How to Set your Sights on a Market Gap — Julie Allinson

This week on The EnTRUEpreneurship Podcast, Wes speaks with Julie Allinson — CEO and Founder of eyebobs, the first-ever affordable designer eye-wear brand. Since its founding in 2001, eyebobs has grown into a mighty 8-figure business and was recently acquired by a private equity firm. The sky is the limit for eyebobs, and the brand’s sights are set on greater expansion.

On the podcast, Allinson dives deep into what drove her into establishing eyebobs, even while she had no prior experience in eye-wear manufacturing. Julie’s journey with eyebobs is the quintessential entrepreneurship story — she saw a huge gap in the market and made it her life mission to fill that gap. Along the way, Allinson shares advice on entrepreneurial doubt, the role of risk in entrepreneurship, the importance of market research, and why she decided to ultimately pursue outside capital after building her business on cash alone.

 

The EnTRUEpreneurship Takeaway:

“As an entrepreneur, you create a lot of chaos."

“I wanted to reduce my risk as much as possible, but by virtue of being an entrepreneur, you’re taking risk."

“There’s no turning back [on entrepreneurship] once you’re in. And I think it’s that stubbornness that can lead you to success."

“Think about how many companies wouldn’t exist if entrepreneurs gave up at the first challenge or the thirtieth challenge.”

“There were a couple of lean seasons… where I could have definitely increased sales if I’d had more product, but it’s not a bad thing either to say, ‘We’re sold out.’"

[Towards the beginning of the business] “… I had to answer to no one but the customer, and that was really important to me. What were they saying? What was their feedback? And if you ask, they’ll tell you."

“I had my arms around that business so tight that I felt like I was choking it to death."

 

Bullet Points (w/ timestamps) - Highlighting key topics discussed:

1:55: Allinson opens up by discussing the key event in her life that pushed her out of Iowa and away from the family business and describes the experiences that ultimately drove her to entrepreneurship.

7:10: Julie retells the aha! moment which pushed her towards founding a business in the eye-wear industry.

9:20: Julie discusses the full year of research she conducted on the eye-wear industry and why that was pivotal in establishing the business.

12:18: Allinson shares the doubts she had about entrepreneurship early in her business but discusses the importance of persistence and drive in the face of these doubts.

15:34: Allinson discusses the events leading up to her first sale (and subsequent sell out), which exemplify the importance of building a quality product and a firm network.

19:07: Julie shares what went into funding her business and why building a business on cash was the right decision for Julie and her family.

21:59: Julie retells the time when her team began to expand and the correlation between bringing on those individuals and massive growth for her business.

25:31: Allinson shares her secret to scaling a business well.

28:38: Allison discusses when and why she decided to pursue outside capital and how that decision required a generous amount of personal humility.

34:52: Julie shares two pieces of sage entrepreneurial advice — one piece for new, fresh entrepreneurs and one for entrepreneurs who have been in the world for some time.

 

Bullet List of Resources –

Julie Allinson

-       LinkedIn

eyebobs

-       Company Website

-       Facebook

-       Twitter

-       Pinterest

-       Instagram