Never give up. — The ups and downs of building a business are extreme — one morning you can be feeling down about something that went wrong where you doubt whether what you’re doing is working and later that day, you can have the best day you’ve had on the job!
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Heidi Hertel, Founder of Fitz Frames.
Heidi started Fitz Frames to ease the buying experience and make glasses that would be better for kids in terms of fit and durability. Hertel started the company after taking her children through the process of buying glasses with little to no success. Fitz Frames has raised 2.5 million dollars in seed funding.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I got into this business because of my kids. My oldest daughter started wearing glasses at three years old. We were constantly disappointed with what we found at stores, doctor’s offices and online retailers. Because most glasses are made in only one size (maybe two), it was challenging to find a pair that fit correctly and was a style and color that we liked. Once we did find a frame the kids became attached to, something would happen to the glasses (the kids would outgrow or break them) and we could never find them again or get the next size up because frame styles and colors are often discontinued. When I found out my younger daughter needed glasses at two years old and saw what was available, I cried at the doctor’s office. I realized that I had double the challenge in a market that already wasn’t meeting our family’s needs — and spending a ton of time and money on glasses we didn’t even like!
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
What we aim to do at Fitz is to solve glasses for families, which means we’ve created a better product and purchase experience. We make customized glasses for each customer based on thousands of facial measurements we take through our app. So for the first time, you get a pair of glasses that fit you out of the box straight to your door — no adjustments needed — which means no more store visits for fittings or returns to the store for additional pairs. We 3D print each pair in the USA using a material and hinge design that is more durable than typical glasses. We also offer an affordable subscription plan to cover a family’s glasses for the year!
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I’ve found that entrepreneurs are a truly different breed of people that are essential to have with you on this journey. They see what’s possible when you might only see roadblocks. When I first had this idea, I spoke to a mom I knew from my daughter’s school. While I genuinely believed I had a great solution to a very real problem for millions of people, I still doubted whether what I wanted to do could be achieved and whether I had the right experience to do it. My friend Julie is a serial entrepreneur and had the attitude and supportive answers I needed to get me started and through some of the low moments. She has helped me see how you need to look at things from a founder’s perspective and how to channel that passion/obsession into your business, including inspiring your team’s attitude, building relationships with customers, and continually improving your product.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
Never give up. — The ups and downs of building a business are extreme — one morning you can be feeling down about something that went wrong where you doubt whether what you’re doing is working and later that day, you can have the best day you’ve had on the job! Unfortunately, it can also go the other way, so you need to take each day as it comes and know how to celebrate the good moments and move past the bad.
Surround yourself with other female entrepreneurs. I had a fantastic experience being part of a group of female founders that met monthly during my first year of building Fitz. Having access to the expertise in the room, and fellow women, in particular, was extremely beneficial.
Take care of yourself! It’s important to schedule time off of the clock to rejuvenate. Some of my best ideas came to me when I gave myself time to relax- like sitting at the beach for an afternoon.
How are you going to shake things up next?
We are excited to dig deep into our additive manufacturing process to do some exciting things in the optical world and beyond! Not only will we be getting into the adult market and developing more unique designs and eyewear features that only 3D printing can create- we are looking into how to solve other real-world problems. For starters, we plan to solve problems for items that are in high demand, both at mass volume scales and custom-designed for individuals.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
How I Built This Is a great podcast where you get to hear real, honest first hand experience from actual entrepreneurs. I loved hearing how the founders of Allbirds (a company I admire and am a customer of) got started. Listening one of the founders talk about the vulnerability you feel in telling others what you’re working on in the early stages of your business, particularly one with a lot of big players in the space (shoes for them, glasses for me) I knew exactly how he felt! It made me realize that fellow entrepreneurs are the only ones who truly understand what it’s like and a great source of support and encouragement.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I encourage women to take risks and pursue a dream even when you know the chances of success are slim, or odds may not be in your favor.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I always liked the George Carlin quote — “Always do whatever’s next.” At times I worried about whether I was doing the right thing/on the right career path/making the right choices as working or stay at home mom… I’ve come to feel that while you create your roadmap, it will never be perfect, and you have to take the opportunities as they come. I never in a million years thought I would start a techie eyewear start-up and I’m sure I’ll do something in the future I would never guess I would try.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can check out our social channels @fitzframes as well as my frequent blog posts at fitzframes.com
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!