The Transcript Is Auto Generated And May Contain Spelling And Grammar Errors
Unknown Speaker 0:01
You’re listening to biz ninja entrepreneur radio.
Unknown Speaker 0:06
This show was created for entrepreneurs, business owners, marketers and dreamers who want to learn from the experts of today and drastically shortcut their own success to build a business that supports their dream lifestyle. Since 2011, Tyler Jorgenson has been interviewing business thought leaders from around the world a serial entrepreneur himself. Tyler also shares his personal insights into what’s working in business today. Welcome to biz Ninja, entrepreneur radio.
Tyler Jorgenson 0:40
All right, welcome to another wonderful episode of Business Entrepreneur Radio. I’m your host, Tyler Jorgensen. And today we get to talk to another fellow Southern Californian and wonderful birthday boy Chase Fisher, the founder and CEO and Superman behind Blenders Eyewear. You’ve probably seen some of their ads, you’ve probably bought some of their sunglasses in the past. In fact, I checked right before the call, Chase, and I think it was like 35 of my Facebook friends like your page, which was just really cool. Right, like, shows that you’ve reached a good stretch of the market. Anyways, thanks for coming out and especially on your birthday. It’s good to have you out here Chase.
Chase Fisher 1:20
Yeah, thanks for having me, man. 55 is a good age.
Tyler Jorgenson 1:23
We were just joking just before Yeah, I think you’re definitely a lot younger than that, but yeah, Happy Birthday. Thank you for taking time for those that haven’t heard which isn’t very many. What is Blenders Eyewear?
Chase Fisher 1:35
Yeah, so we’re a lifestyle brand here in San Diego. We sell sunglasses and sell goggles. You know, the brands really feel behind the San Diego demographic, the lifestyle we live. It’s a very vibrant lifestyle. So yeah, we’re we’re awesome sunglass brand and our brand based here in San Diego.
Tyler Jorgenson 1:50
And how long has it been in existence?
Chase Fisher 1:52
We’ve been in business since 2012. So we’re going eight years strong. pretty wild that it’s been this long but uh, it’s it’s been amazing thus far.
Tyler Jorgenson 2:01
So 2012 you start a sunglass company now that’s right at the beginning of the like the real recovery from the Great Recession. What gave you the idea to start a sunglasses company? Like what led you down that path?
Chase Fisher 2:15
Yeah, it’s funny. So I was going out to see one of my favorite DJs at a nightclub here in San Diego. And I went to Target and the first thing I saw was a pair of neon green sunglasses. I bought them for five bucks, and I wore them to the club and everyone in the club was coming up to me asking about my shades. They were like, dude, those are sick. Let me try them on, like, where’d you get them? And there was like, all this crazy attention around my $5 shades at the club. And so the whole idea kind of started from the dance floor of a nightclub. And at the time, I was a surf coach and I was a surf instructor. So I’d be spending all my time at the beach. And I would just notice people walking by and the sunglasses that they’re wearing and, you know, just saw a huge gap in the market between my $5 beater shades and your you know, $200 rebounds and oculis like I was 23 at the time, I couldn’t afford those, those pairs and sounds like wow, like not only is there a need to do it, but like what better place to do it. San Diego, if it’s not gonna work here, it’s not gonna work anywhere. So I borrowed 2000 bucks from my roommate and jumped in headfirst, Nepal.
Tyler Jorgenson 3:08
Well, that’s a nice roommate. So I love that you started with you, you basically saw a need and the need was just that, like people wanted cool stuff. They wanted cool sunglasses, like almost everyone has sunglasses. But you also realize, like, not everyone wants to drop 250 bucks on a pair of shades, right? So when you first went from, hey, I have this idea. And you decide to go, what was the first major hurdle that you faced? And like?
Chase Fisher 3:34
Yeah, so getting the product was really hard, right? Like we had no idea what we were in for in terms of like how to manufacture we didn’t know anything about overseas supply. Really, we just didn’t know any of that stuff. We knew nothing. Everything we’d learned was by doing. So we just started Googling stuff. We built a Facebook page, we started putting out designs on Facebook, we had 1500 fans before even having a product. So we started spitting out designs to test the need or to test like the demand and so on. There’s a huge demand. So once we kind of validated that there was a demand then it was like, Okay, how do we go out and make these things we thought we could make them in like two weeks, it took nine months to make these things, we had no clue what the hell we were doing. So we just started Googling, you know, we just started Googling stuff and making calls and one door led to another and you know, some of those days it’s really all about being resourceful right? It’s just about like learning how to do more with less and figuring it out.
