 loan – with black frames, red detailing and the brand’s signature pair of stripes on Branches.
In 2012, Fisher went to sell Blenders for the first time. He got a booth at an entrepreneur’s show in San Diego and priced his sunglasses at around $ 20 each.
Hoping to sell all of his product, Fisher was extremely disappointed to only sell 10 pairs, which he called “the most humiliating experience.” Show customers were looking for different styles of frames and more vibrant colors.
“When you’re 22, you’ve just graduated from college, you’ve got that youthful mentality, like ‘I’m going to take over the world and everything I do is going to turn to gold and it’s going to be easy’,” he said. . “And of course you fall prone.”
Fisher almost quit, but then received advice that kept him going: “Someone said, ‘The only way to fail is to quit. “
Riding a new wave of motivation, Fisher made branded stickers that he “slammed” onto road signs to advertise; he sold his sunglasses for $ 20 at pool parties, concerts, festivals or on the beach while giving surf lessons; and he made connections with popular DJs and local musicians who wore free Blenders sunglasses to their concerts.
“I would go to the bank every night and deposit $ 40 to $ 60 and put it back into the business,” he says. And even though Fisher was strapped for cash, he still managed to pay his roommate back within six months as promised. But to keep the business afloat, Fisher’s own salary came last. “It took me two years to pay myself $ 1,000,” says Fisher, who continued to work as a surf coach to pay the bills.
Yet in the summer of 2012, Fisher ran out of money. He therefore turned to crowdfunding.
“We didn’t know anything about the investors,” says Fisher. And “that was the cool new way to do it.” Fisher and Jensen started a 30 day period Indiegogo campaign, where they showcased “vibrant, polarized designer sunglasses.”
By the end of the campaign, Blenders had raised $ 7,000 from nearly 200 investors.
“At that time it was the most money I had ever seen. It was like I had a million dollars. I really felt like I had hit the jackpot,” said Fisher, who used silver to make more sunglasses with different colors. .
Blenders sales have grown slowly and by the end of 2012 the company had generated approximately $ 8,000 in revenue.
In 2013, Fisher began experimenting with using Instagram as a marketing tool, both to communicate with customers and to reach influencers who would post images of Blender sunglasses in exchange for a free pair.
Famous musicians, like Snoop Dogg, wore Blenders at concerts and events. Athletes, like surfer Lakey Peterson, wore them when competing.
“We had a lot of followers and a lot of eyes on the product,” going from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands in a few months (Blenders currently has 480,000 Instagram followers), and sales have started to pick up.
In 2013, Blenders generated six figures in revenue, and that figure topped $ 1 million in 2015 after Fisher added snow goggles to the product line, he said.
Despite this “huge achievement,” Fisher says his goal has never ceased to “keep the business healthy and profitable.”
“It wasn’t that huge moment and celebration. It was kind of like ‘OK we’ve cracked a million. Now let’s get $ 5 million,’ said Fisher.
In December 2019, Blenders was valued at $ 90 million after the Safilo group announced that it would acquire 70% of the company, with Fisher remain CEO of Blenders, focusing on the production and distribution of products. That year, Blenders generated almost $ 41 million in revenue.
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