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How Alex Feldman Grew Their Small Family Optical Shop to A Luxury Eyewear Brand Ep. 89
Episode 894th October 2022 • Fascinating Entrepreneurs • Natasha Miller
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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

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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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Transcripts

Alex Feldman:

In making Alexander Daas it's built from not from a

Alex Feldman:

perspective of me being a design student that went to art school or a

Alex Feldman:

design school, but really understanding proper fits, proper measurements and

Alex Feldman:

each frame really being built for a face from an optic perspective.

Natasha Miller:

Welcome to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

Natasha Miller:

How do people end up becoming an entrepreneur?

Natasha Miller:

How do they scale and grow their businesses?

Natasha Miller:

How do they plan for profit?

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Are they in it for life?

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Are they building to exit these in a myriad of other topics?

Natasha Miller:

Will be discussed to pull back the veil on the wizardry of successful

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You can go to TheRelentlessBook.com for more information.

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Thank you so much.

Natasha Miller:

Founder CEO of Alexander Daas, Alex Feldman drives the vision and

Natasha Miller:

growth of the brand, including its design and distribution, retail

Natasha Miller:

presence and e-commerce business in 2006, Alex bought out his parents'

Natasha Miller:

small business in San Francisco.

Natasha Miller:

And after over a decade of working on the sales floor and styling thousands

Natasha Miller:

of politicians, athletes, celebrities, locals, and more, he found a gap in high

Natasha Miller:

end eyewear and launched his eyewear.

Natasha Miller:

Alexander dos the collection focused on styles that fit narrow and

Natasha Miller:

petite faces giving adults freedom from buying children's frames.

Natasha Miller:

We talk about what it was like to acquire his family business.

Natasha Miller:

If retail stores or e-commerce is more fruitful and what his strategy for

Natasha Miller:

growth is now let's get right into it.

Alex Feldman:

My parents in the early days definitely tried to dissuade me from it.

Alex Feldman:

They had a different view on it and at that time, but

Alex Feldman:

they had a mom and pop shop.

Alex Feldman:

And so they didn't really see the big picture opportunity with the industry.

Alex Feldman:

And I, but I grew up around the store and I just loved it.

Alex Feldman:

I would have to help a lot.

Alex Feldman:

My dad would pick me up from school, take me to work, and I'd be stuck with

Alex Feldman:

doing inventory and stuff like that.

Alex Feldman:

Like some parts I hated, but same time.

Alex Feldman:

That's what kind drove my love for, I wear it because getting involved

Alex Feldman:

with the frames and just seeing how cool they were, it was always there.

Alex Feldman:

So I was really interested.

Alex Feldman:

In it from the beginning.

Alex Feldman:

And when I went to college, I studied Biopsychology and

Alex Feldman:

I emphasized vision sciences.

Alex Feldman:

Cause I was actually thinking to potentially go optometry school to

Alex Feldman:

that degree business shortly before, as I applying optometry schools, I

Alex Feldman:

realized that while I'm passionate about vision, I think it's fascinating

Alex Feldman:

when actually learn about it.

Alex Feldman:

The day to day job of being optometrist was not exciting for me in terms of just

Alex Feldman:

seeing patients and where I'm more into.

Alex Feldman:

The business side of things and branding the marketing and creating something.

Alex Feldman:

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?

Natasha Miller:

Did it cause any rifts?

Natasha Miller:

Was it awkward?

Natasha Miller:

You not speaking to one or the other?

Alex Feldman:

No, it wasn't like that, but the process was a long process that

Alex Feldman:

started from originally me starting to manage the business for my dad.

Alex Feldman:

And eventually that just transitioned into me completely like running the

Alex Feldman:

company with him being hands off.

Alex Feldman:

And then eventually this is over a 3, 4, 5, almost five

Alex Feldman:

year period of time, probably.

Alex Feldman:

And then eventually getting to the point where I fully took over and he exited.

Alex Feldman:

And the biggest problem we had is that my father, I love him so much.

Alex Feldman:

And I would always have such great times with him, but whenever it came

Alex Feldman:

to business, it was just, we're both Tauruses and we both think we're

Alex Feldman:

right, but we have very different views on how things should be.

Alex Feldman:

And especially with me thinking more from a scaling perspective and growing

Alex Feldman:

while he's more mom and pop, just running the business, the way that he's used.

Alex Feldman:

And so we would just argue a lot about through the process that we can't work

Alex Feldman:

together essentially is what it came.

