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Benji Frank, America’s newest online sunglasses and prescription eyeglasses manufacturer, was founded by two friends – Azim Karedia, a graduate from University of Houston and Mohsin Momin, a Texas A&M graduate.
We were drawn to work together and create a company with a social mission of helping restore the vision to people in need based on unique events from our lives. Mohsin was inspired to start this company by his fiancée who is aspiring optometrist and will graduate in May 2013. While Azim was motivated by his grandfather who completely lost his vision in 2007.
MO: What inspired you to name your company Benji Frank?
Azim & Mohsin: We wanted to name our venture after something that relates closely to our products and is something people can easily remember and recognize. We finally decided on naming it Benji Frank, after Benjamin Franklin since he was the inventor of the bifocals and is remembered as having been a selfless person and great innovator with inventions that have helped millions around the world. Since we wanted to build a socially responsible company based on the idea of One Pair, One Vision naming it after Franklin fit perfectly.
MO: Where does your passion for social responsibility come from?
Azim & Mohsin: It mostly comes from our parents and community. During our college days, we would often volunteer our time to organizations that helped the poor and we loved being able to give back. The appreciation and gratitude we felt from both the other volunteers and the people we helped fueled our desire to help even more.
Our personal experiences have motivated us to start this social enterprise. My business partner Azim was inspired to create this venture after his grandfather had lost his vision to a treatable condition. I was exposed to this industry from my fiancée who’s an aspiring optometrist. We had always wanted to start a company that gave back to the community. After researching the eye care industry and how it operates that we seriously began discussing creating an eyewear company that can make a difference.
An interesting fact is that there are approximately 285 million people are the world who are visually impaired. However, 80% of visual impairment is treatable, preventable or curable. This 80% represents a large population that could be helped. With so many people affected by visual impairment, our company will do its part to improve this statistic.
MO: Can you share some of the unique options you offer potential customers that make purchasing eyewear online more fun and less risky?
Azim & Mohsin: We had to think of creative ways to explain to our customers that buying eyewear on the Internet isn’t as hard as it looks. For this reason, we implemented Virtual Try-on and our Try 5 program. Both are unique ways our consumers can try on glasses before they buy them. With Virtual Try-on they can upload a photo or use their webcam to try on glasses. With our Try 5 program, we send our customers 5 pairs of glasses to try on for five days for free. We also offer our customers a 30-day money-back guarantee on all products purchased from BenjiFrank.com. This includes prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses. By offering a money-back guarantee customers are less hesitant to purchase eyewear over the Internet.
MO: If I could grant you one business related wish right now, what would you ask for?
Azim & Mohsin: We would want to have a string of boutique retail stores around America (like Apple). We want to pursue this in the future, but if you are granting me one wish it’ll have to be this. We want to establish our brand and eventually take it into malls and shopping districts around America. This will be the perfect avenue to spread our vision and sell quality affordable eyewear to the public. Having stores will allow walk-in traffic, which will also complement our online store.
MO: What’s one marketing strategy that’s worked well for you so far?
Azim & Mohsin: One marketing strategy that has worked well is contacting fashion bloggers. Bloggers play an influential role in persuading people to try new fashions or shop at new stores. They have effective platforms to show thousands of their followers on the latest fashion trends. We have had a great response when partnering with bloggers. We partner with them in many ways. For some we sponsor their blog for a monthly advertising fee. For others, we have participated in giveaways and contests that they host on their site. This has by far been the most effective form of marketing so far.
MO: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for Benji Frank?
Azim & Mohsin: Launching our next collection of sunglasses and optical frames is one of the most exciting things on tap at Benji Frank. We have gotten tremendous feedback from fashion-forward customers who are encouraging us to take great risks with our designs and offer glasses in bolder colors. We’re excited about how the public will react to our next retro-cool line of frames.
As more people discover how affordable Benji Franks are, they are becoming more likely to buy a new pair or an extra pair to express themselves. In the past, the average person would get a new pair of prescription eyeglasses every 2-5 years or people with vision insurance would only update them once every two years because they had to choose between new contacts or new glasses. But with Benji Frank eyewear, eyeglass wearers can get a new pair of eyeglasses more often and for about a third of what optical shops charge without sacrificing quality or style.
We’re offering eyeglass wearers the opportunity to get new glasses every time their prescription changes. Even though the average person purchases new glasses infrequently, today’s market for ophthalmic frames is still more than $8.5 billion. Currently, online sales account for less than 3% of all sales.