With $2500 in seed money, within the confines of the Venture Initiation Program at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Warby Parker was born. Eyeglasses were too expensive, affordable quality eyewear wasn't really accessible, and the founders of Warby Parker set out to find a solution. That was in 2010, and today Warby Parker is not only a throwback story that warms my heart, they're a force to be reckoned with carrying a valuation of over 1 billion dollars. Let's talk about why they've been so successful, another startup modeling their approach to business, and what you can take from their 500% growth to apply to your own business.
The Watch Market Is Very Copycat Right Now
There are the uber luxury brands, there are drop shipped rebrands, there are knockoffs...something is definitely missing. The founder at Coleman Collection Watches realized there was a huge gap in the marketplace when it came to a high-quality watch that was affordable. He saw his friends and colleagues buying at a price point of around $300 and receiving a cheap knock off that only lasted a few months. Whether the band was falling apart, the latch was loosening, of the battery was dying quickly, Todd Hamam realized that he cared enough to try and close this market gap, while correcting the issues he saw with a lot of the available products. From there, he took a page right out of the Warby Parker playbook: offer a luxury quality item for an affordable and fair price point, giving more of the margins back to the people, rather than pocketing them.
Modeling Your Startup
Hamam's business model: Disrupt with higher quality, better design, yet remain affordable. It sounds so simple, but not many businesses go this route. Hamam decided he wanted to add substance to a bland market, to expand the product offerings to a large buying audience, who were buying inferior products, but really didn't have much of a choice when it came to options. By going high-quality, Hamam hopes to disrupt a market that is more than ripe. Hamam's attention to detail, to a latch that doesn't rub and wear down the leather, but is still adjustable, to the glass that is very similar to what Rolex uses, is what will help him win.
A Heavy Focus on Customer Experience
This is what makes a luxury brand, luxury. The customer experience will decide whether or not the product you offer is luxury. Yes, the price point, the materials, and the overall product matters... but the experience will determine whether or not you get word of mouth referrals or not. When that customer feels like you're on their side, they will tell the world about your brand and sell it for you. Even though this sounds simple, a lot of companies also get this wrong.
Competing with the Big Players: Lessons You Can Learn From
Build trust. For Hamam and Coleman Collection Watches, he knew he needed to build trust right out of the gate. So the first thing he offered was a 90-day full refund policy. By taking some of the risk out of the buy, customers could focus on the elements they were searching for, like design, strap material, functionality, and so on.
Solve problems. Hamam also wanted to solve a lot of the problems watch lovers shared with him, and built those solutions into his marketing. His latch is unique for a number of reasons, and still adjustable, his strap is high quality and works with the latch to avoid rubbing and wear, and his glass is top notch.
Be unique + know your audience. When it came to the battery, he decided that wasn't for him. His customer base didn't want to have to worry about batteries, and he knew this because he knew his target audience very (very) well. So he shifted to kinetic energy and built a window into the minimalist design of the watch face to show the mesmerizing movement taking place below the surface.
Be yourself. When the first watch collection was getting ready to launch, Hamam blasted everything on Instagram, including his face. He wanted to show people that he wasn't a "here today, gone tomorrow, get rich quick" Instagram ploy, but that there was a real person, who really cared, behind the product. Hamam joked that he accidentally became the face of the company this way, but he doesn't mind because it allows him to authentically connect with his audience, while adding credibility to his brand.
What Time Is It?
As I watch the shifts in the marketplace, I am seeing, in so many categories, this shift back to quality over quantity. That tells me there has never been a more "now" time to take a page from Warby Parker or Coleman Collection Watches, and focus on what you can add, rather than what you can walk away with.