Oct. 4, 2022

How Alex Feldman Grew Their Small Family Optical Shop to A Luxury Eyewear Brand Ep. 89


As Founder and CEO of Alexander Daas, Alex Feldman drives the vision and growth of the brand, including its design and distribution, retail presence and ecommerce business. Feldman grew up in the business of opticianry, with his parents owning a small optical shop in San Francisco, California. 

In 2006 Feldman bought out his parent’s small business and began growing the company. After over a decade of working on the sales floor and styling thousands of politicians, athletes, celebrities, locals and more, Feldman found a gap in high-end eyewear and launched his eyewear brand Alexander Daas. The collection focused on styles to fit narrow/petite faces––giving adults freedom from buying children’s frames––a huge unmet need in independent luxury eyewear. Since then, he has grown retail operations with storefronts in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, and recently online at AlexanderDaas.com.

Feldman continues to build on his vision of opening luxury shops in quaint neighborhoods that feature skilled eyewear stylists, representing a true intersection of the medical and fashion industries.

Feldman graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Science in Biopsychology. When he’s not designing and developing new eyewear styles or connecting with the luxury eyewear community, you can find him spending time with his wife and three boys (their so called in-house “basketball team”), watching Rocky and traveling.

Where to find Alex Feldman

Website: alexanderdaas.com

 

SPONSOR

This episode is sponsored by Entire Productions- Creating events (both in-person and virtual) that don't suck! and Entire Productions Marketing- carefully curated premium gifting and branded promo items. 

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Transcript

Alex Feldman:

In making Alexander Daas it's built from not from a perspective of me being a design student that went to art school or a design school, but really understanding proper fits, proper measurements and each frame really being built for a face from an optic perspective.

Natasha Miller:

Welcome to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. How do people end up becoming an entrepreneur? How do they scale and grow their businesses? How do they plan for profit? Are they in it for life? Are they building to exit these in a myriad of other topics? Will be discussed to pull back the veil on the wizardry of successful and FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. My book RELENTLESS is now available. Everywhere books can be bought online, including Amazon and BarnesAndNoble.com. Try your local indie bookstore too. And if they don't have it, they can order it, just ask them. The reviews are streaming in and I'm so thankful for the positive feedback, as well as hearing from people that my memoir has impacted them positively. It is not enough to be resilient. You have to be RELENTLESS. You can go to TheRelentlessBook.com for more information. Thank you so much. Founder CEO of Alexander Daas, Alex Feldman drives the vision and growth of the brand, including its design and distribution, retail presence and e-commerce business in 2006, Alex bought out his parents' small business in San Francisco. And after over a decade of working on the sales floor and styling thousands of politicians, athletes, celebrities, locals, and more, he found a gap in high end eyewear and launched his eyewear. Alexander dos the collection focused on styles that fit narrow and petite faces giving adults freedom from buying children's frames. We talk about what it was like to acquire his family business. If retail stores or e-commerce is more fruitful and what his strategy for growth is now let's get right into it.

Alex Feldman:

My parents in the early days definitely tried to dissuade me from it. They had a different view on it and at that time, but they had a mom and pop shop. And so they didn't really see the big picture opportunity with the industry. And I, but I grew up around the store and I just loved it. I would have to help a lot. My dad would pick me up from school, take me to work, and I'd be stuck with doing inventory and stuff like that. Like some parts I hated, but same time. That's what kind drove my love for, I wear it because getting involved with the frames and just seeing how cool they were, it was always there. So I was really interested. In it from the beginning. And when I went to college, I studied Biopsychology and I emphasized vision sciences. Cause I was actually thinking to potentially go optometry school to that degree business shortly before, as I applying optometry schools, I realized that while I'm passionate about vision, I think it's fascinating when actually learn about it. The day to day job of being optometrist was not exciting for me in terms of just seeing patients and where I'm more into. The business side of things and branding the marketing and creating something. And so I switched gears at that point and focused on the opticianry and brand side.

