Following winning The Start-Up Series competition, Ed Bird from Bird Eyewear discusses how the business has shifted since winning the competition, the biggest growth challenges the business experienced, how to focus on the next funding round and provides his advice for entrepreneurs on the beginning of the start-up funding journeys.
To find out more about The Start-Up Series competition – run by Worth Capital in partnership with Small Business – and how your small business could secure up to £250,000 in equity funding, read here.
Can you remind us what your company does and how the business has shifted since you won the Start-Up Series and first received investment?
We make beautiful sustainable eyewear – creating exceptional designs and focusing obsessively on quality. For us it’s about reframing what really matters; people and planet. Firstly, seeking out the best sustainable materials for our frames, including certified woods, bio-based acetate, renewable cork and recycled aluminium.
We also ensure that every pair of Birds gives back through our Share Your Sun partnership with SolarAid. Helping to distribute solar light to families in Zambia and Malawi, replacing the use of fossil fuel burning lamps.
Since winning the Start-Up Series we’ve developed and improved almost every part of the brand, from changing our domain name and social media handles, to changing web-platform, product iterations, brand styling and more. Some of these shifts have been larger than others, but each one has had a positive impact. It’s all added up to give us a really strong 2021 year with thousands of happy customers.
What has been your biggest challenge during the early stages of your venture and how has the support from Worth Capital helped the business grow?
Team capacity has been a big challenge, along with some product supply shortages (although linked to strong sales, so we’ll take the good with the bad!).
We also had some online challenges in the early days, and with more consumers turning to online shopping, we’ve focused on this and implemented our virtual try-on and home try-on services which have been a great success.
As an early stage team we’re often sharing a lot of the day-to-day work so when things got busy it could be overwhelming knowing what to prioritise. Thankfully, we’ve had some great support from Worth Capital and guidance which came at the right time to
boost our strategy. We’ve now tripled our team size and have a really solid foundation for growth.
You’re now in a position where your business requires more funding. Tell us about how you’ve prepared for this funding round and how you are going to approach it.
Yes, we’ve built a lot from a little and are now looking to build on our early success. The eyewear market is changing along with consumer buying habits and what people expect from brands. These days it’s as much about the company and brand story as it is about the products.
We’ve positioned ourselves at the forefront of this change, both as a company and the products we make. For example, in 2020, we became the first B Corp certified eyewear brand in the UK. This means we’ve been verified to meet the highest standards of social and environmental impact; something that resonates with consumers.
We’ve built this sustainability model into everything that we do. Thanks to our recent work on our supply chain and our carbon reduction through SolarAid, we are now a carbon negative company with fully mapped and detailed carbon emissions. For us, this is just the start of an on-going drive to improve our products and create better eyewear for a better world.
We’ve done a lot of market testing, and have a solid playbook to move forward with, which includes profitable economics and building on and leveraging technology for an ever-better consumer experience, plus plenty more innovative products in the pipeline.
We’re speaking with investors already and have our investor deck and financials ready to view. Our goal is to raise circa £300K to propel us into an even stronger market position and a category defining brand.
What have you learned since your first funding round and what advice would you give to other founders embarking on their start-up funding journeys?
We’ve come a long way since our first funding round, our business has changed in lots of ways, but always for the better thanks to the support we’ve had.
Advice and guidance is crucial, and we’d definitely recommend surrounding yourself with a strong advisory team. Develop a thoughtful strategy which you can grow into (or outgrow if needed). You need to be flexible as you grow so being open to new ideas and innovative changes will always aid your progress.