Tyler Jorgenson 4:23
Totally. So you know, you just work through the problems as they come up be resourceful use Google, right? The most of the time the answer is exist, right? People have done it below dealt with it already in the past. So you get you get your first round of products, and did you know right off the bat, like hey, this is going to be called blenders. And these are the kind of vibe we’re going to go for how much has that evolved in the eight years?
Chase Fisher 4:46
Yeah, so we lived on the street called horn blend at the time. So that’s where the name blenders came from. Awesome. And like the mixing and matching of colors and all the different, you know, hues that we use. So that’s kind of where the name spawn from, but manufacturing actually came from a wholesaler up in LA. So that had factories overseas. So we went up to LA a lot just to learn from the wholesalers that spoke fluent Mandarin, we showed him our designs. And when it came down to actually placing the order, we had to make a decision, are we going to go through them? Are we going to just go direct. And if we wanted to be long term, we had to go direct. So we had to basically take a risk. I found a supplier in Taiwan and I negotiated down minimums, they wanted 2000 pairs, I said, I don’t need 2000 pairs, I only need 300 I promise you one day, we’re going to be a huge client. You just got to trust me. And so I negotiated down the terms I got enough to kind of supplies the 2000 bucks that we’re working with at the time and was on our way, you know,
Tyler Jorgenson 5:36
so you started right out the gate. And so for people that are listening, that maybe don’t understand the difference between manufacturing or private labeling or just stuff like that, like you did your own designs right out the gate. How much research did you do into like, Hey, we want to make sure we have these types of lenses or all that kind of stuff.
Chase Fisher 5:56
Yeah, so we got samples from the factory, right just to kind of test the overall products but when it came Like, I was a perfectionist at the time, I wanted it to be perfect. And that’s probably why it took nine months. Right and after, you know, looking back on it, they say if your products perfect, you waited too long to launch. And that’s frankly what what happened. You know, we just I just thought was like, Oh my God, our logo is too low. We’re going to fail. You know what I mean? Like all these my new details that mean nothing, right. I got caught up in. And so yeah, when it came down to actually like manufacturing products, like I had no clue what really went into that. And I just started asking questions. I just, you know, I googled it. I talked to a factory every day, I looked at different products in the market and just started studying these things like crazy. So, yeah, just one step at a time.
Tyler Jorgenson 6:37
So use that first 2000 bucks, you get that first round of product in you get started. Was there a point at the beginning where you’re just like, Hey, I don’t think this is gonna work. And we should just move on.
Chase Fisher 6:48
Yeah, so the 2000 bucks we ran out of money very quickly. Yeah, we use the money to you know, register our trademark buy a booth at the San Diego State entrepreneur fair. Get some business cards. Get some stickers and purchase the, you know, our first round of sunglasses. And I was so young buck overly confident, almost so naive to how hard this really was that I brought all 300 pairs to San Diego State thinking I was going to sell every every single pair. I literally brought 300 pairs thinking I was going to sell every single pair. I sold 10 pairs that day. 10 pairs, barely, barely 10 pairs, and I had to work hard to get those 10 pairs sold. And me and my business partner at the time, we drove back and we’re like holy, like back to surf lessons we go, you know what I mean? Like, that’s when it was like my first real punch in the face from entrepreneurship and very humbled that that was like, this is gonna be a hard, hard journey. So but what so a lot of people and I mean a lot after that first like booth that they think is going to be their big win. And instead it’s like a kick in the nuts, right? What made you decide, no, this is still what we’re gonna do. I’m still going to make this work. You know, I actually Had a I got a job at GNC because I had to start I had to get a side gig, right. I got a job at GNC for seven minutes. I walk into GNC on my first day, and I’m all dressed up in like a like a, you know, dress shirt and slacks and shoes. And the first thing the manager tells me, he says, your shirts wrinkled and your shoes aren’t shot, go home, iron your shirt, shine your shoes. And when you come back, you have to sell two vitamin packs by the time you and your first shift. Oh, and by the way, you got to put your phone in the back. And he gave me my papers. I walked out the door. And I never walked back in. And that’s all I needed. I called my business partner at the time I go, I don’t care what it takes. I never want to experience that again. And we’re going to do this business. So we’re going to do it right now. And this is going to work like that was the fire that I needed under my belt to really push me. And so I was just all in at that point. I just never wanted to experience that. I never wanted to subscribe to that. And so that’s what changed for me early on.
