A Product Case Study
A New Series on Business Startups — Part 5
From time to time in this series, we’ll slot in a case study to add a sense of reality to the often academic nature of the learning curve of starting a business. Here’s one from the UK.
While still a student at West of England University, Jamie Murray Wells used his student loan to start Glasses Direct from a disused stable block on his father’s estate. He negotiated deals with the spectacle-frame manufacturers which allowed him to undercut the high-street chains in the UK, like SpecSavers, by a substantial amount.
James Murray Wells, 23, now runs a multi-million pound internet company, which sells a pair of specs every eight minutes. He has netted sales of over Â£2.5 million ($4.8m) in less than two years
Jamie says: “It’s an exciting time. There’s an army of people wearing my glasses every day, and that’s an incredible feeling.”
Until this young entrepreneur turned his gaze on the industry, the Â£2.5 billion market was dominated by four giants: SpecSavers, Vision Express, Boots and Dollond & Aitchison. Needing a new pair of glasses while revising for his English finals, he was shocked at the price.
“I couldn’t believe there was nothing cheaper than Â£150 ($290) for what was essentially a piece of wire and two pieces of glass.”
He began contacting glazing labs to try to get a cheaper pair direct. He was told that the cost would be around Â£7 and that the process was done automatically in under 20 minutes.
“The mistake of high-street opticiancs,” he says, “is that they subsidize eye tests in the hope of clawing back margins on dispensing glasses.”
He used the last Â£1000 ($1,950) instalment of his student loan to develop his idea.
But time doesn’t stand still in the rarified air of this entrepreneurial eagle. Looking ahead a few years he sees himself as a billionaire buying himself an island.
“I didn’t grow up dreaming of being an optician, so it’s not going to be long before I move on and attack other industries — knock the bottom out of the property industry or pharmaceuticals, or whatever.”