So as you all know I love to support local and started a segment where we could share, learn and inspire! It is so important to support local and share your findings with others.
During lock down, we are going to do a whole lot of these to highlight these businesses – many of which are taking HUGE strain during this time – and shed some awareness and love to all.
So today I am sharing an incredible business with you that not only makes divine and affordable wooden (and recycled wood chip!) polarized sunglasses but gives back to the planet! They do this by partnering with reforestation non-profit organisations that plant 10 trees in Africa for every pair of sunglasses sold! Such a beautiful initiative, makes you love their sunglasses even more doesn’t it? We need to celebrate companies like this, who do good for the environment. This brand is inspired by nature and they want to leave a positive effect on the plant, not a negative one, and that is pretty damn awesome!
We chatted to ThisGuy Eyewear and were so inspired by what they had to say. Read for yourself, you will be too!
You opened your own business – How does it feel to be a successful business owner that inspires others and loves what they do?
I’m not sure we can use the word “successful” yet! I am an engineer and project manager by trade, and so creating the business and brand of ThisGuy has been a long-term lesson in eCommerce, marketing, logistics, fashion etc., with many ups and downs along the way. I have loved every minute of it and have matured as a business owner along with the brand, and look forward to the lessons ThisGuy will continue to teach me as we move the brand and the business forward.
What are the top 3 learnings you have had to find out the hard way since starting your own business?
It’s a bit of a cliche, but the hardest lesson anyone starting a business will learn early on is that you will probably fail, over and over again.
It might be surprising to some, but the story of ThisGuy weaves through property investments, Uber cars and a yearlong “Failure to Launch” of our wooden sunglasses brand. The Uber business would ultimately fail, for various reasons, but we recognized some of the pitfalls in the Uber model early on and so we used our profits from the Uber business to fund our foray in to fashion and eCommerce. Having no experience whatsoever in these fields, we really had to learn everything the hard way, and the sunglasses brand was an unmitigated failure for at least a year after we launched – in that first year I don’t think we had even made 10 sales to people who weren’t friends or family!
It really took us many iterations of marketing strategies, testing of new styles, sales channels, advertising campaigns etc. to finally get the word out on the story of ThisGuy, and get whatever small traction we have in the market now. The takeaway from this is that you never be able to create the perfect business plan before getting started, so you have to be adaptable and willing to make big changes to your business to deal with the failures which will inevitably come your way.
The second lesson we learned from this process was the fact that you always have to have a back-up plan to help your business survive those times when it does, inevitably, have a failure! Using the Uber profits to hedge our bets with another venture was an example of how we have tried to manage our risks, and by the time the Uber business failed we had the sunglasses brand up and running and so the closure of the Uber side of the business wasn’t disastrous.
The final lesson is that in an industry such as ours, customer service is king. We believe that all the best marketing in the world can be undone by a single poor interaction with a customer. Unfortunately, we learned this lesson early on when we were too strict on some of our returns policies, which did no good other than to annoy our customers! This taught us that the most positive thing we can do for our brand (and, in turn, the bottom line) is to offer quality and service which is so good that our customers can’t actually believe what we are offering! This approach has served us well over the years, and will be a hallmark of the ThisGuy ethos moving forward.
Where do you see your business in 5 years? Once we have gotten over the effects of the lock down.
ThisGuy has slowly expanded its product offering over the last two years, from solely offering polarized wooden sunglasses to introducing recycled wood chip sunglasses cases in 2019, and most recently introducing our amazing Africa-embroidered caps. We will expand our product offering even further over the next 5 years, and we will continue our expansion into new markets. We have already launched in Australia, and have plans in the works to move into certain European markets once the world opens up again.
What is your advice to individuals out there wanting to start their own businesses but are too scared?
Starting your own business is scary, but with companies out there like Shopify, Amazon and Takealot it is a lot simpler than a lot of people realize! You need to be brave and take those first steps, and “eat the elephant one bite at a time”. But be sure to manage your risks and limit your financial exposure!
Tell us 2 things that are the BEST part about owning your own business and make it all worth while?
I love the challenge of trying to work out what our customers want and where we can add value for them as much as possible. I have also loved working with my marketing team, who have taught me many lessons on marketing and branding and have really moved the brand forward more than I ever could have alone!
How has lock down affected you and your team?
Given that we sell our products 100% online, the eCommerce shutdown caused a lot of disruption to our business and cash flow and has delivered our worst quarter in many years. Fortunately, ThisGuy is a “side hustle” for our team, and we currently all have full-time jobs which we have been able to continue to work on remotely while we waited for SA to re-open.