Alex Feldman:

And that's ultimately, I think was the final success in us creating

Alex Feldman:

that separation him exiting was that we butt heads too much.

Alex Feldman:

And it's gonna be better this way.

Natasha Miller:

Let me ask you this.

Natasha Miller:

I can imagine this, that you're managing it for your dad.

Natasha Miller:

You're taking it over.

Natasha Miller:

You're trying to scale and grow your mindset is there, but then you are

Natasha Miller:

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

Natasha Miller:

deal right now, cause it's gonna really increase how much money I'm

Natasha Miller:

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

Alex Feldman:

own thing, even in the eyewear industry and completely done a separate thing,

Alex Feldman:

but in my mind it was always the concept of my dad needs to retire.

Alex Feldman:

My parents need to be able to retire and really by taking over the business.

Alex Feldman:

It's me securing a retirement for them.

Alex Feldman:

And it's me now taking the role of the, my dad is still the head

Alex Feldman:

of the family, but taking the role is like head of the family.

Alex Feldman:

Like I'm the one that kind of will take care of.

Alex Feldman:

So I wasn't really overly concerned about whether I technically overpay or under,

Alex Feldman:

because it's family at the end of the day.

Natasha Miller:

Did you have a traditional business valuation and

Natasha Miller:

go through what, what you would in buying another business due diligence?

Alex Feldman:

I knew the diligence cause I knew, yeah.

Alex Feldman:

I knew the books.

Alex Feldman:

It wasn't traditional and it was just more of a father's arrangement

Alex Feldman:

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

Alex Feldman:

designs going through that phase.

Alex Feldman:

I really a key part of what we're making is.

Alex Feldman:

It's not just another eye line.

Alex Feldman:

We we're deeply rooted opticianry, and the whole background comes from opticianry.

Alex Feldman:

So in making Alexander Daas, it's built from not from a perspective of

Alex Feldman:

me being a design student that went to art school or a design school, but

Alex Feldman:

really understanding proper, fits proper measurements and each frame really being

Alex Feldman:

built for a face from an perspective and Daas in Hebrew means knowledge.

Alex Feldman:

And it has a very nice ring to it.

Alex Feldman:

And so I just thought it was a perfect fit because this line is

Alex Feldman:

being built from knowledge as opposed to again, but just simply design

Natasha Miller:

You focus on glasses meant for people with

Natasha Miller:

narrow or petite faces, but do you also carry regular sized as well?

Alex Feldman:

Yes.

Alex Feldman:

Yeah.

Alex Feldman:

So when I first launched one of the reasons that I decided to launch

Alex Feldman:

my own line, was because I saw this gap in the market, in the high

Alex Feldman:

independent sector, there wasn't a lot of options for petite faces.

Alex Feldman:

And I did some research and found that off the top of my head, I

Alex Feldman:

think was like 14% of men fit this size category in 30%, 33% of women.

Alex Feldman:

So it's amount of people, but they're often stuck by kids frames

Alex Feldman:

or spending three times as long with an optician to find something.

Alex Feldman:

And then in the end of settling.

Alex Feldman:

And so I thought it was a great niche that needed attention.

Alex Feldman:

And so I launched the first collection and the second

Alex Feldman:

collection really focused on that.

Alex Feldman:

So that's what we started with.

Alex Feldman:

But now as we've produced more and expanded, we do sizes of all the different

Alex Feldman:

sizes, especially there was so much demand for some of our styles because of certain

Alex Feldman:

celebrities and we needed to make sure that more people could fit in that look.

Alex Feldman:

And so we started expanding.

Alex Feldman:

So we started expanding to so now we have a little bit of everything.

Natasha Miller:

Okay.

Natasha Miller:

So you're not wearing glasses.

Natasha Miller:

What is going on?

Alex Feldman:

I knew you were gonna ask that I don't have a prescription.

Alex Feldman:

My site is still good, but it's starting to, I actually just had

Alex Feldman:

an eye exam couple weeks ago.

Alex Feldman:

Cause I'm starting to feel a little fatigue.

Alex Feldman:

And I think I'm about to make my first pair of usable prescription

Alex Feldman:

more for the reading zone.

Natasha Miller:

Have you ever thought that you should write a book that you should

Natasha Miller:

write the story of your life to help other people learn from your experience?

Natasha Miller:

Please go to MemoirSherpa.com and learn how I can help you write, figure out your

Natasha Miller:

publishing path and market your story, your memoir to a best seller status.

