5 years ago to this day, I first registered Prescription Eyewear Ltd, which is the company that trades as Glasses Direct. On our birthday I thought Iâ€™d jot down 10 personally memorable points along the way:
- June 2004 – Launched from my bedroom at University of the West of England and expanded into my parentâ€™s house in Gloucestershire.
- August 2004 – Daily Telegraph runs feature on what we were up to, jump-starting public awareness in the business and beginning a history of media interest in the savings at GD compared with the high street.
- March 2005 – Worldâ€™s first Virtual Mirror launched, named â€˜customeyesâ€™, which was immediately featured on Tonight with Trevor Macdonald and we continued to develop over the following years and can now be seen on our product pages.
- November 2005 – Picked up the UK Shell LiveWire Award with Deidre Walker (our first Finance Manager) and my proud Mother in the audience (almost the entire team at that point!). A great stamp of approval from a fantastic organisation and a real testament to the great work the team had done. The business went on to win a number of other business awards, but this one stands out as the first.
- November 2006 – Gordon Brown talks about Glasses Direct as a symbol of UK entrepreneurship success in Enterprise Week speech. We are often asked to contribute and work with researchers for speeches, degree programs, MBA’s, etc and it’s an honour for our business to be used as a role model.
- September 2007 – Oriental themed Glasses Party on the lawn outside our office barn, at Charlton Park to celebrate first VC investment received. I remember signing the final investment documentation with one of my longest standing angel investors and mentors, Ian McCallum on a picnic table outside the tent. The total we have now raised in the company stands at about Â£16m.
- September 2008 – Management team recruited, including Kevin Cornils ex- CEO buy.at, and MD EMEA match.com and Howard Bryant, ex-CFO of ecommerce success figleaves.com
- March 2009 – With over 35 different designer brands on the site, designer frames now account for a significant proportion of our sales. We started purely own-brand with ambitions to sell every frame a customer could want. Due to our established position in the optical industry and the quality of our team who work with them, this is now looking possible.
- May 2009 – Double whammy: A hugely upgraded Home Trials offering goes live, allowing you to select up to 4 pairs to demo, and have them delivered to your door in a box, before you buy them. AND we glaze our first pair of glasses in-house using robotic machinery from Weco, in Germany
- May 2009 – With over 250,000 pairs of glasses sold, GD continues to pioneer what Marketing Week recently described as etail 3.0 along with a tremendous peer group of other companies breaking new ground in ecommerce.
Apparently 8 out of every 10 businesses fail in the first 5 years – we have done well to beat the statistics but we know we still have a huge amount of growth ahead of us. The journey so far has been a complete thrill and tonight I will be drinking to/with the team that Iâ€™ve been lucky enough to work alongside. Long may it continue.