A few years ago, long-time FOFriends, Gayle Mills and Patti Lee-Hoffmann realized eyewear companies were not seeing eye-to-eye with their customers. They knew this, because both Patti, owner of a multi-million dollar earning, San Francisco healthcare consulting company and Gayle, who worked in Northern California’s biotech industry, are eyeglass wearers themselves. “Sometime after I turned 50, I stopped having perfect vision. I went to CVS and was turning the carousel with readers, and kept turning and turning. Everything looked like my grandmother’s glasses,” says Patti. She began looking online for her perfect pair, but again, became frustrated. “Everything was so small. I felt I needed a pair of glasses to shop for glasses.”
Gayle, who Patti describes as her “style icon,” combed the display cases at local boutiques and Nordstrom for her perfect pair. She had luck finding stylish readers, yet, none of them seemed to fit properly, or if they did, they weren’t available in the right power.
That’s when the two had a vision–an online eyewear company that would be a “delightful shopping experience” for someone like themselves who had never worn glasses. They wanted elegant styles, options for every face size and shape, and a wide ranges of powers available for each pair.
The two got to work on an e-commerce website and glasses line, which they ultimately decided to call “Flutter Eyewear,” a name they felt evoked the fashion-y, unique feel that their collection would embody. Although Patti and Gayle had no experience in the eyewear and fashion world–the two saw this as a fun challenge, hiring experts where they lacked knowledge.
When they had fifty prototypes ready–they assembled a committee of friends and co-workers to road test them at “fit parties.” From there, they were able to narrow down their collection to 21 styles of reading glasses. All of the glasses are manufactured in a factory in China, that Patti and Gayle have visited to make sure it meets fair work standards. Patti named the pairs after her favorite literary characters.
They launched their e-commerce site last year. FlutterEyewear.com is getting attention from magazine editors and customers for the apps they have integrated to ensure women are purchasing a “perfect fit.” These include a “high-tech” tool that allows you to upload a picture and virtually “try on” glasses, and a “low tech” paper doll tool that allows you to print, cut and try on any pair you see on the site. They also offer free shipping and returns.
“We wanted to ensure our shopper feels confident being able to buy something online that they may normally have bought in a store,” says Patti. As a result they’ve seen a low return rate and high customer satisfaction.
Patti and Gayle are continuously working on new styles and starting to introduce accessories to their line. We’re developing “beautiful necklaces that you happen to be able to clip your glasses to,” and “an attractive ‘Flutter red’ trifold case,” says Gayle.
The target demographic for Flutter Eyewear is stylish women in the 40-60 year old range, although Gayle and Patti have noticed traction from younger women too, they believe it’s because all their glasses are under $100.
“I’m 57 and I still care about the way I look,” says Patti. “It wouldn’t make sense to take care in how I dress and then put on granny glasses.”
2 FOFs will win a pair of Flutter reading glasses or reading sunglasses. Visit their site here, use their interactive tools to try on a few pairs, and leave a comment below, telling us which pair is your favorite.