Natasha Miller:

What was it like acquiring your family's business? Did it cause any rifts? Was it awkward? You not speaking to one or the other?

Alex Feldman:

No, it wasn't like that, but the process was a long process that started from originally me starting to manage the business for my dad. And eventually that just transitioned into me completely like running the company with him being hands off. And then eventually this is over a 3, 4, 5, almost five year period of time, probably. And then eventually getting to the point where I fully took over and he exited. And the biggest problem we had is that my father, I love him so much. And I would always have such great times with him, but whenever it came to business, it was just, we're both Tauruses and we both think we're right, but we have very different views on how things should be. And especially with me thinking more from a scaling perspective and growing while he's more mom and pop, just running the business, the way that he's used. And so we would just argue a lot about through the process that we can't work together essentially is what it came. And that's ultimately, I think was the final success in us creating that separation him exiting was that we butt heads too much. And it's gonna be better this way.

Natasha Miller:

Let me ask you this. I can imagine this, that you're managing it for your dad. You're taking it over. You're trying to scale and grow your mindset is there, but then you are increasing the value of the company that then you have to turn around and buy.

Alex Feldman:

Yeah, yeah.

Natasha Miller:

So, did you ever think, okay, I'm not gonna do this deal right now, cause it's gonna really increase how much money I'm gonna have to buy this for or did you do it in that traditional sense?

Alex Feldman:

No, to me and again, cause I could have gone and just my own thing, even in the eyewear industry and completely done a separate thing, but in my mind it was always the concept of my dad needs to retire. My parents need to be able to retire and really by taking over the business. It's me securing a retirement for them. And it's me now taking the role of the, my dad is still the head of the family, but taking the role is like head of the family. Like I'm the one that kind of will take care of. So I wasn't really overly concerned about whether I technically overpay or under, because it's family at the end of the day.

Natasha Miller:

Did you have a traditional business valuation and go through what, what you would in buying another business due diligence?

Alex Feldman:

I knew the diligence cause I knew, yeah. I knew the books. It wasn't traditional and it was just more of a father's arrangement to just make sure everybody's comfortable which is hard.

Natasha Miller:

Where did the name Alexander Daas come from?

Alex Feldman:

So at a time of creating the brand and working on original designs going through that phase. I really a key part of what we're making is. It's not just another eye line. We we're deeply rooted opticianry, and the whole background comes from opticianry. So in making Alexander Daas, it's built from not from a perspective of me being a design student that went to art school or a design school, but really understanding proper, fits proper measurements and each frame really being built for a face from an perspective and Daas in Hebrew means knowledge. And it has a very nice ring to it. And so I just thought it was a perfect fit because this line is being built from knowledge as opposed to again, but just simply design

Natasha Miller:

You focus on glasses meant for people with narrow or petite faces, but do you also carry regular sized as well?

Alex Feldman:

Yes. Yeah. So when I first launched one of the reasons that I decided to launch my own line, was because I saw this gap in the market, in the high independent sector, there wasn't a lot of options for petite faces. And I did some research and found that off the top of my head, I think was like 14% of men fit this size category in 30%, 33% of women. So it's amount of people, but they're often stuck by kids frames or spending three times as long with an optician to find something. And then in the end of settling. And so I thought it was a great niche that needed attention. And so I launched the first collection and the second collection really focused on that. So that's what we started with. But now as we've produced more and expanded, we do sizes of all the different sizes, especially there was so much demand for some of our styles because of certain celebrities and we needed to make sure that more people could fit in that look. And so we started expanding. So we started expanding to so now we have a little bit of everything.

Natasha Miller:

Okay. So you're not wearing glasses. What is going on?

Alex Feldman:

I knew you were gonna ask that I don't have a prescription. My site is still good, but it's starting to, I actually just had an eye exam couple weeks ago. Cause I'm starting to feel a little fatigue. And I think I'm about to make my first pair of usable prescription more for the reading zone.

