Rio de Janeiro-based independent eyewear brand Zerezes will complete a decade next year and is repositioning itself as a startup that wants to join the venture capital route. What was born as a sunglasses retailer focused on design – for, in particular, millennials – Zerezes saw the strength of e-commerce during the pandemic and now wants to attack both fronts: brick-and-mortar and online shops.
Luiz Eduardo Rocha and Hugo Galindo founded the company when he was still in product design school and the brand started as a reused wooden sunglasses shop. When CEO Rodrigo Latini arrived in 2016, the company switched from sunglasses to prescription glasses and the frames moved to sawdust and finally acetate.
“When we entered the optical market, we started to see several practices that were not very legal within the market, there was a lack of transparency, prices were high. We didn’t want to be an optician that buys from various brands but has no relationship with the client, doesn’t listen to the client, doesn’t capture data,” said Latini, in an interview with LABS.
With prescription glasses, Zerezes began to see new possibilities, betting on direct sales to the consumer, without intermediaries, which reduced the price of the product.
“It’s difficult for a new player to enter the optics market and to do something different cost-effectively, there is a barrier both to entering the optics and to reaching the customer. But digitalization has messed with all that. Contact through social networking, website and app have given another possibility to compete,” said Latini.
When the pandemic hit, the company had five shops in Rio de Janeiro and put the brakes on physical expansion, focusing on online sales. Hiring a technology team, Zerezes dressed itself up as a startup with a digital and data culture. The customer could try the glasses on the Zerezes website and even receive the glasses at home to try on. The whole process is done in-house, from ordering the glasses to lens measurements, assembly and delivery take seven days on the company’s e-commerce.
It works like this: when the customer buys the glasses, he adds the prescription of the ophthalmologist in the system (in Brazil, retailers of prescription glasses rely on physicians, they can’t do eye exams themselves). And, through the webcam, the company can measure the pupil distance to send to the fitter. Zerezes does not have a frame or lens factory; it only designs the products, which are made by an outsourced company in China.
Zerezes’ idea is that shortly customers will not need to remember the prescription they had, but that all information will be stored in the system.
Speed up brick-and-mortar and online shops
In the beginning, the founders of Zerezes got credit to open the first shops, which eventually became profitable, according to co-founder and creative director Hugo Galindo.
“In 2020 we started to make a bigger investment in hiring more senior people. Online, which, represented 15% of our sales, started to represent 70%. It was as if we had a new source of revenue with the same cost structure”, he says.
Zerezes managed to generate cash in 2020 and, this year, it accelerated the hiring of teams – today the company has 80 employees – and opened two physical shops in São Paulo. Now, the company is looking for investment funds to make its first round and accelerate growth.
“When we started this new plan, we already knew we were going to make this funding at some point. We think that the ideal moment has arrived, capturing resources we will have a much more accelerated growth rhythm. We want to be the Natura of glasses, growing the physical side and online,” recalls Latini.
The company says it is doubling revenues this year compared to last year and should close 2021 with BRL 23 to BRL 25 million. By 2022, Zerezes wants to open seven physical shops.
The company’s success, according to Rocha, lies in the customer experience. “We are feedback responsive. We can listen to all our customers and from there create action plans for all areas. We are structuring ourselves to have this data increasingly analyzed to be able to deliver each of these improvements faster and more assertively. I think this is one of the externalities of digitalizing the company, it is positive and genuine for a company that aims to be direct to the consumer.”