We spoke to Sergio Weingarten, CEO, Low Cost Glasses, the online prescription glasses retailer about what inspired him to start the company and what, if he could, he’d do differently.
What do you currently do at Low Cost Glasses?
I am the CEO of Low Cost Glasses, an online prescription glasses retailer based in Greater Manchester. We launched in June 2019 and offer a wide range of high quality prescription glasses from £5 right through to designer brands, all at highly competitive and affordable prices. Because we manufacture in the UK, we can keep our costs low for customers without ever compromising on quality or speed of delivery. I ensure that we are constantly innovating for our customers, from ensuring our website and 24/7 customer support caters for all, to bringing in new technology like our new virtual try-on tool.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
I trained as a corporate finance lawyer and worked in Edinburgh and London for nearly ten years before joining the optical industry. From a family of entrepreneurs and business people, my commercial side took hold in 2010 and I left law behind to work for Galaxy Optical, the company behind Tesco Opticians. As Board Director and managing multiple international markets, I was heavily involved in the restructure of Galaxy when Tesco sold to Vision Express in 2017.
I launched Low Cost Glasses, the B2C arm of DD Frames (a two division business with the B2B side selling designer brands to large multiples), in June 2019, as I have found the industry a fascinating one, and I strongly believe in the power and cost savings of online glasses for customers.
Who do you admire?
Two people in my life have made a massive impression on me. The first was my late grandfather who came to the country as an immigrant with nothing, but through extremely hard work, he built a business that got listed on the London Stock Exchange. The second person I admire hugely is my father in law. He is someone that has worked so hard his entire life and he really defines how one can be hugely family orientated and an outstanding entrepreneur. I am lucky to have him as my mentor as I feel that I am constantly learning.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
No not really. I feel that all the bumps in one’s working career are what teach you the lessons on how to do it well. I have always believed that it is ok to make a mistake once, but don’t make it twice. Thankfully, I have made good career choices and been on a constant challenging learning curve.
What defines your way of doing business?
We are ruthlessly customer and quality focused. I am driven by the fact that online glasses are still a new concept to many, but the benefits are there for all to see, so I make sure that everything we do has the customer experience at the heart of it.
I try to drive the business forward with energy and agility and not dwell on failure. I would rather find the learning and move on quickly. I encourage team work and ideas and try to embed a culture of idea generation and team ownership of those ideas. We celebrate success as a group. Clearly at the moment, we have had to make lots of changes to how we work, but I think because of the culture we have we are navigating it as a group very well.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
I would first make sure that you are willing to put your life and soul into making your venture a success…and roll with the punches! If you have any doubts or don’t believe in the proposition, then walk away. I would also say to always watch your cash flow closely.
Be willing to take gambles on new channels but make sure you can measure the impact and don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t work. This is a journey, it can be quite a bumpy road and often difficult to pin point what worked and what didn’t but if you keep a close eye on the cash flow and keep stretching your teams and your goals, you should get there in the end.