Natasha Miller:

I made it to 49 years old with 20:20 vision, which is interesting

Natasha Miller:

because everyone in my family, every single person, my dad, my two

Natasha Miller:

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.

Natasha Miller:

And so it's a little bit of a shocker to me to now have to go

Natasha Miller:

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.

Natasha Miller:

I don't even know who makes them.

Alex Feldman:

Are they progressive lenses?

Natasha Miller:

Yeah.

Alex Feldman:

Yeah.

Alex Feldman:

OK.

Alex Feldman:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

Yes.

Alex Feldman:

I have have so many pairs of glasses.

Alex Feldman:

I wear sunglass all time, but even eyeglasses.

Alex Feldman:

Cause over the years, I've fall in love with so many frame.

Alex Feldman:

I'm like I have to wear them.

Natasha Miller:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

It makes look cool.

Alex Feldman:

Yeah.

Alex Feldman:

It's just look.

Alex Feldman:

Yeah, exactly.

Alex Feldman:

It's like a different, just a different persona and I'll plan no lenses in them.

Alex Feldman:

But the thing that happens, like I'll walk around, but then I sit the computer.

Alex Feldman:

And because I don't need them to correct my vision.

Alex Feldman:

They're technically obstructing my vision in a way.

Alex Feldman:

And so I'll start the computer.

Alex Feldman:

I'm like, "You know what, they're bothering me.

Alex Feldman:

I take off and then I don't end up wearing 'em.

Alex Feldman:

And so I have all these pairs that I've made for myself over

Alex Feldman:

the years that I don't up wearing.

Alex Feldman:

Cause you leave on the desk.

Alex Feldman:

So I'm excited to end up having a use for them.

Alex Feldman:

But now too, the other thing is like they've made such, especially from those

Alex Feldman:

days such advancements with the codings that especially the anti reflexive coding,

Alex Feldman:

there's a new one that just came out, just came out, I think earlier March.

Alex Feldman:

And it's a new improved version.

Alex Feldman:

It's reducing the glare by 70% in the increased contrast.

Alex Feldman:

And so I've tried those.

Alex Feldman:

Actually even reading correction, I can tell the difference that

Alex Feldman:

it, that increased contrast, like it just things look sharper to

Alex Feldman:

me that can open up the door.

Alex Feldman:

It's expensive though, but it can open up the door to a plan, no

Alex Feldman:

lenses actually being helpful now.

Natasha Miller:

Are you personally doing the design of the frames or are you just

Natasha Miller:

overseeing, are you a creative director?

Alex Feldman:

All the above.

Alex Feldman:

Yeah, I'm doing the design of the frames and I have a production manager too.

Alex Feldman:

That helps with the process and yeah, so I'm, I'm still very hands on.

Alex Feldman:

I hope to eventually be more of overseeing the process versus

Alex Feldman:

being deeply rooted in the design process, because it is hard for me.

Alex Feldman:

Again, I come in with a proper open knowledge and I know what I wanna

Alex Feldman:

do and what fits I wanna make, but I get overwhelmed sometimes between

Alex Feldman:

figuring out the colors, schemes that we wanna come out with and this

Alex Feldman:

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.

Alex Feldman:

And some of the new, we just released a newer like capsule collection and

Alex Feldman:

that one is being made in China.

Alex Feldman:

So we have a little bit of a mix, but mostly in Japan,

Alex Feldman:

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

Alex Feldman:

that has a, had a massive effect on us.

Alex Feldman:

There's the two parts, right?

Alex Feldman:

There's my production for my brand and our distribution.

Alex Feldman:

And there's.

Alex Feldman:

For our retail stores, we carry many other brands and with some

Alex Feldman:

of them they're definitely more delayed than they ever were.

Alex Feldman:

Like place an order.

Alex Feldman:

Now, instead of getting the new styles in two or three months, literally they're

Alex Feldman:

showing up seven months later sometimes with some of them or like half of it

Alex Feldman:

arrived, but then half of it lingers over the next six to seven months.

Alex Feldman:

So there's definitely a little bit of delay, but again, between all

Alex Feldman:

the selection and all the inventory, that's actually out there, it's fine.

Alex Feldman:

Like the stores are still fully stocked with my production.

Alex Feldman:

It's been pretty solid.

Alex Feldman:

And that's part of when we made some movement with the factories,

Alex Feldman:

part of it was get some extra options for making sure we, yeah.

Natasha Miller:

What is currently a bigger revenue driver for you?

Natasha Miller:

Brick and mortar retail or eCommerce?

