Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
I noticed an untapped market in the eyewear sector - there was distinct lack of fashion forward, affordable frames (£20.00 - £40.00) for the prescription and non-prescription customer. Taking a game‑changing approach to design direction, pricing and optical prescription services, ToyShades created hand-finished classic and contemporary glasses and sunglasses with the option of prescription lenses for just £40.00. In the knowledge that 67% of all glasses wearers lose their frames within 90 days of owning them, we believed we could start somewhat of a revolution in the industry. Our products we sourced overseas in China.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
We sold through Instagram and other social media, using a key collaborator to influence purchasing decisions. We now have a three-tier business - online through Shopify, a concession-based retail model through TopShop, and a wholesale business with over 50 stockists. Our wholesale business now brings in the majority of revenue, which we shall soon be selling and invoicing through Shopify.
Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
We run a number of Bold apps which have seamlessly ensured prescription and ordering is very simple. We use Veeqo to integrate with our shipping partners and ensure the back office / fulfillment is pain-free. We have also implemented Nosto to send triggered emails to customers. I would say that Veeqo and Bold have had the biggest impact due to the fact that they have simplified our roles within the business. All shipping and fulfillment is handled by our in-house team. We use Veeqo to integrate between Shopify and our shipping partners sites which is simple but also very effective for our customers to track their orders.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Find a market that you love and enjoy. Find your niche within that market. Grow that niche. From a one person business ToyShades has grown rapidly in 2 years. From endless nights self-building a website on Shopify, to taking all product imagery on an iPhone in a self-built photo-booth, to fulfilling orders, there seemed no light at the end of the tunnel. But I would say never give up, ever! Two years on we now stock TopShop Oxford Street, have a successful online retail business and a growing wholesale business where we stock 40 stores in Australia, 6 in Indonesia, 3 in the UAE, and even the Soho House Group in London, in addition we have online stockists that now include ASOS and Lipsy & Co. It can be done - be different and be determined.