Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey there! We’re Drs. Jenna and Travis Zigler, and we’re the founders of Eye Love and Heyedrate. We have big goals to help heal 1,000,000 dry eye sufferers naturally, and we’re well on our way to doing this through our line of eye health products.
Five years ago, we started Eye Love with a simple goal of giving us a little extra cash to go on eye care mission trips every year. Within two years, our company was thriving and we sold our two optometry practices to work from home and focus all of our attention on this company. Our flagship product is Heyedrate Lid and Lash Cleanser, a hypochlorous acid cleanser that helps keep the eyelids clean.
You may be wondering what the eyelids have to do with dry eyes, but they really have everything to do with it! Without clean, functioning eyelids, you wouldn’t have clear, comfortable eyes and vision. Through this product and other products in our lines, such as our tea tree foaming face wash and our eye cream, we’re giving people freedom from dry eye disease.
Eye Love has grown from something we hoped would make $1000 per month into a business doing at least $300,000 per month. With every product sold, we give a portion of the products back to our foundation, the Eye Love Cares Foundation, which provides eye care, education, and medical supplies to those who need it most. We’re still able to fulfill our mission, but now we get to do it on a larger scale than we ever thought possible.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
We’re both optometrists, so eyes are our life. They’re what we know best and what we love. Five years ago, we had started two optometry practices and ran into boredom while in between patients. We started looking at the products we sold in our practices and wondering, “Why can’t we make these into our own brand?”
Around the same time, we were selling a prescription hypochlorous acid product that suddenly jumped in price from $30 per month to $300. Our patients were frustrated, and so were we.
That’s how the company was born. By looking at all of those products - sunglasses, eye masks, omega-3 supplements, and eyelid cleansers - we quickly realized that there wasn’t a reason why we couldn’t come out with our own. So we did, and we made them better and more affordable than anything we sold at the time.
Validation of whether our products worked or not was easy. We simply started selling them to our patients in the office, while also selling them online. Patients were incredibly happy that they were getting affordable, effective products, and they were delighted to support our company.
While we were doing well as optometrists, and only wanted to make a little extra to afford our mission trips, we soon realized we were in for a much bigger mission. As reviews started to roll in, and the prevalence of dry eye disease began to expand, there became more and more demand for what we were offering.
We sold our first 100 units in 5 days using Amazon advertising. This was enough proof of concept for us to go all in and invest $20,000.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Eye Love actually started out as a polarized sunglasses company, and we still sell some of those products today. We chose sunglasses because we sold them to 50 percent of patients, and we knew the product well. We found a supplier for this product through a mutual friend in eCommerce, and it was quite a ride choosing the right style, having them all shipped to our home, and having to assemble everything. We didn’t realize we could ask the manufacturer to help! Overall, this was a learning experience, but we only spent $400 to get Eye Love off the ground, and we’ve learned a ton since then.
About a year later, our Heyedrate brand was born as we realized so many patients were in need of effective yet affordable dry eye products. Our main product, Heyedrate Lid, and Lash Cleanser came about because of a patient suggestion. She was tired of paying $300 per month for her eyelid cleanser, and she asked if we could manufacture one.
Not knowing whether or not we could, but intrigued to find out, Travis told her we’d do our best. We found a manufacturer that day by placing only a few phone calls, and we found out that we could manufacture the product for pennies compared to what patients were having to pay.
Around the same time, we started the Dry Eye Syndrome Support Community on Facebook. It sounds sexy, we know! Yet this group has been our largest source of inspiration for future products than we could have ever dreamed. Now with over 10,000 members, and over 100,000 who follow us across all social media channels, we’ve got a constant stream of ideas for new products.
Describe the process of launching the business.
This all has to do with one thing… Travis’s boredom and desire to create. When you are first starting out in practice, you only see about one patient per hour as you build your patient base. This led him to click on an email about a program called Amazing Selling Machine.
Amazing Selling Machine costs around $5,000 and teaches you how to sell and build a business on Amazon. We took the course in May and June of 2015. Every day we would wake up an hour earlier than normal to work on this business, go see patients for eight to ten hours, then go back home and work on this business for two to three more hours before going to bed.
Stop chasing the money and focus on people. The minute we began to focus on how we could serve others was the moment our business took off. If you’re constantly thinking about money, you’ll never make it.
We ordered our first 100 units of inventory, which cost about $400 and listed them on Amazon. Amazon was the only platform we sold on and we made our first sale on July 5, 2015 (it was to a family member, of course!) Then something magical happened. We sold all 100 units in 5 days using Amazon advertising.
This was enough proof of concept for us to go all in. We invested $20,000 from our practices to order 1,000 more units of the sunglasses we sold and to order 1,000 units of a second product to launch as well. We then had some money in reserve, ready to reorder the next inventory once these started selling again.
If we were to do it all again, we would always start out with a minimum order of 1,000 to get started. With that being said, we now usually order around 3,000 to 5,000 units for launch, so we don’t lose that momentum.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Amazon has been our main point of purchase since we started this business. Amazon does 75% of our sales with Shopify doing the other 25%. The biggest way we attract clients is through Amazon advertising, which is Travis’s superpower. If your brand is NOT on Amazon, we believe that to be a huge mistake. There is just too much traffic to ignore and we are incredibly profitable on Amazon.
