From its origins as the first-ever online destination to purchase eyewear to becoming the ultimate go-to for finding fashionable frames at a pocket-friendly price, EyeBuyDirect has been at the forefront of the industry from the get-go. Unsurprisingly, the brand has infinite plans up its sleeve—after all, this is the company that implemented a virtual try on service while most of us were still trying to figure out what “a Facebook” was! One person who’s quite literally seen it all is Sunny Jiang, the now president and CEO who began her journey at the brand as an enthusiastic young college graduate. We called her up to get the low-down on what other game-changing ideas EyeBuyDirect has in sight (spoiler alert: floating glasses!). Right this way…
Tell us how EyeBuyDirect originally began in 2005. Was the mission the same then as it is now?
EyeBuyDirect began as a small, private startup owned by Roy Hessel. We were the first online optical store, and we pioneered the online eyewear space wanting to make quality eyewear accessible to anyone and everyone. As we have shifted and expanded our business over the years, our goal is still to provide high quality eyewear at an affordable cost.
You joined the company in 2007. What had your career path been like up until then?
EyeBuyDirect and I have really grown hand-in-hand. I started with the company right out of university in 2007 as a financial controller. I worked in the finance department for about three years, and then was promoted to operations director, then to a general manager. I surpassed my business goals as a manager, and eventually worked my way to CEO & president in 2017.
EyeBuyDirect has always been ahead of the curve, adding a ‘try on’ function to the website way back in 2007. How does innovation continue to play a part?
We are always wanting to find new and innovative ways to make the shopping experience and service easy for our customers. In February, we launched a partnership with Afterpay, giving our customers the option to buy now and pay interest-free over time. This is just another way for us to make purchasing quality eyewear easy and accessible to everyone. Later this quarter, we will be launching floating sunglasses. Our team designed these glasses for those who are active in or around water. They are made with low-density material, so they will stay afloat if they fall off and you will never sink a pair again!
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During your tenure, what have been some major changes you’ve seen when it comes to people’s attitudes towards online shopping?
In 2005, e-commerce was still relatively new. We were only making around 500 orders a year, and now we serve over three million customers a year. Online shopping is an essential part of the future of retail—customers crave the convenience, and the huge selection.
What have been some highlights of your 15-year ascent at the company?
Over the years, I have so many highlights with EyeBuyDirect. Of course, one being my overall journey with the company— starting right after college, working extremely hard in a few different departments, to then be promoted to CEO & president 10 years later. To this day I remember the excitement in the office when we celebrated the milestone of our first million-dollar year. We continue to grow the company by 30% each year and expanded with the opening of our Pasadena office three years ago. This past December we were recognized as one of the Best Workplaces in Greater China for the 2021 year. We really are dedicated to creating a positive workplace environment where employees can grow and thrive, and it shows. None of this would be possible without the amazing team and collaborative culture we have at EyeBuyDirect.
How does EyeBuyDirect continue to stand out in the market?
We are confident that our products and service are excellent, and we continue to evolve each year as we discover new challenges and opportunities within the market. EyeBuyDirect owns the entire process when you purchase a pair of glasses, from frame design and craftsmanship to manufacturing. With over 3,000 frames on our site, there truly is an option for everyone. We want to be your go-to for affordable, high-quality eyewear and I believe we are doing just that.
Tell us about your charity partners and the work that you do with them.
When customer buy eyewear from us, they can can choose to have one pair of prescription eyeglasses donated through our Buy 1 Give 1 Program. This program is dedicated to eliminating poor vision by providing underserved communities around the world with access to vision care. To date, we have donated over 1.6 million pairs of glasses. We also partner with other groups aligned with our purpose, such as the Trevor Project—a group helping prevent teen suicide in the LGBTQ community.
What are some other non-negotiable beliefs at the company?
I am very grateful for the collaborative culture we have built here over the years. Everyone is challenged to do their best work, with the support of colleagues who are all united around the singular goal of creating the best possible shopping experience for our customers.
What trends in online retail/the digital world are you excited about?
Personalization looks to be the key to success in retail. You need to know your customer and get them to what they want faster than ever. There is a universe of choice out there, so it is important people can find what they want easily.
What’s something big that’s coming up for EyeBuyDirect in 2022 and beyond?
Every year, we partner with a celebrity around our Pride collection which launches in May. We have locked in a very exciting partner for this year who will be a big hit. This partner embraces their individuality and is a shining star in the LGBTQ community. That is all I can say for now….
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