Tyler Jorgenson 8:59
I love it because what it is, is sometimes humans have a dislike this thing where we always fantasize about the other option. So you start the entrepreneurial journey and then you hit a roadblock. You’re like, ah, but I could just get a job that would be easier. But then you got really quickly reminded all the things you have to give up. If that’s the path you’re going to go down, right? How have you like you’ve grown a pretty good sized team now I think you have over 25 people that work as part of blenders you got your street teams, all this kind of stuff. How have you made sure to not allow that over corporate terrorism like get involved? Like you got to have rules, you got to have that SOPs, you got to have stuff but how have you applied that? Does that lesson maybe does it does that lesson from GNC impact your company today?
Chase Fisher 9:42
Totally. I mean, yeah, you know, we we never want to have that corporate environment, right. We never want to have that like, military style operation. You know, we always want to start small. We always want to know where we came from understand our roots. And, you know, that’s the way it’s gonna be, you know, and I understand as we get bigger and as we you know, as we scale we have More, you know, team members, like, you know, you got to get more structure in place, you got to have more processes in place. But, you know, we’re always going to be a small company at heart, you know what I mean? We’re always going to be that kind of scrappy brand on the beach that started that way, no matter how big we get. So I think kind of making sure we instill the right values and kind of really live by our culture codes, you know, within the team and find good people, we’re going to continue to kind of, you know, have a really strong culture with a really strong work environment.
Tyler Jorgenson 10:26
That’s awesome. Right now, like a lot of businesses are obviously struggling, right. So we’re recording this on at the end of May in 2020. And it a lot of businesses are so close, especially brick and mortar now retail, like online retailers have seen a lot of growth over the past few months. But you guys actually, even though a lot of companies are leaving brick and mortar, they’re closing they’re focusing only on digital or at least trying to shift. You guys went the other direction and actually opened a physical location. Is brick and mortar a part of the future still.
Chase Fisher 10:57
Absolutely. Yeah. So I mean, we you know, we had Some lofty plans to kind of expand retail pretty quickly. We’re pumping the brakes a little bit on that. And, you know, although we’re not going to be Sunglass Hut with 2500 stores, we think there’s still a lot of, you know, opportunity for us to kind of expand retail. We’re opening one store in Encinitas, actually, at the moment with another San Diego, you know, company called Big Bear. So we’re excited about that. But you know, we’re gonna max out at 20 to 25, stores tops, and we think slowly rolling those out is still pretty low risk. And we’re always going to be an online business, we’re always going to be DTC focused, that’s always going to be the mother lode of the business. But, you know, we still think there’s a lot of value in having a presence in the real world. And retail brick and mortar definitely gives us that.
Tyler Jorgenson 11:39
Absolutely. So you said something really important there about that you’re a DTC a direct to consumer based business, meaning you guys make the product, you sell it to the customer, you ship it and send it to them, right. They’re not going through, you know, all these other retailers. You’re not you’re not out there trying to seek wholesale accounts. Right, well, like how much of that is On purpose, and how much like what challenges or temptations Have you had in the eight years? You’ve been running this company of like, Oh, we should do this like and how do you stay on track?
