Increasing Revenue from Six to Eight Figures through Bootstrapping with Ryan Alovis, LensDirect (episode 459)

Ryan Alovis is the CEO at LensDirect. The latest iteration of the eyewear business founded by his great-grandfather in 1910. Ryan bought back the family business in 2009 growing it 30,000% since then. The current setup is a fully custom eCommerce store doing over $25million per year.

Ryan Alovis LensDirect on eCommerce MasterPlan Podcast

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Dive in:

[05:20] How LensDirect built a custom site for their business.
[08:27] Combining relationships, technology, and customer satisfaction for success.
[10:48] Seizing opportunities wisely.
[16:34] On success from 80% culture and 20% leadership
[18:51] Using SMS is highly effective for building a customer list and pushing sales.
[22:26] Adopting a profit-first mindset.

Ryan’s eCommerce Journey

Before LensDirect, Ryan got into eCommerce by starting a magazine subscription site in the mid-2000s. He developed a passion for the subscription continuity model, which later influenced his approach to LensDirect.

Ryan shares that LensDirect is a family business he bought back because he saw the potential for growth. Additionally, the brand’s name and its family connection made the decision to repurchase it feel right.

LensDirect’s Custom Website

The decision to build a custom website for LensDirect in 2023 was driven by the complexity and extent of their product catalog. Existing eCommerce platforms couldn’t accommodate their needs, leading to the challenging decision to build from scratch.

He mentions that it’s also difficult to enter the optical eCommerce space. Not only do you have a huge amount of SKUs, but you also have to get manufacturer approvals, which is not easy to do.

Innovation and Customer Focus

For Ryan, the focus is always making it as easy as possible for their customers to get their product. To enhance customer experience, they implemented innovative technology such as virtual try-ons and online vision tests. 

He adds that their willingness to use existing technologies or build new solutions themselves is always for the improvement of the customer’s buying journey. This focus on customer perspective and forward-thinking decisions is key to their success.

The Proper Mindset for a Bootstrapped Business

Ryan says there are benefits to maintaining a bootstrap mentality in their business. It forces them to be careful and thoughtful with their decisions while also being aggressive with opportunities. There’s also the freedom to make decisions without external financial pressures. 

He acknowledges there’s a fine line between being careful and not being overly cautious in entrepreneurship. In the same way, there’s a need to be patient, but not too patient. Success comes from different factors, but a large part of this is finding the right balance.

Team Culture and Leadership

Ryan shares that team mindset and culture are important in their business. He mentions that around 80% of it is about hiring people who naturally have the right mindset, while the remaining 20% is influenced by the company’s culture.

He also believes in being a leader rather than a boss and sets an example for his team by working collaboratively and leading with enthusiasm and positivity.

eCommerce Book Top Tip

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • For Ryan, it’s SMS and they use Attentive for their SMS marketing.

Tool Top Tip

  • Slack productivity platform

Carbon Top Tip

  • At LensDirect, they focus on minimizing plastic, cutting unnecessary packaging, and recycling.

Interview Links

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