Some of the best ideas come when you least expect them, and for Tracey Cruikshank, Creative Director and co-founder of Bespecd, that’s exactly what happened. Shopping with a friend spurred the idea of fashion eyewear that doesn’t need to cost the earth and can be purchased online.
Buying eyewear can be expensive, especially when you want something with a fashion edge. Tracey creates glasses for men and women who want to have a fashionable pair of glasses that looks like it came from a bespoke eyewear store. Tracey has always had a creative gene, especially with her background in photography, so creating beautiful eyewear comes easily for her.
I wanted to know more about creating an online business, and how she overcame the natural inclination to want to try on the glasses before purchasing.
Could you please share with us the path that led you set up your online eyewear business Bespecd?
Bespecd came about quite by chance several years ago. I was living in Shanghai as an expat.
A friend and I spent the day shopping in one of the small laneway boutiques, and we noticed that the glasses that were being sold were much nicer than what was available in Australia. They also cost a fraction of the price. As we were discussing the reasons why this was so, I realized that I could do this, too. So shortly afterward, we relocated back to Australia and established Bespecd.
When buying glasses most people want to try them on. You overcame this with the virtual mirror, which is a fabulous idea. Please tell me more about it.
Our virtual mirror gives our customers a realistic trial experience. Customers can upload their photo or use their webcam to take a snapshot, and their computer screen transforms into a real mirror. The customer can then virtually try on the glasses as they click on the frames they like. The frames are superimposed over their face, just as if they are trying them on.
The virtual mirror gives the customers a good indication of size and shape of the frames they are considering. It’s also quite a fun and interactive way for them to have more of a real shopping experience. They also can easily share the photos with their friends and family through social media to get some feedback and advice.
We realize that trying the frames on virtual mirror is not quite the same as physically trying them on, so recently we introduced the home trial service. Our customers can choose up to five frames to try on at home, which are shipped out to them for free. That way they get to touch and see the quality of the frame before they buy to get that extra level of reassurance.
Where do you get inspiration when designing your collection of eyewear?
Bespecd offers the latest fashion frames. That’s what we’re about. So we look to international runway trends when designing our eyewear, and we also reference past eras.
One of the problems we encountered in the eyewear industry in Australia was the lack of variety and choice. So with our seasonal collections, we try to offer something that’s new and different. But of course, not everyone wants to be bold and brave with their eyewear. So our range also offers more subtle and more classic options.
How are you using social media to promote Bespecd?
We invest a lot of time and effort into creating a great content in all of our social media platforms. We have Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and also Twitter aimed to be visually inspiring and engaging. We want all of our fans and followers to be inspired. That’s also quite natural for us since all of our teams love social media.
Instagram and fashion really go hand in hand, so it keeps us up-to-date. Our Instagram feed is a mixture of what inspires us and what goes on behind the scenes at Bespecd. It’s also a great way to communicate directly with our followers and to see their feedback. What I like so much about Instagram is that we can also like and comment on things that inspire and engage us. So we spend just as much time and more in liking other people’s photos as we do posting our own. Instagram is probably also my personal favourite. I was a photographer before, so it’s very addicting.
We use Facebook to increase brand awareness and to fill customer inquiries. Facebook is becoming a strong sales channel for us. Our fan base is growing and our fans are quite engaged there. We have offered special sales and previews on items to our Facebook and Instagram followers in the past, and we look forward to doing more of that in the future as a way to reward them.
Pinterest is terrific. People use it to share beautiful images. They pin things that they think are inspirational, and we use it for exactly the same reason. It is also a great platform for us to get our voice out, and it’s better for us than just to tweet and text. We are able to communicate through images and colour, which is really what our brand is about.
A big challenge for all online businesses is that you can only present so much information on your website. So these social media are an extra layer of personality.
I love the way you want to pay it forward by donating to charity. How does the Look Good Do Good program work, and why is it so important to you?
The co-founder and I knew from the outset that we wanted to give back in some way. So through our Look Good Do Good program, Bespecd is able to have a positive impact on other people’s lives. For each pair of glasses sold, a donation to a charitable cause is made. At checkout, customers are asked to tick a box to send that particular donation to one of four registered charities.
For example, they can plant a tree, provide clean drinking water to a hundred people for a day, give a person in need of a pair of glasses, or support youth in developing countries through skills and training. I think more and more companies are starting to adopt the socially responsible business model, and I hope and expect that it will become an increasingly common factor.
What are some of the lessons you have learnt in business whilst setting up Bespecd?
I think the number one lesson is just to get started. Don’t get stuck procrastinating, or nothing will ever happen. The second lesson is that you can’t control everything despite your best-made plans. Things will happen that you don’t like or expect. So the only course of action is to work hard controlling what you can do and what you can do well, and then be prepared to respond in an agile way to the things you can’t control and you didn’t expect. I have also learnt how important it is to hire experienced people, which should be done as soon as you can afford to. By hiring talented and self-disciplined people who don’t need to be micro-managed, we’re free to manage the business and not the people. It’s just amazing how much more focus and time I have now that I have the right kind of people on board. The fourth lesson is to seek out a mentor or several mentors. Mentors are a great source of support and advice. They also provide an opportunity to learn and grow, and they have taught me extremely valuable business skills.
For more information go to www.bespecd.com.au
Story by Penny Votzourakis and photographs by Tracey Cruikshank.