Another way that we attract customers is through driving cold Google search traffic through ads to a blog post about a problem that our product solves. This blog post then refers them over to Amazon to purchase. Amazon’s conversion rate and ease of checkout make this process much more seamless to the customer and increase purchases of our product. While they are on our website, we then try to get them to opt-in so we get their email address.
If they do opt-in, we ask them to join our Facebook group, the Dry Eye Syndrome Support Community, and to follow our YouTube channel, The Dry Eye Show. Once someone sees you in three different areas (blog, YouTube, Facebook, email, Amazon, etc…) they will begin to trust you even more as a brand.
We drive close to 4,000 visitors per day from Google ads, which then converts to about half of our sales per day, around 300 new email addresses per day, and an amazing Facebook pixel that does really well.
We go live two to three times weekly on Facebook and on YouTube so they constantly see us and learn from us. We also send out an email about every other day, which may seem like a lot, but every email leads to sales, so we will continue this until it doesn’t work.
We only use Facebook ads for simple retargeting purposes, and it is mostly retargeting those who have purchased from us before and those who have read our blog. This leads to an amazing 52.55% repeat customer rate as shown below.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Each year, Eye Love and Heyedrate have continued to grow and we’re more profitable this year than we’ve ever been. We just acquired another brand, MediViz, which has similar products to ours and compliments our brand well.
About 75 percent of our sales are on Amazon, while the other 25 percent is from our website sales, and this has changed significantly in the past two years. We were once 100 percent on Amazon, and we knew we wanted a presence outside of that. The Heyedrate brand is also present in many eye doctors’ offices in the US and Canada, and this is a growing source of revenue for us.
After paying both of us and our team, we run at about a 13% profit margin. But we choose to run our business with Profit First, which means the first 10% of any dollar that comes in the door is allocated to a separate bank account as profit. We do the same for other categories too, like paying ourselves (5%), taxes (10%), Inventory (33%), charity (1%), and finally operating expenses (41%). If something is off and we don’t have enough money to allocate, then we know something is wrong and needs to be fixed ASAP. This is from the book Profit First by Michael Michalowicz.
Our customer acquisition costs vary depending on the channel of advertising, but here is a snapshot of what it looks like from quarter 1 of 2020:
- Facebook is $18.91
- Google Ads is $7.24 (and this is where a lot more effort is going)
- Amazon Sponsored Products is around $10
- Amazon Marketing Services is around $10
- StoreYa is around $18
Total is close to $9 cost per acquisition
Operations for Eye Love are very simple and we are trying to simplify it even more. We follow a system for everything we do. What we have realized is the fewer shiny objects we chase and the simpler we make the business, the MORE it grows. This goes for everything from product launches (about six per year), to blog posts, to Amazon PPC, to Facebook ads, and more. The simpler the better.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The biggest lesson we’ve learned through running our business is that when we focus on giving, everything falls into place. Last year, we fell away from that a bit and began to push our website growth without focusing on the customer. We lost a ton of money on our website, were barely profitable, and found that we weren’t loving what we were doing.
We have since brought everything back in-house, run our website on autopilot, and focus on Amazon and the community of dry eye sufferers we’ve built. We’ve also made a few strategic partnerships with other brands and influencers to help us grow. Bringing on MediViz is an example of this, and we know this acquisition will grow our brand and greatly increase our customer base.
By focusing on Amazon, we’ve also become experts in this area of the business. We began to have colleagues seek us out for advice on running their Amazon Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising, and this has been a source of growth personally as well. Travis now enjoys not only dreaming big for Eye Love but also helping other Amazon sellers succeed through effective advertising. Click here to get his free Amazon PPC Course or learn more about how he can help your Amazon business thrive.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
The most important tool we use and love is Helium 10. This tool gives us all of the information we need to run a successful business on Amazon. Not only can you find keywords you may not have thought of, but they have tools to track your business growth as well.
Finally, for Shopify we love Zipify pages. We highly recommend using Zipify pages and blogs to create beautiful articles and landing pages. OneClickUpsell for Shopify is also an app we wouldn’t run our business without. This one has been great at increasing our average order value on Shopify.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
We’re big readers in our household, but we also have a toddler so podcasts are our lifeblood. We got our start learning from Amazing Selling Machine and Amazing.com, and we’re constantly inspired by Ryan Daniel Moran. His Capitalism.com podcast is an amazing wealth of knowledge that’s allowed us to scale our business into the mid-seven figures. He recently came out with a new book, 12 Months to $1 Million, which details exactly what we did to grow our business from zero to what it is today.
We also read Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson every single January. We do this because every time we read it, we find a new nugget of info to grow our business further.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Our biggest piece of advice is to stop chasing the money and focus on people. The minute we began to focus on how we could serve others was the moment our business took off. If you’re constantly thinking about money, you’ll never make it.
We also see a ton of people who just can’t make a decision. Entrepreneurship is one decision after another and, oftentimes, the decisions aren’t easy. However, by making a decision - such as what product to sell and to whom - you’ll be on the right track to growth. Know that not every decision you make will be the right one, but it will teach you something regardless.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
At this time, we believe we have the team we need to grow to $10 million per year. However, we’re always looking for talented writers who can help us keep our community up to date with the most relevant information on dry eye disease.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Eye Love
- Eye Love Cares Foundation
- Facebook Group, Dry Eye Syndrome Support Community
- YouTube Channel, The Dry Eye Show
- The Dry Eye Show Blog
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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