Natasha Miller:

Have you ever thought that you should write a book that you should write the story of your life to help other people learn from your experience? Please go to MemoirSherpa.com and learn how I can help you write, figure out your publishing path and market your story, your memoir to a best seller status. I made it to 49 years old with 20:20 vision, which is interesting because everyone in my family, every single person, my dad, my two brothers, my mom, their parents, all wore glasses and wore them young.

Alex Feldman:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

And I somehow got away with not having vision challenges. And so it's a little bit of a shocker to me to now have to go to eye exam every year and then experience the price of glasses.

Alex Feldman:

Oh yeah.

Natasha Miller:

And of course, look, I got suckered into a very expensive pair. I don't even know who makes them.

Alex Feldman:

Are they progressive lenses?

Natasha Miller:

Yeah.

Alex Feldman:

Yeah. OK. Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

Yes.

Alex Feldman:

I have have so many pairs of glasses. I wear sunglass all time, but even eyeglasses. Cause over the years, I've fall in love with so many frame. I'm like I have to wear them.

Natasha Miller:

Yeah. It makes look cool.

Alex Feldman:

Yeah. It's just look. Yeah, exactly. It's like a different, just a different persona and I'll plan no lenses in them. But the thing that happens, like I'll walk around, but then I sit the computer. And because I don't need them to correct my vision. They're technically obstructing my vision in a way. And so I'll start the computer. I'm like, "You know what, they're bothering me. I take off and then I don't end up wearing 'em. And so I have all these pairs that I've made for myself over the years that I don't up wearing. Cause you leave on the desk. So I'm excited to end up having a use for them. But now too, the other thing is like they've made such, especially from those days such advancements with the codings that especially the anti reflexive coding, there's a new one that just came out, just came out, I think earlier March. And it's a new improved version. It's reducing the glare by 70% in the increased contrast. And so I've tried those. Actually even reading correction, I can tell the difference that it, that increased contrast, like it just things look sharper to me that can open up the door. It's expensive though, but it can open up the door to a plan, no lenses actually being helpful now.

Natasha Miller:

Are you personally doing the design of the frames or are you just overseeing, are you a creative director?

Alex Feldman:

All the above. Yeah, I'm doing the design of the frames and I have a production manager too. That helps with the process and yeah, so I'm, I'm still very hands on. I hope to eventually be more of overseeing the process versus being deeply rooted in the design process, because it is hard for me. Again, I come in with a proper open knowledge and I know what I wanna do and what fits I wanna make, but I get overwhelmed sometimes between figuring out the colors, schemes that we wanna come out with and this and that, cause that's not really my brain, but it's fun though, but yeah.

Natasha Miller:

And where are they manufactured?

Alex Feldman:

So we do manufacturing them in Japan. And some of the new, we just released a newer like capsule collection and that one is being made in China. So we have a little bit of a mix, but mostly in Japan, we've done some Italy too.

Natasha Miller:

How has supply chain and shipping affected your business?

Alex Feldman:

There have been some delays, but I wouldn't say anything that has a, had a massive effect on us. There's the two parts, right? There's my production for my brand and our distribution. And there's. For our retail stores, we carry many other brands and with some of them they're definitely more delayed than they ever were. Like place an order. Now, instead of getting the new styles in two or three months, literally they're showing up seven months later sometimes with some of them or like half of it arrived, but then half of it lingers over the next six to seven months. So there's definitely a little bit of delay, but again, between all the selection and all the inventory, that's actually out there, it's fine. Like the stores are still fully stocked with my production. It's been pretty solid. And that's part of when we made some movement with the factories, part of it was get some extra options for making sure we, yeah.

Natasha Miller:

What is currently a bigger revenue driver for you? Brick and mortar retail or eCommerce?