Chase Fisher 12:11
Definitely. So yeah, taking it back to kind of square one, again, was when we started with, you know, having no money, right. Like, we didn’t know how to build a website, we didn’t know how to drive traffic, I built the brand, literally offline, selling one pair at a time at the beach, I would sell them at pool parties out selling music festivals. And so we couldn’t drive any traffic. So what do we do? We went to trade shows like every other brand, you know, we did wholesale trade shows, we went to surf Expo, we went to Vegas, we did all the trade shows. And we were like, holy shit, we realized that this is very expensive. This is very capital intensive. It’s hamstringing on your margins. And it’s not complimentary to a bootstrap business. You know, this is not like you have all these terms that aren’t favorable. Yep. And so we realized quickly that we couldn’t scale wholesale business and it was not the business we wanted to run. We can run a much more lean business. Do Get online, it’s more favorable for our business model. And we, we control it from top to bottom. So we need it to go down that road, like that road to really see that that’s not the direction for the brand. You know, that could be a piece of it, that could be a leg of it, but it can’t be the focus of it. So then it was all, like full, you know, full blown online, let’s focus DC, let’s really build up our online presence. Let’s build social media let’s, you know, build a community. And that was the focus. So, you know, you got to understand what doesn’t work in order for you to understand what does work sometimes.
Tyler Jorgenson 13:29
Yeah, absolutely. What you know, obviously, right now we’re seeing a major shift, people are finally getting digital, right? So there’s plenty of companies ecommerce is not a new thing. Plenty of companies have been launched completely on Econ, but then a lot of the older brands that were built on that wholesale model have ignored digital we’re seeing like, probably because of everything happening right now. The shift is accelerating. One Do you think there’s still opportunity for new brands online? And to what advice do you have for someone who’s getting started now?
Chase Fisher 13:59
Yeah, I mean, Absolutely, I think there’s a huge opportunity online, I think, you know, COVID-19 is storing a pretty big wrench in the mix of wiping out a lot of smaller brands, you know, and especially I really feel for the, you know, the, the retail stores, the coffee shops, the restaurants, I mean, those are going to be hard to stomach. But, you know, in terms of DTC, like, it’s if you weren’t a digital brand before COVID-19, you better be a digital brand. Now you have no other you have no other option. Like, that’s the only way to survive. So I think we’re going to see a huge shift. Now, a lot of bigger brands that fail to kind of adapt, pre COVID-19 are like probably like, counting their blessings now of like, Okay, this is it. You know, this is our last chance. Yep. So, yeah, I see a huge surge in online presence. I think DSC is going to continue to get more popular, it just reinforces that, you know, online is the future. Right. And that’s how people shop these days, you know, so, for a lot of different reasons. So, yeah, yeah. So yeah, absolutely.
Tyler Jorgenson 14:57
Cool. You mentioned a couple times like you, you know, you’re really made a couple of early things Who was your first hire? And who is your next hire?
Chase Fisher 15:06
So that’s a good question. We hired a couple interns right off the bat, just because we kind of pay anyone. So right. We paid a lot of people in sunglasses for a very long time early on, including photographers and, and all types of different content people as well. So yeah, we started small, obviously, then we hired like, just for basic customer service internally, as well as design. But our first real hire was our product designer. And he’s been with us for Gosh, the very, very beginning. And he really helped kind of like steer the brand, the right direction for our products, as well as just graphic design, who’s very experienced. And so from that point forward, it was just slowly piecing out one person at a time. You know, we had to learn how to wear a lot of different hats at the beginning. And that’s what’s great about bootstrapping a business is you really understand the positions well enough to know what you need to hire for once you’re ready. And I think that’s important, right? I think a lot of the stuff you do learn that’s like Really good is from bootstrapping is from learning how to do more with less and kind of going through those times.
Tyler Jorgenson 16:07
Yeah, it’s interesting. You know, I’ve done several businesses where we’ve started with like, next to nothing, right. And then I’ve worked in a couple of businesses that that have been capitalized and whether it’s a lot or just a medium amount, right. I feel like you make smarter decisions and more intuitive decisions when you’re bootstrapping because the grid, you don’t you don’t have the runway to just guess. Right? Right. What’s your next big hire?
Chase Fisher 16:30
Next Big hire? Well, I mean, we’re kind of pumping up. I mean, we’re not pumping the brakes. But you know, we’re really trying to look at like, what people do we need, like, what, what talent Do we really need to focus on right now and like, the digital side is super important. Our retail side is also important too, because we’re kind of expanding that. So that’s kind of our focus. Most of the other team members that we have in place are pretty solid, you know, our margins are are strong so we’re not in a dire need to fill fill more seats right now.
