Entrepreneur Profile: Eyeglass Repair USA

eye glass repair

Credit: Mal Booth

The histories of the modern world’s most successful businesses are rich with examples of companies who shifted their business model into different offerings to respond to changing market forces. A company that debuted on the NASDAQ with a billion dollar IPO in 2011 famously employed a massively successful business pivot in 2008 when changing their focus from consumer activism to commerce, and their name from “The Point” to “Groupon”. Although most business pivots are much smaller in scope, they still have the potential to generate significant new revenue streams and take the company down a path not envisioned during its infancy.

Today we are speaking with Margarette Elie, owner of Elie Design, a jewelry store in Yelm, Washington. Elie Design has been in business since 1989, offering high-end designer jewelry and watches. In 2002, they began offering eyeglass repair as part of their service offerings, and today are one of the largest nationwide providers of mail-in eyeglass repair services. You can visit the home of her successful “pivot” online at www.eyeglassrepairusa.com.

Margarette was kind enough to shed some light on the pivot her business took, including some of the roadblocks she faced and overcame, as well as her plans to continue growth.

The Elie Design jewelry store has been open since 1989, but the eyeglasses repair portion of your business was just established in 2002. What led to your store making the “pivot” into glasses repair?

In 2002, we acquired a laser welding machine for the store. With the amount of jewelry repair and design work we do, having this type of high-end machinery was important. The laser welder operates at low temperatures by concentrating a focused beam on a singular point, which prevents heating of the surrounding alloys. This is extremely important when working with most precious metals as traditional torch-welding leads to oxidation which causes the metal to become brittle and weak.

At that time, we already were doing a small number of eyeglasses repairs for existing clients. Especially when working with frames built from materials such as titanium, a laser welder is really the only way to repair a broken hinge or frame. We quickly saw the opportunity in the market to begin offering eyeglasses repair as a major service offering.

When you began repairing eyeglasses, was it only a service for local customers? At what point did you recognize the opportunity for targeting “mail-in” eyeglass repair through the internet and expanding your reach nationally?

Initially, we put a little more emphasis on targeting customers in the Greater Puget Sound area near our store, offering a “repair while you wait” service that we highlighted on our first website. However, from the outset, we’ve primarily viewed this service as one with a nationwide customer base we’re looking to target.

When was the website developed?

I believe we first launched our original glasses repair website in 2002 or 2003, using the domain Laser-Fix.com. That site is still active today, but largely unmaintained. The site went through a number of evolutions between then and now, then in 2013 we re-launched our online platform at www.eyeglassrepairusa.com. The current site is designed to be a bit more consumer-friendly, and features an integrating shopping cart online for immediate payment processing.

What have been the biggest challenges for you as the Eyeglass Repair business model has grown to one that is much larger in scope and targeting a bigger market?

For us, scaling up the volume of repairs has been absolutely no issue with respect to fulfilling the actual repair work. The difficulties for us have mainly been growing pains associated with all of the processing work that comes along with an increasing volume of orders. Handling the invoicing, order processing and tracking, and shipping/logistics requires a lot of work.

Launching the new site was a big step as it has enabled us to offering payment processing online. Until then, customers send in a printed authorization form with their glasses, at which point we would manually key in all the credit card information into our terminal at the store. Enabling online payments is more secure on our HTTPS connection and also saves us a lot of time.

The other big change we’ve made was enlisted the services of a company called ShipStation that specializes in eCommerce fulfillment. Through their platform, our logistics have become much more streamlined, and we are also now saving money through discounted rates with the U.S. Postal Service.

Any strange or especially unique repair requests you have received from customers?

Occasionally, we’ll receive some really exotic frames from our customers. We once received a pair of custom frames made by Cazal that were fully covered with Rhinestones. As part of the repair, over 500 individual stones had to be replaced. Thankfully, being a jewelry designer and repair company, this was a request we were uniquely qualified to accommodate. Being able to offer a high level of craftsmanship is really important in glasses repair, as the consumer who is most interested in repairing (vs. replacing) a set of broken frames usually owns fairly expensive designer frames.

Where do you see Eyeglass Repair USA going in the next 5 years?

Our immediate priority is modifying our existing website to be fully responsive for mobile and tablet devices. Recent analytics data shows that nearly 50% of the visitors to our site are now using phones or tablets. Being able to fully accommodate mobile users is critical to our future growth and expansion.

More long-term, we are looking to further solidify our positioning as the industry leader in mail-in glasses repair. With our experience in both glasses and high-end jewelry repair, we feel that we are uniquely qualified to fulfill eyeglass repair requests with the highest attention to detail and overall quality in the marketplace.

Thanks for your time today Margarette!

About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.

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