LAST WEEK, we sat down with the founder of Pair Eyewear and Stanford Alumni, Nathan Kondamuri ('17) and Sophia Edelstein ('17). The two of them have been working together on their business since their days on The Farm and have just launched. Learn more about what Pair Eyewear is, how Nathan and Sophia leveraged Stanford resources and why they deferred their full-time consulting offers to realize Pair.
PULSE: WHAT IS PAIR EYEWEAR?
NATHAN: Pair Eyewear is an e-commerce children's eyewear company getting kids ages 6-14 excited to wear glasses by designing customizable glasses and sunglasses, both prescription and non-prescription. Along with the former head of Product at Warby Parker, Lee Zaro, we’re redesigning the entire glasses buying experience, making it more fun and exciting for children and more seamless and inexpensive for parents.
SOPHIA: Our glasses work through a very simple, intuitive and satisfying magnetic mechanism, which allows kids to continually interchange the front color of their frames for endless options and styles. We offer five base frames and fifty top frames, which are easy to snap on and off of the base frames through this magnetic mechanism.
P: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE ARTISTIC AND CREATIVE ELEMENTS OF YOUR BUSINESS
S: Creating a successful e-commerce business is all about creating a brand that resonates with your consumer. Brand is more than just a logo or slogan. Your brand should be reflected on every page of your website, the way the user interacts with your product and needs to be reflected from the first moment they learn about your brand. We spent months coming up with a brand that resonates with children and parents and that brings modern design and high fashion elements to an affordable product and easy to use website. We worked with a design firm to help design our logo but from then on all of our design is done by us in house. We did all of the UI design on the website, branding, packaging, and design of our glasses.
The glasses themselves were all designed to appeal to kids of different ages. Many of our glasses designs are designs you have never seen on glasses before! One of our favorites is our striped frames which is a more high fashion look that we are making approachable to everyday glasses wearers.
P: HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA?
S: Pair was inspired by Nathan's experience wearing glasses as a child. He has worn glasses since he was about 8-years-old and he still remembers how daunting of an experience it was when he got his first pair. When you start wearing glasses at that early age it’s scary because you don’t know what glasses are but you’re being forced to wear them and will have to for years. When that is coupled with the buying experience of choosing from pretty boring options at an optical store, you don’t really feel like you have any choice or freedom of self-expression.
N: We started thinking of redesigning the children's eyewear experience while, I was studying mechanical engineering and Sophia was studying human biology with a focus in medical device innovation at Stanford. We started talking to hundreds of parents and children and found that Nathan wasn’t alone in his experience - that a lot of kids had felt the same way when getting their first pair of glasses and a lot of parents were frustrated that there was nothing being done to improve the experience and price point for children's glasses.
P: WERE THERE ANY RESOURCES OFFERED BY STANFORD, WHICH YOU FOUND USEFUL?
N: Wow so many parts. We were in the Cardinal Ventures incubator at Stanford which was incredibly helpful at the very early stages when we were learning how to create a business plan. We were also part of Lean Launchpad which was great because it forced us to take a step back and go back to the interviewing stages of our business to make sure we had product market fit. This class also taught us the importance of hacking and creating easy tests to prove your business assumptions. Besides those, we spent hours in the PRL at the very early stages and our classes and professors were always useful resources for advice.
P: WHEN AND HOW DID YOU DECIDE YOU WANTED TO TURN YOUR DFA PROJECT INTO A FULL-TIME GIG?
S: Pair became a lot more real to us when we were able to recruit Lee Zaro, the former head of product development from Warby Parker onto our team full time. The fact that Lee who has 25+ years of experience in the glasses industry loved our idea enough to want to join us full time made us realize that we could actually do this and make it something big. From there we went on to raise a small family and friends round of funding in the spring which gave us the resources to move a lot faster and has brought us to where we are today.
P: WHAT ARE SOME OBSTACLES OF BUILDING THIS BUSINESS THAT YOU DIDN'T FORSEE? HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?
N: There are so many things that go into running a business that you don't think about at the beginning as a first time entrepreneur who is focused on creating an awesome product and brand. Things like finding a lawyer, accountant, fda approval, and getting insurance. Another challenge is working with people in different time zones. We are constantly in communication with our factory in China, lens provider in San Diego, and influencers who are spread out all across the country. When we first started testing fb ads we got tagged as potential spammers and blocked from ads for a few days because of the kind of url we were using for our landing page.
P: THE EXPERIENCE OF RAISING FUNDS -- WAS IT TOUGH OR EASY?
N: We were lucky that our first round came together very quickly with the help of our incredible advisors. Raising money is always very time consuming which we didn't realize going into our first round. Its very important while raising to make sure you can balance raising money and meeting cool investors with time needed to work on your business.
P: YOU BOTH DECIDED TO DEFER YOUR FULL-TIME CONSULTING OFFERS. WHY?
S: We both decided to defer our full-time consulting offer because we are loving what we are doing with Pair at the moment. When it came time to decide what to do with our full time offers we both realized that there aren't very many opportunities in life where you have the freedom and flexibility to pursue independent projects. When we were able to raise some money we realized that we were lucky enough to be given one of these opportunities. Every day is different when you are doing a startup and it’s both the most challenging and the most fun and rewarding job we have ever had. It’s definitely not for everyone, but we would encourage any Stanford student who is given the opportunity to do something they love to take advantage of that opportunity. We are both really grateful and feel very fortunate to be given the opportunity to bring our vision to life with Pair. Both of our consulting firms (Bain and McKinsey) were incredibly supportive of our decision to defer.
P: HOW CAN WE PURCHASE A KIT?
NATHAN: The process begins by going to our website and ordering a home try-on kit. The kit allows kids to try on and test out cardboard cutouts of each frame shape, which kids get to keep afterwards. After deciding which frame shape they like best, parents head back to the website, pick the chosen base frame, which comes in three colors (black, tortoise and a grey or blue tortoise), and choose any amount of top frames that the child likes. From there, the entire order will be delivered to your door in under a week!
P: WHAT'S NEXT?
We want to be the go to brand for Children’s eyewear where there has never ever been one.
We have a lot of exciting possibilities for expansion and partnerships in the future! One partnership that we're so excited about for launch is our partnership with Eyelliance, a vision non-profit with the mission of bringing all school-aged children access to vision. For every pair of glasses that we sell, we will provide a pair to a child in need. We are also partnered at launch with an amazing children's boutique, named Pink Chicken New York. Our glasses will be showcased in their store here in NYC and in Santa Monica so children and parents can try on the full collection of Pair glasses in store and purchase Pair Glasses in store from iPads.
We're beyond excited about the potential for various partnerships with our top frames. Children love the idea of being able to rep their favorite sports teams or Disney characters on their glasses, and with Pair's customizable top frames, in the future, we hope they'll be able to do just that with their Pair glasses. We're in early conversations to create co-branded top frames and are always looking for more licensing partners and partners for different collaborations!