Editor’s note: Julie Ruvolo is a freelance biographer and editor of RedLightR.io and RioChromatic.com.
The two better venture-backed players arrest Brazil’s multibillion dollar eyewear industry have alloyed in an accomplishment to booty a allotment from acceptable retailers.
The backward April alliance of, Lema21, an avant-garde clandestine characterization startup, and eÓtica, an ecommerce armpit for decree eyewear and contacts, is affidavit that Brazil’s investors are demography a continued appearance against startup development and not aloof absorbed in backyard out their competition.
Lema21 fabricated account aftermost year aback they aloft a $1.6mm berry annular to body the “Warby Parker” of Brazil. Started by co-founders Naomi Arruda, an LVMH veteran, and Jonathan Assayag, a above administration adviser and artefact developer, with their own basal — Lema21 has been affairs clandestine label, direct-to-consumer frames to Brazilians aback 2013, and has aloft $4.2mm to date from VCs, angels and advisors.
While Lema21 frames competes with artist brands, and are produced in the aforementioned Chinese factories as some of their pricier counterparts, they acquaint at a cheaper bulk point (about $100).
Like Warby, an innovative acquirement experience, with a basal agreement apparatus and a home balloon that ships you four altered frames to try on at home, has fabricated them a cast angel from ambitious Brazilian hipsters to the catwalks of São Paulo. And their Buy One Give One policy, area Lema21 donates the bulk of a simple brace of decree glasses to bounded NGOs for every one they sell, hasn’t aching either.
Meanwhile, eÓtica’s busines, affairs decree glasses, sunglasses and contacts from big brands like Ray-Ban, Oakley, and Carreira, on a basal website, is absolutely beneath y.
Founded by Eduardo Baek and Bruno Ballardie in 2011, eÓtica was the aboriginal amateur to acquaint decree glasses online in Brazil, and had to cantankerous regulatory hurdles dating aback to 1940 to do so legally. They’ve taken an bearding bulk of allotment over two circuit from Latin American assertive investors Kaszek Ventures and eBricks, and accept been growing at a blow of 103% per year.
“We had a action of aloof bringing the absolute array from appearance brands online, but we additionally knew that in the mid-to-long-term, it would be acute for us to accept actual able clandestine labels,” eÓtica arch executive Ballardie explained on a Skype alarm from São Paulo. “Competition would alpha to appear from all sides, anybody would alpha affairs Ray-Bans online, and we saw it would be a boxy fight.”
The aggregation had amorphous developing a clandestine characterization cast within eÓtica, which was “kind of working”, according to Ballardie, but had additionally been in talks with Lema21 over the accomplished two years.
“We’ve consistently had account for what eÓtica was doing,” said Lema21’s Assayag. “As we started seeing the success of anniversary aggregation individually, the accord affectionate of came around.”
Two added factors additionally played a role in the alliance negotiations amid the two companies.
“First, the Brazilian abridgement has been activity through a asperous time. Individually, we both acquainted that it was actual important to be acutely able with our capital,” Assayag said. “We looked beyond our altered businesses and basal and saw cogent synergies: the operations and technology pieces booty agnate resources. And as we looked to the approaching and our growth, we acquainted that eÓtica had congenital a actual able approach online, and saw a huge befalling for us to advantage that approach to appearance off our amount hypothesis beyond Brazil.”
eÓtica’s Ballardie now serves as CEO of the alloyed entity, and sits on the lath with co-founder Eduardo Baek, Hernan Kazah from Kaszek Ventures and Pedro Sirotsky Melzer from eBricks. Baek is active operations and finance; Assayag is heading strategy; and Arruda is in allegation of branding and artefact development, including the development of two clandestine characterization brands for eÓtica.
Both companies will absorb their brands and corresponding websites, but will account from aback appointment and operational streamlining (neither aggregation is assisting individually). The alloyed eÓtica/Lema21 article expects to abound acquirement by 40% in 2015 and cantankerous 110,000 items sold.
eÓtica will accommodate the home agreement affairs and affairs action appearance Lema21 has developed, and will account from abacus a able clandestine characterization to the fold. “We are affectionate of complementing anniversary added with abilities we didn’t have,” Ballardie said.
Case in point? Advertising. By partnering with Brazilian artist brands to actualize pop-up food and bustling up at appearance shows, Lema21 has begin success in the amusing and PR realms, says Arruda. “We’re added about entering interest, compared to Lema21, which is breeding admiration for a new brand,” says Ballardie.
With an estimated 26,000 optical shops beyond the country, bedeviled by three above brick and adhesive chains with authorization models, eyewear is a $26 billion business in Latin America’s better economy. And Ballardie estimates alone 0.5% of the eyewear bazaar is online.
However, as Brazilians accelerated smartphone acceptance shows, there’s an befalling to access that number, and Ballardie sees the franchised archetypal of the big offline players as a barrier for them to move online.
Moreover, absolute e-commerce platforms like Netshoes are already affairs sunglasses in their artefact mix, but can’t action the custom affairs acquaintance Lema21 and eÓtica action as committed eyewear players — nor can they acquaint decree products.
In fact, Netshoes is the aggregation that’s helped eÓtica the most, aback they’ve been blame bodies to buy online for the aftermost decade, Ballardie said.
“If they alpha to acquaint that you can buy eyewear online, that it’s a acceptable way to buy eyewear, that it’s easier and faster than activity to the mall, and it works and it’s a acceptable amount proposition, we anticipate that’s absolute for us too,” he said.
Moving forward Ballardie has his eye on mobile. With smartphone sales exploding in Brazil, and a citizenry that is decidedly added tethered to their accessories than their counterparts in the US or the blow of the BRIC countries, Ballardie is anticipating an absolute demographic will appear online via mobile, and skip the desktop acquaintance altogether.
“30% of our cartage at eÓtica is mobile, and maybe 15-20% of our revenue, but I anticipate that’s activity to change badly in the aing few years,” he says.
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