Tyler Jorgenson 16:58
Yeah, that makes a ton of sense. So, I mean, you started designing these products you started like manufacturing, you obviously, are doing more than 300 units at a time now. But now you have inventory to deal with, right? And you’ve got all of this stuff. How have you handled the growth from being bootstrap into success? Right? There’s new problems arise, and inven just managing things like inventory is a big deal. How has that gone? And you know, what lessons have you learned from that?
Chase Fisher 17:27
inventory is probably the most fragile part of the business to manage, it’s probably the hardest to manage to. It’s like it’s always a constant push and pull of like not having enough having too much not having not having too much like your cash is only in two places, right? It’s either in the bank or it’s on the shelf. So we’ve gone through a lot of different scary times with like, early days, like we started having too much and we had too little and then we had too much and almost buried the business. Then we had too little didn’t have the right stuff at the right time. And then like we couldn’t find the right balance. It took us like almost five years. to six years to finally strike a balance that really allowed us to scale so. And also we didn’t really have good accounting in place, we didn’t have anyone that was really doing the job that was kind of helping forecast. So when you run a DVC brand, and you’re marketing through social media, you know, your forecasting could be just through the roof, right, you could go from selling seven pairs a day to selling 700. overnight. It’s super, super volatile. So honestly, it’s never perfect. Is it better than it used to be? Absolutely. But we’ve had to take pretty large risks, you know, to make that happen and, and really focus on on having the right stuff at the right time. Because that’s, that’s what makes all the difference.
Tyler Jorgenson 18:35
Yeah, absolutely. So you mentioned, you know, being direct to consumer selling through social media, what are some big lessons that you can share, like for other entrepreneurs that want to be able to leverage social media to grow their business?
Chase Fisher 18:47
Yeah, so I think I mean, obviously, I think it’s really about building a community. I think that’s first and foremost, right? Like people need to connect with something they need to lean into something they need to relate. and building a community is number one. So making sure that About like your brand has that potential, and making sure that there’s a shareable aspect to your brand, right? So for us, like, we sell sunglasses, they’re cool. They’re kind of conversation starters, people take photos and people ask questions about them. Like, there needs to be a shareable aspect to the brand that people talk about. Another thing, like you really want to develop a look and feel, you know, and make sure that your brand nowadays, pulls down the curtain, you know, you’re not hiding behind the logo, you’re being very personal. And, you know, that’s what people want, right? Like the connection between the big brands nowadays is pretty much gone. You know, and like smaller brands are able to kind of relate to their customers understand their customers speak to them in a much more authentic and a real way that I think is more important than it’s ever been. Right. And I think, you know, COVID-19 really paints that picture too, right? So it’s like, if you’re not leading with empathy right now, and if you’re not coming from a place of love are a place of community and really like providing a pillow for your customers to sleep on. Like, it’s your To get blasted for it. So I think yeah, there’s, there’s a lot of different reasons that kind of, you know, attribute to making a really strong online community. And having a good customer experience is so important to, you know, word of mouth travels faster than ever before. And everyone has a voice these days. It’s not like it used to be where word of mouth just travel really slow. So having a good product, having a good customer experience, and having and building a community that puts your customers and people first is very, very important.
Tyler Jorgenson 20:28
What’s something that you guys do at blenders that really is like, helps elevate that customer experience?
Chase Fisher 20:34
Yeah, I mean, look like we acknowledge every email that comes to the door, we acknowledge every comment that comes to our Facebook, you know, we don’t want to leave any any hole untouched. So, you know, we like to relate to our customers, we like to personalize with them. You know, we crack jokes with them, you know, we feature them on our social media, we highlight their stories on our Instagram. We have a, you know, user generated content community that’s consistently thriving on a daily basis. we’d run contests and giveaways. To keep people excited, we’re, you know, there’s we’re launching new products consistently that keeps the brand fresh and keeps the conversation interesting. You know, there’s so many ways to keep the vibe alive. That, you know, for a brand like us. We’re just it’s forward motion all day. Yeah. So that’s what this brand is built on. That’s what San Diego’s lifestyle is built on. And that’s what our whole team is dedicated to doing on a daily basis.