Alex Feldman:

Brick and mortar retail, for sure.

Alex Feldman:

With eCommerce, I would say we're still trying to build it up and I

Alex Feldman:

think there's more potential there.

Alex Feldman:

But we're not selling an expensive product, we're selling a

Alex Feldman:

expensive, but it's high quality.

Alex Feldman:

So like it's worth what people pay for it.

Alex Feldman:

There is value there, but it's something we're really just

Alex Feldman:

personal attention is required.

Alex Feldman:

People come to us for our styling expertise experience that they

Alex Feldman:

get in store with our team.

Alex Feldman:

And just in general, instead of that price point, I think is something

Alex Feldman:

easier for a lot of people or just makes more sense in person versus online.

Alex Feldman:

But at the same time, there's the, a lot of our businesses,

Alex Feldman:

the prescription side of it.

Alex Feldman:

So prescription glasses, and with that for really basic prescription online

Alex Feldman:

is fine, there's measurements required.

Alex Feldman:

So like with the only reason I even launched eCommerce, that was very

Alex Feldman:

anti eCommerce for, I wear again from the optician perspective, making

Alex Feldman:

sure the lenses are made right.

Alex Feldman:

There's some lenses that just you have to do in person.

Alex Feldman:

Cause people have like a really wild prism or this or that.

Alex Feldman:

You just need that proper measurement taking.

Alex Feldman:

But we developed a process to essentially mimic our in person measuring capabilities

Alex Feldman:

and to be able to do virtually.

Alex Feldman:

So we have a process that's very manual.

Alex Feldman:

So like even an online order with us doesn't end up being like the click

Alex Feldman:

and it's gonna write up in my mailbox.

Alex Feldman:

It's we get,

Natasha Miller:

I couldn't just put in my doctor's details and my pupillary

Natasha Miller:

distance and then the hit order.

Alex Feldman:

No, you can, but we're still gonna call you.

Alex Feldman:

No.

Alex Feldman:

So we still, every order comes in compared to it and they

Alex Feldman:

follow up with that customer.

Alex Feldman:

And even if everything is there, like they said, "Like I have this frame, I have my

Alex Feldman:

sight height from my previous optician.

Alex Feldman:

I have my PD.

Alex Feldman:

We're still gonna call them talk 'em through the order and probably

Alex Feldman:

still remeasure them with our method, even if they provide measurements.

Alex Feldman:

Because wanna make sure, and everything is warranty at the end of the day.

Alex Feldman:

But the problem is that sometimes people will get glasses that seem fine.

Alex Feldman:

And so you think like, everything is fine, cause your eyes can do that little

Alex Feldman:

bit of work where something is a little off, but they're doing work and you

Alex Feldman:

think it's fine, but it's not fine.

Alex Feldman:

It's wrong.

Alex Feldman:

The measurement is off, whatever.

Alex Feldman:

And then slowly you're actually hurting your eyes by wearing it that way.

Natasha Miller:

Okay.

Natasha Miller:

So at the end of the day, and we have, what five months left of the

Natasha Miller:

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.

Alex Feldman:

So we are scaling back up with our wholesale distribution.

Alex Feldman:

Through COVID we had to pause with that between the travel and

Alex Feldman:

production and stuff like that.

Alex Feldman:

And so we are now building up our rep force again.

Alex Feldman:

So we have several boots on the ground at this point and going back and reopening

Alex Feldman:

accounts, showing them the new selection, getting them to bring stuff back in.

Alex Feldman:

And so that's where my passion is to build a brand and to get it out there.

Alex Feldman:

And so that's where the majority of my focus is.

Natasha Miller:

And with this, what would your BHAG be?

Natasha Miller:

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,

Alex Feldman:

which is a little different from the product side, but it goes hand in hand

Alex Feldman:

cause what's gonna take us that level is having our product, our own brand,

Alex Feldman:

but that's my "BHAG" having stores in Europe, Alexander Daas stores.

Natasha Miller:

For more information, go to the show notes where

Natasha Miller:

you're listening to this podcast.

Natasha Miller:

Wanna know more about me go to my website, OfficialNatashaMiller.com.

Natasha Miller:

Thank you so much for listening.

Natasha Miller:

I hope you loved the show.

Natasha Miller:

If you did, please subscribe also, if you haven't done so yet,

Natasha Miller:

please leave a review where you're listening to this podcast now.

Natasha Miller:

I'm Natasha Miller and you've been listening to FASCINATING ENTRPRENEURS.

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