What’s your name, your background and what business do you run?
My name is Ronan Kelly. I run Toyshades British sunglasses.
Toyshades is run by an Englishman, an Irishman and a Nigerian. That might sound like the start of a bad joke but we work brilliantly together. Each bringing different skills and energies. Between us we have experience in Engineering, Fashion and Capital Markets.
It’s a British brand. The fact that two of us are bloody foreigners makes it all the more British!
Now British sunglasses might sound like the dumbest idea you have ever heard given our famous British climate, but we are doing ok so far. We sell to a range of diverse customers. The one thing that they all have in common is that they understand great value and great quality can coexist.
“Toyshades is run by an Englishman, an Irishman and a Nigerian. That might sounds like the start of a bad joke but we work brilliantly together.”
Is there anything in your past that led to opening the business?
Unsurprisingly, given my name, I’m actually Irish, and we Irish love a bargain. I noticed how much people are expected to pay for high quality sunglasses and thought we could shake the whole thing up. We now offer sunglasses of the highest possible quality – at a price point that’s far more affordable than any of our competitors.
What was the process of designing, manufacturing and bringing your first product or service to market?
We manage the entire supply chain, point -of-sale and our disruption ‘in house’. That’s how we keep the price point so affordable.
All Toyshades products use our own, trademarked, Pentoptic® lenses. We were granted trademark protection by the UK government before we started production. These lenses are made from 5 layers of polycarbonate and beat all of the world’s toughest safety standards.
I won’t go into all the details of how we run our supply chain, let’s just say that it’s complicated. We could simplify the chain by outsourcing to another supplier. However, we wouldn’t be able to sit as such an affordable price point. By managing our production ourselves we maintain control of both quality and costs.
“We could simplify the (supply) chain by outsourcing to another supplier…By managing our production ourselves me maintain control of both quality and costs”
Describe the process of launching the business and any issues you had at the beginning
The process of launching a business is an unpredictable one. You just have to take a step into the unknown and be prepared to adapt quickly and efficiently as you move forward.
The hardest part was setting up a bank account. Try telling your bank manager than you’re setting up a brand of British Sunglasses while its 6 degrees outside and pouring with rain and hail! She thought we were mad…and perhaps we are.
We learned everything else about a new business as we went along. Gaining advice from professional accountants and web designers like INNERVATERS in Brighton.
What strategies or marketing channels do you most rely on?
This is the 21st century. Therefore, we rely on social media. We use Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest the most. Our expansion has mostly been organic and through cross-pollination.
Combined with that, we have been fortunate enough to partner with some amazing people. Maddy Smith is a world class winter athlete. Representing Britain at the sport of Skeleton. Not only does she wear Toyshades British Sunglasses as she travels around the world – she also gives us invaluable advice as we research new technology and styles. Its important to show that Toyshades are not toys. They perform. Partnering with Maddy Smith has allowed us to show Toyshades in action – in some of the world’s harshest winter environments.
Likewise our partnership with Katalina Kicks has been very important. British punk rock is back. Katalina Kicks are at the forefront of that revival. The fact that they’re placing our products at the centre of the UK music scene is a huge honour. Katalina Kicks are new, exciting and in the ascendancy, but, their sound takes us back to the glory days of British Punk. Its wonderful to have our brand in that mix. Katalina Kicks – remember where you heard that name first!
What platform, tools or software do you use for your business?
We sell direct to the customer. It’s the only way we can sit at such an affordable price point. We use a Shopify template and several encrypted payment methods – including PayPal , Apple Pay and Stripe.
(Editor – if you’re looking for more great Ecommerce resources, then check this out)
What does the next 12 months look like for your business, and for yourself, professionally?
Toyshades are still relatively unknown outside of Britain. We would like to rectify that in the next 12 months as there really are no barriers to great value. Toyshades have been exported to some very exotic places. 31 countries so far – including Iran, Israel and Indonesia. In the next 12 months we would like to concentrate on markets closer to home, France DACH (Germany/Austria/Switzerland) and the CE4 (Poland/Hungary/Czech/Slovakia) .
We would also love to start some more British partnerships. Maybe we’ll contact Billy Idol or Sadiq Khan to see if they’ll model for us!
What have you learned through this process that you didn’t know or think was important beforehand?
As an Irishman, I hate to say it. But, “Britain” is a really strong brand. The fact that Toyshades is a British brand makes them all the more attractive. I wish I’d know at the start what a strong brand Britain was.
What resources would you recommend for others looking to start a business?
There really is nothing to prepare you for the ride you’re about to start. Just get on, and learn as you go. Stop thinking about it and do it!
Where can we go to learn more about you and your business?
If you’d like to learn more about Toyshades then please visit:
- Instagram – @thetoyshades
- Twitter – @toyshades