Tyler Jorgenson 21:23
I love it. So as you guys have been growing, you know, you’re eight years in you got you know, you’re 26 something employees, right, things are going well, what was the first experience that was the opposite of your went to a trade show with all 300 pairs and only sold 10? Right, like, what was the first big thing we’re like, we’re in momentum, holy crap, like, beat expectations.
Chase Fisher 21:44
Yeah, so I would say once we started migrating from, you know, early on from Facebook, to Instagram and that platform started to really take take shape. Yep, that’s when I started to be like, okay, I could connect with people here. I could I you know, I could find athletes, I can network with photographers, that’s when we started to really develop a visual identity for the brand and allowed us to just communicate and build a presence online, right? Because before then we didn’t really have a presence. It was just this like Facebook group that like really didn’t do anything. Right. So early on, it was Instagram. And then once we started to build our following and kind of learn how to like run giveaways, and pick followers up and network with photographers to build our content side of the brand, then we’re able to use that to like help drive traffic to our website. And so that that was a huge shift. And just like marketing tools, another big one was when we went from one style to five, right, it’s really hard to launch a brand with one style and one color way. So once we were able to build out our sunglass line a little bit further and kind of bring out new styles that really helped us take, you know, to appeal to a larger audience. Yeah, so there’s a lot of you know, there’s no home runs, right. But it’s successes, a compound of a lot of singles. Just getting on base, you know, and so That’s what we’ve, that’s what we’ve come to realize. And I fell victim to that to that. Way back in the day, I was always searching for the homerun, I was searching for the overnight success and the Grand Slam and you just realize, right? It doesn’t exist.
Tyler Jorgenson 23:12
yet. I, one of my favorite sayings is that the long way is the shortcut. Like, just do just stay on the right path, right? Just keep chipping away. And I use that same analogy that you just mentioned of like, you know, you just got to get on base. You hit consistent singles, and you’re gonna win all day long.
Chase Fisher 23:28
Tyler Jorgenson 23:28
It may not Wow, the crowd, right, but that’s not what really matters. Well, cool, man. What? So I mean, you guys, obviously you have a lot more styles and five now how many, like roughly how many designs and stuff do you guys have now?
Chase Fisher 23:40
Gosh, we’re up to like 25 frames and we have like, I think 140 styles now. colorways Wow. So, you know, we’ve started at one and we built it to pretty large now. So yeah, it’s awesome. You know, definitely have something for everyone.
Tyler Jorgenson 23:56
I love it. All right, my I asked this last question for everybody. Buddy that’s been on the show since the early days. Right? So to me, business is about creating a lifestyle right, which you guys are a lifestyle brand. I don’t think this will be that surprising for you. But sometimes as the entrepreneur, everything we do is about the business. What is one item in your personal bucket list you’re going to accomplish in the next 12 months?
Chase Fisher 24:19
In the next 12 months in my personal bucket list, well, let’s see. That’s a good question. I want to serve some bigger waves, you know, right now I’m like, I’m, I feel like I’m in good shape from Coronavirus. could, you know, shockingly, I’ve been doing a lot of workouts I’m not falling off the wagon. I’ve been really taking care of my body and I’m just kind of like trying to find that like inner Stoke, again of going out and surfing and just being free, you know, to kind of go out Yeah, and really live your passions again. And so I’m excited to get back in the water and surf some bigger waves. And I’m excited to travel again and check out some new spots.
Tyler Jorgenson 24:54
So love it. Yeah, I’m we’re absolutely looking forward to travel Chase, really appreciate you In here again Happy Birthday everyone please please please go check out blenders eyewear. They’re on Instagram they’re on Facebook. They’ve got a website blenders eyewear calm and also I’ll put dollar chases links and stuff to give him a follow we appreciate you coming out and it’s your turn to go out and do something.
Unknown Speaker 25:19
Thank you for tuning in to biz ninja entrepreneur radio. What you didn’t hear was one more very important question that Tyler asks each guest if you want to be a fly on the wall when the real secrets are shared. Go to biz ninja comm slash VIP and get your access today. Remember to subscribe so that you don’t miss any future episodes. And our one last favor if this episode was meaningful to you, please share this podcast with a fellow entrepreneur so they can grow along with us is ninjas. It’s your turn to go out and do something