This content was created by Girlboss in partnership with WALDO.
Let’s be honest, finding a perfect pair of contacts can be tasking. That’s why Ashleigh Hinde, the founder and CEO of WALDO, decided to bring her vision to life by offering a seamless customer service experience when it comes to stocking up on contacts or even picking up a pair of blue light glasses.
How did you get into the eyewear industry?
“I’ve worn contact lenses since I was 11 years old and needed vision correction for the longest time. My mom is also blind in one eye so I've had an appreciation for vision beyond just my own needs. I’ve seen how much my mom suffered to get access to correct care and manage her blindness daily. It really affected her confidence.
I went online shopping for contact lenses and was shocked by how expensive and confusing the buying experience was in the US. The pricing was inconsistent and there was very little brand or product differentiation. When I started to explore the industry, I realized that there are three big players, and as a result, they've artificially kept prices high and have done nothing to build a relationship with their end consumers because they're selling through multi-distribution partners.
What initially started as, ‘Can I get access to great quality, affordable contact lenses for myself?’ turned into, ‘Could I do this for others as well?’ And, in parallel, can we create a brand that actually invites consumers in?”
What differentiates WALDO from other eyewear brands?“From a quality perspective, we are up there with the highest quality contact lenses such as Johnson & Johnson. The difference is we’re about 30 percent cheaper and your entire user experience with us is very different. It's a very seamless ordering process and you can easily change or cancel your subscription.
We've also recently launched vitamin contact lenses for customers with dry eyes. The Saline solution is infused with vitamin B12 which is an essential ingredient for eye health and supports your eyes’ natural ability to retain moisture. We have been developing it for five years and it’s an innovation that's exclusive to WALDO. The reason behind this development was very much in response to customer feedback. And because we have that close relationship with our customers, we listen to them to come up with innovations that are different from what our competitors are doing.”
How do you create a balance between offering affordable products without compromising on quality?
“We are very efficient with how we spend capital and invest in the business. For example, we don’t work with third-party distribution companies to sell on our behalf. This cuts cost for the customer and allows us to focus heavily on innovation.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy of WALDO
How do you build a relationship with your customers?“We have many channels where our customers can contact us via text or email. I think what sets us apart from some of our competitors is that you’re contacting a real person who is instantaneously available to you. With some of our competitors, It can take consumers a while to speak to anybody that represents that company. One of our core values is to be human-centered, meaning that every touchpoint that you have with WALDO should feel like there's a human on the other end of it, rather than a big conglomerate company where you don't know who's behind the screen.”
Tell us about your inspiration for WALDO’s aesthetic.“Traditionally, the industry uses the color blue a lot (typically light blue). I wanted WALDO to feel fresh and more exciting and based on that we chose a brighter, richer blue as our primary color. The purpose of that is to convey optimism because we fundamentally believe that vision is an incredible sense. To compliment that belief, we chose a shade of blue that’s warm and inviting but still optimistic and energizing.
In general, the brand’s look and feel is very modern and clean. We do everything we can to reduce jargon. It’s become very common for brands in the eyewear industry to use language that’s hard to navigate. What sets us apart is that our color palette and aesthetic are clean and clear, like our communication.”
What has the experience of building this company been like? Especially as a solo founder?“I've had to find support through mentors and high-quality advisors which made me reliant on my senior management team. I would also say that being a solo, female founder comes with its challenges. I’ve dealt with misogyny and language that none of my male founder friends have dealt with.”
What advice do you have for women starting a direct-to-consumer or online business?“The landscape for direct-to-consumer and ecommerce has changed a lot over time. It's become more expensive and difficult to cut through the noise because of how many brands are out there. I have two pieces of advice: get crystal clear about what your points of differentiation are and stress those as much as possible before launching. Then get crystal clear on numbers: how much do you need to break even or be profitable? Keeping profitability in mind is important because it buys you options down the line.”
What’s next for WALDO?
“We recently acquired an optical technology business which essentially means that we're building technology that will allow for scanning on your mobile phone. Traditionally, these devices in the industry cost upwards of $10,000. They generally only have one purpose, they're very expensive for optometrists to buy and they take up a lot of space in the office. We want to build technologies that further enhance the relationship between the customer and the eye care industry.
We have also just launched in Walmart across the US. We are super excited about this partnership because Walmart is investing in what they're calling vision 2.0. which will change the future of eye care.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy of WALDO
Let’s get into some Rapid Fire questions… Who are you inspired by?“I am inspired by Katrina Lake who is the founder of Stitch Fix, a fashion-based subscription service. She’s a single female founder who built value in a very difficult industry which I find inspiring.”
How do you unplug from work?“I get into nature as quickly as possible. Hiking and wildlife photography are my reprieve.”
How many unread emails do you have right now?“3,466.”
What do you look for in an employee?“Grit, hard-working, humble and kind.”
Best piece of advice you ever got?“Ask for advice and you get money, ask for money and you get advice.”
Worst piece of advice you ever got?
“In order to be successful, I should have a male co-founder.”
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