Small Business Spotlight: Felix Gray Eyewear Sets Out To Alleviate Computer Eye Strain

June 12, 2018 - 6:24 pm
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- In working as a finance operations analyst for a startup, David Roger found himself spending 12 hours a day in front of a computer – and suffering severe eye strain as a result.

“My eyes just started to kill me – like, at the end of a day, I had a little bit of a headache. My eyes, you know, kind of were blurry, and I was squinting, and I looked around, and half the people were complaining about the same thing, and everyone’s in front of a screen,” he said.

That discomfort actually led to a business idea.

Roger’s cofounder was working for a hedge fund at UBS Global Asset Management, and he and many of his colleagues were likewise suffering from severe eye strain.

“We kind of looked around and said, well, why isn’t there a solution for this if everyone’s complaining about it?” Roger told WCBS 880’s Joe Connolly.

The solution was Felix Gray eyewear.

Roger said two of the main causes of eye strain are the blue lights and glare produced by a computer. There was already one player in the market for eyewear to counteract those factors, but it had a “very niche market amongst gamers and some developers,” he said.

The other company offered yellow lenses that made someone wearing the glasses look like “one of the X-Men,” Roger explained. For Felix Gray, Roger said the goal was to come up with a style that was more fashionable and appropriate for the office.

“Our thought was, well, everyone goes to the office; they care about what they look like. They’re going to care about what they put on their face, and so let’s develop something that really marries fashion with function is something that can effectively filter blue light; effectively eliminate glare, but also looks good; looks beautiful at the same time,” he said.

Upon starting out, Felix Gray only offered non-prescription glasses, for those with 20/20 vision or contact lenses. But two weeks ago, the company branched into prescription eyewear for the first time.

Felix Gray sells exclusively through the company website, ShopFelixGray.com.

“It’s a direct consumer brand. And we believe in, you know, building up and communicating with our customers with a digital-first experience, but of course, having physical presence as needed,” Roger said.

Roger said a number of marketing channels have proven useful to draw customers to the website – including the traditional paths of Facebook and Google AdWords, but also podcasts and email.

“There’s a unique storytelling angle here. We ultimately are a brand that stands for happiness and productivity in today’s screen-filled world. Everyone’s in front of a screen,” he said. “That speaks to a lot of people.”

Roger said it was a conversation with a young woman applying for an internship that led him to recognize the need for a high-end professional design for the Felix Gray website. He said she inspired him to “make the brand bigger than it felt at the time.”

“That kind of all came because I had someone reach out to me to interview for an internship role this summer, and she said – I’ll never forget it – she said, ‘Well, a brand that’s kind of getting as big as yours, you know, like, I’m sure you have a lot of different things on your plate,’” Roger said. “And I thought, like: ‘Man, we are not like a big brand, like, we do not feel like that. We need to get on that.’”

The conversation inspired Roger to “elevate the experience,” and ensure that “it feels good when you go to the website.”

As to the growth of the company, Roger said some of it has been through word of mouth and a “unique storytelling component,” while advertising has also helped.

“We moved into podcasts, and podcasts are super-fun, because it’s really fun being able to give a pair to the podcast host; let them play around with it; let them experience kind of the reduction in the eye strain that they might have already been feeling, and then it leads to the authentic, you know, ad when they do talk to their customers about it,” Roger said.

To manage growth, Roger said it was important to balance maintaining a consistent direction while also being flexible and open to change where necessary.

“It’s funny – we’ll look back and like, you know, a quarterly meeting from three quarters ago, and things look totally different than what they do today. But in the day-to-day, it feels like the road is clear, and I think that that is really important – that balance between making sure that you’re not going off track, but making sure that you’re being flexible enough to keep to that path,” Roger said.

Most importantly, Roger said, the company will not budge on “a really good customer experience.” He said much of Felix Gray’s communication with customers goes on by email, but phone support is also available and is all operated in-house.

But Roger said users also need to understand that they might not see a change in their eye strain right away.

“It’s generally between one and seven days, so it really depends on the person. Some people might be dealing with, like, you know, crazy amounts of eye strain, and they put it on, and three hours later, like, ‘Whoa, this is like significantly gone.’ Some people, it takes a couple days. And so we always, if people say, ‘Hey, I’m not sure if it’s working or not,’ I say, ‘Hey listen… we have a 30-day free return policy, like, try it out for a couple more days. If you don’t like it, like, go ahead and return it,” he said.

But often, those customers who have their doubts notice their 5 p.m. headaches going away after three or four days of using the Felix Gray glasses.