In 2005, Roy Hessel stepped out of a venture capital career and decided to get his hands dirty. He had been directing and coaching businesses for years, and he decided it was time to do it himself. He saw an interesting opportunity to make a difference and to use technology to shake up one of humankind’s oldest industries: eyewear.
So Hessel joined forces with a colleague who had experience in the optic industry, and in 2005 they opened EyeBuyDirect, an online retailer and optical manufacturer. Their purpose and mission came from one idea – to make prescription eyeglasses and other forms of vision correction affordable and accessible to everyone worldwide.
Hessel admits that on the surface, the optics business looks like a bad choice. Those who follow the "blue ocean" approach will immediately recognize that the eyeglass industry is a "red ocean."
Hessel says, "We’ve chosen a blood ocean to compete with. We compete with offline retailers, big companies with enormous backing that have been in the industry for many years. And we also compete with other online retailers who have been in the industry longer than us."
But I believe that skillful strategists can create openings and deflect competition even in crowded markets. Great generals do not give up land to seek uncharted territory. Rather they skillfully design a strategy that convinces the competition, even in a crowded field, to step aside.
To that end, EyeBuyDirect is adopting at least three innovation patterns that have historically proven powerful deflectors of competitive resistance. If you recognize them and use them yourself, you may see new opportunities to expand uncontested – even in a market Michael Porter would advise you to avoid.
EyeBuyDirect’s business strategy seems to be working, and over the next few days, I will share some of the strategies that it employs to be successful. The company ended 2005 with about $400,000 in sales. Management expects to hit seven figures in 2008 and eight figures in 2009. In this turbulent economy, who wouldn’t want to have that type of growth trajectory?