As Jennifer Farrelly squinted her eyes and searched online for the perfect pair of reading glasses, she began to see a real problem. The eyeglasses that popped up on her screen were either too expensive or belonged on a rotating display at Walgreens.
After slamming her computer shut, she realized that she needed to do something about it. That’s when Cheeterz Club was born.
Not Your Mother’s Glasses
Unfortunately for most of us, reading glasses and old age coincide like turkey on Thanksgiving. Does losing our eyesight have to be such an embarrassing moment in our lives? According to Jennifer Farrelly, the answer is no. Her new company, Cheeterz Club, offers affordable, stylish glasses that don’t make us feel like we belong in an episode of the “Golden Girls.”
Cheeterz Club enable customers to design their own reading glasses following an easy three-step process. With 14 unique frames available in 42 color options, each pair of glasses is fully customizable and made to order. After selecting the frame and color options, customers are given 13 power options to choose from. The company also offers glasses with blue light protection and reading sunglasses.
Who is Jennifer Farrelly?
After gaining twenty years of experience in media and sales tech working for huge companies like Turner Broadcasting and Condé Nast, Farrelly decided to branch out and create her own startup company. As Farrelly puts it, “I realized suddenly there was a problem in the marketplace. I thought I’d be a good person to solve it since I understood that problem, and I was that problem.”
After deciding to tackle the problems she discovered in the existing eyewear market, Jennifer’s first course of business was picking out a company name. While weighing her options, she remembered that in her home state of Georgia, reading glasses were often called by their slang name, cheaters. With her marketing background, she saw an opportunity to play with the spelling and make it her own.
Regarding her company’s selected name, Farrelly states, “we’re cheating on the way it’s spelled, but we’re cheating on the things that matter to cheat on like small prints … Cheating on that negative feeling that’s associated with waking up one day and realizing you can’t read your text messages.”
As Jennifer and her friends started to reach their forties, she began listening to their concerns about their eyesight. Suddenly, her friends were unable to read the back of their cleaning products and shampoo bottles. They couldn’t read without squinting and were struggling to help their kids with their homework. After realizing how, one by one, her friends began to struggle with their eyesight, she knew she had to step in and help.
When discussing her decision to help her friends and create eyewear, she states, “Suddenly we’re faced with something that happens so quickly that the tagline is that it happens overnight. And what I noticed in the marketplace was that the options were to either go to the drugstore and buy that under $30 pair that makes you feel worse and demoralized about yourself or get online and start surfing around and look like a bad infomercial. Or you find a site that you like, and you start getting into the price points, that could be a couple hundred dollars. And I knew it didn’t have to be that way.”
After realizing the potential of such an untapped market, Jennifer was on a mission to not only change the perception that people have about reading glasses, but to also create affordable options that appeal to everyone.
Figuring it Out on Her Own
Once she started Cheeterz Club, Jennifer realized that starting her own business would come with its own obstacles. As a team of one, she is currently employing the help of several advisors, none of which are actual employees. But this doesn’t mean that she hasn’t had to do a lot of this on her own.
Finding the right partners and advisors has not come with its own challenges. When asked about taking her business to the next level, Jennifer states, “I want to make sure that I choose the right partners for investment that have the right resources and have lived in the ecommerce world.”
One of the main things that Jennifer is currently working out is how to run her content. As she puts it, “You need to be moving 100 miles per hour. And that’s where I’m at today with trying to figure out how I can push my video and business content out so that people know how great it is and so they’re educated on it. Because otherwise, you’re just looking at a picture of a pair of glasses on your computer.” Elaborating further, Jennifer states, “We’ve nailed stylish, sexy cool on the website and product, but I have a very particular vision that I am sharing and I’m trying to get content back that nails that funniness that people want to laugh about and share with their friends.”
The Design Process
When coming up with Cheeterz Club’s stylish eyewear, Jennifer sought the help of a leading eyewear expert from Warby Parker, Lee Zaro. Zaro has over 25 years of experience and is hired on as a contractor. After learning about Jennifer’s mission, Zaro presented her with almost 100 frames to choose from. Regarding the selection process, Jennifer states, “We knew that we wanted a range of small, medium, and wide, with a little bit more on the medium side. We knew we wanted some fashion-forward ones, but also some safe bets. Not everyone is going to want to go for the big, chunky one, right? Some people are going to want to have something a little safer.”
After reviewing all the options, Jennifer settled on choosing fourteen different frames. The styles range from eccentric and bold to professional and modest. The 42 offered frame colors and customizable lens colors give each buyer the opportunity to jazz up or play down each pair to match one’s preferred taste.
