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Startups Awards Hall of Fame: Julie and Jayne Abel, Eyespace

The founders on exhibiting at the industry's most prestigious trade event and how winning a Startups Award meant something to "everyone" in the business

Founded in 2013 by sisters Julie and Jayne Abel, fashion-conscious eyewear brand Eyespace walked away with Product Business of the Year at the last Startups Awards event. The pair, daughters of International Eyewear founders Phillip and Barbara Abel, launched their company in order to bring a little innovation to a conventional and longstanding market – beating the other award finalists due to its emphasis on design, quality and ability to excel in a crowded marketplace.

Since winning, Eyespace has gone from from strength to strength; growing to a team of 27, increasing private partnerships and gaining recognition from industry heavyweights. The female co-founders also have ambitious plans for the future that include additional premises, international and product range expansion.

We caught up with the founders to talk about their achievements so far and how winning a Startups Award helped make them become “newsworthy both inside and outside the optical world”.  

What’s happened in the last year since you entered the Startups Awards?

Since winning at the Startups Awards, we have had an exceptionally exciting year and have experienced a number of incredible milestones. Following further expansion within the business – we now employ 27 people – we have relocated into state of the art premises and are looking to take on additional warehousing space!

We have also been presented with a number of new and exciting opportunities for growth, including international export, exhibiting for the first time at Optrafair – our industry’s most popular and prestigious trade buying event – and we have been invited to engage in private label work. This is only a taster of the activities that have been keeping us busy since the award win!

What’s been the single biggest highlight for the business since winning?

There have been many moments when we’ve had to pinch ourselves, but the stand-out moment for the business since our Startups Award win has definitely been the experience of exhibiting for the first time at Optrafair. This really established us within the optical community, and getting involved with industry-relevant events has provided us with critical opportunities and introductions to a host of new customers, suppliers and industry professionals.

We launched over 50 new products at Optrafair and the stand was jam-packed with customers as soon as the show opened each day. The Eyespace team holds over two centuries worth of experience, and no member of staff has ever experienced such a level of success or buzz at any previous show they’ve attended!

The absolute highlight of our Optrafair premiere though was being awarded ‘Optical Supplier of the Year’ at The Optician Awards: this is the most prestigious award in the field of optometry. We are the youngest company ever to win this award, so it is a huge honour, both for ourselves and for everyone who continues to make Eyespace the company it is today. 

What are you hoping to achieve in the next year or so?

We have a big vision, and it only keeps growing! When we started the business two years ago, we could have only dreamed to be in the position we are today. We can’t wait to see where we will be in another two years…

There is planned expansion and innovation across all company divisions. With specific reference to product, we will be further developing our product ranges and ensuring that our existing brands continue to exceed the expectations of independent opticians whilst delivering exactly on consumer desires.

It is important that we stay true to our roots by supporting independent opticians in as many ways as possible – they are increasingly faced with the competitive high street market and we want to help them stand head-and-shoulders above the most well-known optician chains, which have huge marketing budgets in comparison. We will continue developing exclusive and innovative marketing and merchandising tools, which will be created with their specific business needs in mind. And of course, we will continue delivering industry-leading content across all social media platforms that will help opticians engage and excite consumers. 

What did winning at the Startups Awards mean to you?

Winning at the Startups Awards gave the entire Eyespace team a huge boost in confidence and had a very positive effect on morale! Everyone across the business was able to see the benefits of their hard work and dedication, and how their individual contributions deliver for the company as a whole.

Winning a product-based award has also been very important to us. Developing over 420 products for launch had never been seen before in optics and receiving recognition from outside the business helped us firmly cement our place within the optical industry as a business with products you can entirely put your trust in.   

Why would you recommend entering awards like this?

We would wholly recommend that every new business enter awards such as these – it has been a hugely positive process for the business and for ourselves as business owners.

The benefits of entering awards of this calibre can also not be underestimated. The Startups Awards made us newsworthy both inside and outside the optical world, which also generated awareness for optics as a whole. From the award win, we have been acknowledged for the roles we play in optometry, within fashion and in re-building economic confidence – we are particularly proud to have received a quotation request from 10 Downing Street, contributing to a news piece they sent out to the media regarding the recovery of the economy.

Attending the awards ceremony provided us with the opportunity to network with other like-minded business people – we left the event completely inspired by their stories and the decisions they have made for their flourishing businesses. Our vision for the coming years is much stronger having been exposed to such astute and focused entrepreneurs. We found the guest speaker at the ceremony to be exceptionally inspiring too – it provided us with even more motivation to keep pushing our business and its people forward in a very strategic way.

To enter the 2015 Startups Awards, click here.

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