Sunglasses is an established industry and it needs creative entrepreneurs to disrupt it. One of the them is Todd Kurihara, the CEO and Co-founder of Spective, an eyewear company which lines are catered to Millenials and Generation Z.
In this Q&A, we talk with Todd on his journey in attempting to disrupt the sunglasses industry.
Where did the idea for Spective come from? Please tell us a little about the process behind starting the company?
My partners and I actually started a separate sunglasses business four years ago and we had some moderate success with affordable eyewear lines catered to Millennials and Generation Z. We built a couple brands and also partnered with a few social media influencers to launch sunglasses lines for them. So we were already familiar with the industry, who was buying, what they were looking for, and what was and wasn’t available on the market. And then just looking at the fashion world in general, there’s this growing trend towards customization and expressing individual affinities, so Spective was built with all of that in mind.
Explain to us how the sunglasses industry has traditionally functioned, and how Spective plans to disrupt it?
Most people don’t know this but the sunglasses industry is largely controlled by two companies. They own or control the licenses for roughly 80% of the brands in the market. They also own the distribution channels, control the manufacturing, etc. It’s essentially a duopoly, which is why everything you see in the market today is overpriced and looks the same. Spective aims to democratize the industry by giving anyone with a great idea the power to create his or her own sunglasses brand in a matter of minutes. Anyone can build a legitimate sunglasses business on Spective and consumers can purchase high quality eyewear that is both affordable and unique.
Are there any other industries you can think of that are ripe for this type of disruption? Why do you think this type of change is important in the business environment, and how can your company serve as a model?
I’m sure there are other industries with limited offerings and outdated business models where consumers get stuck with overpriced goods or services, but I can’t think of any that are this egregious. With the way technology is now, there are so many tools available that weren’t available before. When you add the power of social media, if you have a great idea or a great product, it’s never been easier to share it with a large audience. You don’t need a traditional manufacturing or distribution channel anymore and I think you’re going to see a seismic shift towards consumer-based products and designs in the near future. This trend has already started.
Who are your primary competitors? What sets Spective apart and how will you ensure it will remain unique in the coming years?
There are other companies that have limited customization options and there are promotional companies that offer cheap promo glasses, but no one is offering the same quality of sunglasses we are at the price we are. Also, no one is giving consumers the ability to sell custom sunglasses that he or she designs like Spective does. Ultimately our long-term success will depend on our ability to continuously provide value to our customers – and that means great service and great products.
What has been your greatest achievement so far with Spective? What goals do you have for the next few years?
We just launched the site last month so we haven’t hit too many milestones yet, but I’m very proud of the platform we’ve designed, the team we’ve put together and the product we’re offering. Our goal is to democratize the sunglasses industry. It starts by giving people the power to design and create their own sunglasses. Hopefully in the next few years we’ll have thousands of people designing and selling sunglasses on Spective that never would have made it to production otherwise.
What is your business background and how did you get into entrepreneurship?
I studied business in college at Georgetown, but I’ve spent the last 6 years working as an attorney. I’ve always wanted to start my own business and I was just waiting to find the right opportunity, the right team and the right time. I think I found all three of those things.
What were the top three mistakes you made when launching your business? What have you learned from these mistakes and how do you recommend other founders avoid them?
I think the biggest mistake I made was hiring some people early on that weren’t the right fit. When you decide to launch a company, there’s all this excitement and energy and you want to start putting a team together immediately. But I learned early on that it’s really important to make sure you surround yourself with the right people, and that can take patience.
2. Don’t try to do everything, especially if someone else can do it better. As the founder of the company, I wanted to have an imprint on all facets of the business. But for the business to be successful I think you need to be honest with yourself and recognize what your weaknesses are. Try to find people who can pick you up in the areas you’re weak in and who compliment your strengths.
3. It’s important to never forget about your customers and to constantly get their feedback throughout the process. Something you think is important or valuable might not matter to your customers, and vice versa.
What has been your most valuable lesson so far since starting your business?
I think with anything new, you’re going to make mistakes. So the key is to not get discouraged when you make mistakes and to learn from them so you don’t make them again.
Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about starting a business, what would it be?
Starting your own business isn’t easy. If you’re going to start your own business, make sure it’s something that you’re 100% committed to, 100% passionate about. That commitment and drive will keep you going when mistakes happen and people say no to you.