The lenses that are included with each pair of glasses are of the best visual quality. All lenses are fitted with CR39 lenses with 100% UVA/UVB protection. The lenses are also oleophobic and hydrophobic, ensuring that each lens stays smudge-free.
Regarding the future of her eyewear designs, Jennifer states that she wants to keep a blend of both fashion-forward and safe designs. She believes that it’s important to have options for all her customers.
The quality of the glasses that Cheeterz Club offers far surpasses most of the reading glasses that you can purchase at your local pharmacy. Each frame is made from high-quality acetate and handmade. According to the website, acetate is a hypoallergenic, plant-based plastic that is lightweight and flexible. As Jennifer says, “The acetate is really high-end, and the colors are really great. Especially when you take them in the light, and you can see through them. I wanted to give everybody, no matter their style preferences, an opportunity to have fun with color.”
The Next Steps
When asked about what her future steps are as a solopreneur, Jennifer states, “Besides marketing and raising funds, the next line item is recruiting the appropriate talent and finding someone in operations.” According to Jennifer, finding someone to handle operations would allow her to be more on the creative side and follow her vision.
Jennifer has a very creative direction she wants to follow. As she states, “I envision us in maybe hotels or stops when people travel.” She also discussed her idea to have her glasses offered as a gift by employers to their employees for birthdays and anniversaries.
Jennifer’s eyewear is also coveted by eye doctors as a great solution for their patients. Since her eyeglasses are designed in a way that allows the lenses to be popped out, her eyewear offers an affordable solution for prescription glasses. This could broaden the selection available to patients that require prescription glasses from their doctor. Regarding this possible eyewear solution, she states, “A doctor that prescribes prescriptions could technically use our frames for reading or for their prescriptions. I’ve had some doctors reach out to me because they’re starting to get pushback from their clientele on costs and they don’t want to spend what they’re charging.” According to a 2019 survey, the average cost of frames alone was $231 U.S. dollars.
A subscription model may also be on the horizon. Cheeterz Club has already seen some repeat customers coming back to order multiple pairs. Jennifer has the idea to offer quarterly subscriptions centered around the different seasons. She recognizes a need that some customers have to own multiple pairs conveniently located throughout their home.
Jennifer has also considered bringing a humorous approach to her subscription and shipping models. When discussing different ways to market her glasses she stated, “other brands do a really good job about putting an insert or funny marketing inside the packaging so that people look forward to getting their glasses.”
So far, Jennifer’s glasses have been a hit. After reaching out to a few different social clubs in the Bay Area, some have agreed to feature her glasses as a part of their perks program. But Jennifer does not plan on stopping there. Since blue light glasses and reading glasses are technically a medical device, she sees the opportunity for b2b marketing. She has already started reaching out to different companies and states, “I’ve contacted some companies as an employee perk for going IPO or giving these out to your employees. Or your Employees can buy these. If you have a flexible spend account and they’re qualified, you can buy our glasses and expense them through your insurance.”
There’s no doubt that Jennifer has been thinking outside of the box when it comes to marketing and outreach.
When asked about where she sees her company in the next three to five years, Jennifer says, “I want to understand my ambassadors in my community and kick-off growth. Growth is really important.” She knows that eventually, most of us will need reading glasses and she wants to build a community based around that understanding.
Changing Our Perception
It’s clear that Cheeterz Club not only wants to change how we purchase glasses, but also change the way that we view ourselves as we age. For years, we have faced limited options that can leave us feeling embarrassed and old. While discussing the state of the current eyewear market, Jennifer states, “Now, I always tell people, I don’t feel any older than I did ten years ago. It’s a shame when a product is forcing you to feel that way, right? I want to change that perception. Once you turn forty, you’re not old.”
She further states, “I think so many brands can do a really great job of making people feel good about themselves. Let’s see better. If you can get people on the brand bandwagon together, feeling good about it, then you can change the perception.”
In Jennifer’s response lies the difference between her and other eyewear companies. She wants to make people feel good about themselves. She wants you to be able to wear your reading glasses as an accessory, something that you’re proud to wear.
It’s clear that Cheeterz Club is here to shatter the negative associations that come with aging. Jennifer Farrelly’s company breaks through the norm and declares that you can be sexy, fresh, AND farsighted.
Jennifer’s ideas about changing the eyewear industry are relatable and refreshing. During our interview, we asked her which celebrity she would choose to endorse Cheeterz Club. To our surprise, she named Mindy Kaling. Jennifer says, “Mindy is just super funny, witty, quick, and likable.” She also named a Peloton instructor, Cody, that makes her laugh. Her offbeat response to this question shows that she has a different and unique vision. One that relates to each one of us allows us to have a place within her business.