Fitz Frames, founded by Heidi Hertel, is a custom eyewear company with a mission to solve glasses for families. Fitz Frames makes it easy, fun and affordable to buy made-to-measure glasses from home! Through their app – easy enough, huh?! – customers do a virtual try-on of their frame colors and styles using facial mapping technology to measure your face. From there, you can order prescription or non-prescription glasses, which come straight to their door, no contact required. Each Fitz Frame is 3D printed to each customer’s unique facial dimensions, so the glasses fit out of the box with no adjustments needed.
Hertel, mom of 3, started Fitz because “I spent a lot of time buying glasses for my kids and felt the way glasses were manufactured and purchased was completely antiquated.” She says, “Glasses we liked came often came in a single size and color…leaving very little choices that didn’t fit well.” Tired of constantly going to eye doctors, stores and looking online to buy – she wanted to create a company where buying glasses was actually enjoyable AND customers could wear a product that made them look and feel their best. Well, we are hooked!
Needing to give back during this pandemic, Fitz Frames has since launched a line of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) glasses called Fitz Protect, for frontline medical staff battling COVID-19.
The Fitz Protect eyewear (specs seen above) provides an extra layer of protection while they treat patients, especially given the recent guidance that they refrain from wearing contact lenses. Keeping medical personnel safe and healthy is of paramount importance to mitigate the potentially disastrous effects of this outbreak. Medical personnel are at increased risk of infection and hospitalization – and when they become infected, already short-staffed wards become even more overburdened.
Through their GoFundMe site, funds raised go directly towards providing medical personnel with custom made-to-measure Fitz Protect eyewear. Their goal is to provide this eyewear at no cost to medical personnel as they put their lives on the line for us, on a daily basis. With that, Heidi shared more on Fitz Frames, COVID-19, how she does it all, and more – read on!
Can you share the design process – start to finish – of a custom Fitz Frame pair of glasses?
Heidi Hertel (HH): Through our facial mapping technology, we gather thousands of measurement points through the mobile phone camera. We use these measurements to build a frame designed to fit you, changing elements that traditional optical retailers cannot. So not only is the frame front the right height and width for your face, but more importantly, the bridge shape and size are customized to prevent slippage, the temples are printed at the right lengths and angles to sit on your ears properly, etc. We also personalize the inside of the temple – you can print your name, phone number, email address or anything else you like inside.
You started with kids glasses, and now offer adult glasses?
HH: We started the company with a focus on kids and were pleasantly surprised that adults found us and are buying our glasses! The tech works for all faces ages 3 and up.
What was this need? Same issue with finding better “options” for adults?
HH: It turns out that adults were also tired of schlepping back and forth to stores and were disappointed in the way standard glasses fit. Many adults told us they had bridges that were difficult to fit, small/wide faces that left them with few frame choices, and very expensive options that limited their ability to buy multiple frames.
Can you explain the digital component of Fitz Frames?
HH: Once your order your glasses in our app, we receive its digital file at our facility in Youngstown, Ohio. We use this information to print your individual frame. The fact that we make our designs digitally, also means we have a lot of freedom in the way we build our catalogue and product. We can easily try new styles and colors in our system and keep up with current trends. And we make it possible for people to are no longer relegated to certain styles that fit their face “type.” Our glasses are customized for every face, so people can wear shapes that haven’t worked for them in the past!
During COVID-19, it seems being germ free and using the app is the way to go – can you explain that process?
HH: We are excited to give customers a convenient way to shop for glasses at home, especially at this time. When you open the app, you immediately see a pair of glasses on your face. It’s like being in a shop and looking at a mirror, without having to leave the couch! You can play with our frame styles and colors and share the image of you in your glasses with friends!
Getting your measurements is very quick and we can even call your doctor to get your prescription. It takes most customers less than five minutes from app download to purchase.
You are a working mom who started your company from personal need – how do you handle stress? Gym? Mediation?
HH: I try to schedule time off to rejuvenate, just as I schedule meetings and calls. I enjoy yoga and Pilates to help keep my mind and body steady. And lots of Facetime with friends as they are a great support and always keep me laughing.
How to balance your work / personal life balance?
HH: This one is tricky. There’s not a consistent schedule in start-up life. On weekdays, I block off 6-8 pm as pure family time, putting the phone away to focus on my husband and kids, have dinner, talk about their days, etc. I’ve established family traditions on weekends, so the kids know that we will always have special Sunday dinners out at a restaurant and other things that won’t change even if the week has been crazy. And no matter how busy I am, I try to let the kids (and my spouse) know I’m here and ready to listen, even when I’m juggling.
What are 3 tips for women who may be starting their own company?
HH: There are really good networks of female founders/working moms that you should join. Not only do they bring great networking opportunities/ideas for your business, they can serve as a great source of emotional support when you need it.
Find a mission that will drive you to want to do this. Nothing short of pure passion will get you through the ups and downs you will experience as an entrepreneur.
Make sure you have enough funding and don’t be afraid to go after it. There are lots of opportunities for women right now who want to start their own companies and the right investor can also serve as an amazing strategic partner to help you build your business.
Who do you look up to in your industry (or beyond) which helped you take the leap into being your own CEO/founder?
HH: Julie Uhrman is a tech entrepreneur and friend who helped me pursue this idea and have the confidence to start the company. I didn’t have any experience in optical retail, but Julie helped me realize that I had the instincts and experience to solve this problem. She’s been a great sounding board as a fellow female entrepreneur, mom, and parent of a child in glasses, and I feel really lucky to have her as a friend and advisor.
What is next for you?
HH: For the near term, in addition to being a working mom, I’ll be spending extra time with my family at home. While it’s challenging at times, it’s also been really rewarding in ways I didn’t expect. I’ve never had the chance to see what/how my kids learn quite this much…so seeing the ways they are digesting/taking in all of this information is really interesting.
I’m looking forward to providing families with information on how to keep eyes healthy during this extended period of working/playing from home with our online content. I want people to feel armed with the information they need to take care of their family’s eyes, including blue light filtering lenses for screen time and sunglass protection, which are also really important.
What is next for Fitz Frames?
HH: I’m really excited to expand our catalogue styles and colors for kids! With the increased interest from adult customers, we’re looking at new styles that will suit them as well. The sky is the limit in terms of what we can pursue in eyewear, so I’m looking forward to bringing other functional needs to customers, including sportswear, as well as more interesting designs that can only be produced with 3D printing technology!
Photos: All ℅ Fitz Frames