Alex Feldman:

Brick and mortar retail, for sure. With eCommerce, I would say we're still trying to build it up and I think there's more potential there. But we're not selling an expensive product, we're selling a expensive, but it's high quality. So like it's worth what people pay for it. There is value there, but it's something we're really just personal attention is required. People come to us for our styling expertise experience that they get in store with our team. And just in general, instead of that price point, I think is something easier for a lot of people or just makes more sense in person versus online. But at the same time, there's the, a lot of our businesses, the prescription side of it. So prescription glasses, and with that for really basic prescription online is fine, there's measurements required. So like with the only reason I even launched eCommerce, that was very anti eCommerce for, I wear again from the optician perspective, making sure the lenses are made right. There's some lenses that just you have to do in person. Cause people have like a really wild prism or this or that. You just need that proper measurement taking. But we developed a process to essentially mimic our in person measuring capabilities and to be able to do virtually. So we have a process that's very manual. So like even an online order with us doesn't end up being like the click and it's gonna write up in my mailbox. It's we get,

Natasha Miller:

I couldn't just put in my doctor's details and my pupillary distance and then the hit order.

Alex Feldman:

No, you can, but we're still gonna call you. No. So we still, every order comes in compared to it and they follow up with that customer. And even if everything is there, like they said, "Like I have this frame, I have my sight height from my previous optician. I have my PD. We're still gonna call them talk 'em through the order and probably still remeasure them with our method, even if they provide measurements. Because wanna make sure, and everything is warranty at the end of the day. But the problem is that sometimes people will get glasses that seem fine. And so you think like, everything is fine, cause your eyes can do that little bit of work where something is a little off, but they're doing work and you think it's fine, but it's not fine. It's wrong. The measurement is off, whatever. And then slowly you're actually hurting your eyes by wearing it that way.

Natasha Miller:

Okay. So at the end of the day, and we have, what five months left of the year, what are you focusing on for scaling and growth for the company?

Alex Feldman:

My primary personal focus is the brand and the production. So we are scaling back up with our wholesale distribution. Through COVID we had to pause with that between the travel and production and stuff like that. And so we are now building up our rep force again. So we have several boots on the ground at this point and going back and reopening accounts, showing them the new selection, getting them to bring stuff back in. And so that's where my passion is to build a brand and to get it out there. And so that's where the majority of my focus is.

Natasha Miller:

And with this, what would your BHAG be? What would you be like, "Oh my God, if we can just..?"

Alex Feldman:

I would love to have our stores on an international level, which is a little different from the product side, but it goes hand in hand cause what's gonna take us that level is having our product, our own brand, but that's my "BHAG" having stores in Europe, Alexander Daas stores.

Natasha Miller:

For more information, go to the show notes where you're listening to this podcast. Wanna know more about me go to my website, OfficialNatashaMiller.com. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you loved the show. If you did, please subscribe also, if you haven't done so yet, please leave a review where you're listening to this podcast now. I'm Natasha Miller and you've been listening to FASCINATING ENTRPRENEURS.

Alex Feldman Profile Photo

Alex Feldman

Founder and CEO

As Founder and CEO of Alexander Daas, Alex Feldman drives the vision and growth of the brand, including its design and distribution, retail presence and ecommerce business. Feldman grew up in the business of opticianry, with his parents owning a small optical shop in San Francisco, California.

In 2006 Feldman bought out his parent’s small business and began growing the company. After over a decade of working on the sales floor and styling thousands of politicians, athletes, celebrities, locals and more, Feldman found a gap in high-end eyewear and launched his eyewear brand Alexander Daas. The collection focused on styles to fit narrow/petite faces––giving adults freedom from buying children’s frames––a huge unmet need in independent luxury eyewear. Since then, he has grown retail operations with storefronts in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, and recently online at AlexanderDaas.com.

Feldman continues to build on his vision of opening luxury shops in quaint neighborhoods that feature skilled eyewear stylists, representing a true intersection of the medical and fashion industries.

Feldman graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Science in Biopsychology. When he’s not designing and developing new eyewear styles or connecting with the luxury eyewear community, you can find him spending time with his wife and three boys (their so called in-house “basketball team”), watching Rocky and traveling.