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Hubble Contacts Founders Ben Cogan and Jesse Horwitz Disrupting The Contact Lens Industry

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There is a trend going around where businesses are completely eliminating the middleman and passing the savings along to consumers. Hubble Contacts is disrupting the contact lens industry by doing just that. Founded by Ben Cogan and Jesse Horwitz, Hubble Contacts delivers fresh daily contacts for only $30 per month, which was unheard of. The contacts are produced by St. Shine and FDA approved, so you know your precious eyeballs are safe. If you are unsure of your prescription, Hubble Contacts also helps you book an appointment with an optometrist in your area. The contacts range from -0.50 through -12.00 and later this year, Hubble Contacts will be offering toric lenses to cover patients with astigmatism. Ben and Jesse raise $7.2 million in funding and officially launched their contact lens business November 2016. We took a deeper look into this subscription-only e-commerce startup.

What are your backgrounds?

Ben: I grew up in New York City and graduated Phi Beta Kappa/Magna Cum Laude from Princeton. Prior to Hubble, I worked as a Senior Customer Insights Associate at Harry’s (the direct-to-consumer, subscription-based razor brand). I helped to build the Customer Insights Team where I surveyed and interviewed customers, modeled new business opportunities, and generally came to learn all things shaving.

Jesse: I also grew up in New York. I studied economics and finance and graduated from Columbia University, where I graduated Phi Beta Kappa/Magna Cum Laude. I later joined the investment team for Columbia University’s endowment in 2013, where I spent the last few years investing across the alternatives landscape – private equity, venture capital, hedge funds, and real estate. During my time at Columbia, I built a strong network across the investor community, including Two River, a life sciences merchant bank that invested in and brought together the Seed round for Hubble.

What makes Hubble Contacts different from competitors?

Ben: Hubble is America’s first direct-to-consumer contact lens brand that is dedicated to making it affordable and convenient to purchase high-quality daily contact lenses for about half the price of other brands. Because of Hubble’s subscription service, wearers will never run out of contacts again―a more convenient, healthier approach to avoid over-wearing.

How would you describe your team?

Jesse: Hubble’s earliest team members were our friends and family. The CTO, Paul, is one of my best friends from college and the Creative Director, Dan, is one of Ben’s best friends from middle and high school. Paul, Dan, and everyone else on the team are highly self-sufficient and are given a lot of responsibility in their respective areas.

How did you guys meet and decide to be cofounders for Hubble Contacts?

Ben: I met Jesse at Bridgewater in summer 2011. I began to recognize a void in the marketplace for affordable, high-quality contact lenses and started to develop the concept for Hubble. Through exhaustive research and strategic planning, I realized that my business model had legs and with the advice and guidance of the Harry’s team, I began to put my plans in motion. Shortly thereafter I realized I couldn’t do it on my own and contacted Jesse. Jesse loved the idea and we continued to build the Hubble brand together.

How are you able to keep costs so low?

Jesse: We accomplish this by cutting out markups from intermediaries to sell our own brand of lenses directly to consumers. This means that lenses generally cost less than half the price of competitors.

Ben: Secondly, Hubble is willing to accept lower profit margins than the 80%+ that are common in the industry.

Did you come across any obstacles?

Ben: Contact lenses are not only a consumer packaged good, but a regulated medical device. This means Hubble is both subject to FDA regulations as an importer of contact lenses manufactured elsewhere, as well as regulations that govern the sale of contact lenses online. Navigating this thicket of rules was challenging, but ultimately necessary to be able to start the business.

Who are some influencers that you are inspired by?

Ben: I am inspired by Jeff Raider, who is the co-founder of both Warby Parker and Harry’s, businesses that directly paved the way for what Hubble is doing now in the contact lens space. Jeff has remained a mentor to me since I left Harry’s.

Jesse: I am is inspired by Mike Bloomberg, an entrepreneur that has had tremendous success across many walks of life (business, politics, etc.).

What is happening in 2017 for Hubble Contacts?

Ben: 2017 is going to be a really important year for Hubble. Most important priority is growth. We’ve acquired more than 20K customers so far, but keeping up the momentum is our highest priority goal, and we’ll do this by expanding our marketing channels and refining our message. In Q3 of this year, we’ll be launching toric lenses to cover patients with astigmatism.

What is some advice you can give to young entrepreneurs that want to start their own business?

Jesse: It’s almost cliché now to say that it’s not your idea that matters as much as your execution. And while to some extent that is true – we spent hours and hours in the FDA databases to find a contact lens manufacturer back in 2015 – your idea matters a lot too. Contact lenses is a broken category today (high costs, inconvenient access, poorly designed packaging) and Hubble was founded to fix that. We think a new business really must fix a problem in the world to succeed.

Jie writes about influencers and startups in various industries. She is a designer turned techie, and when she is not writing, you can find her in her workshop working on her next big project.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Bob Day

    October 22, 2017 at 6:45 pm

    You should start a quality afordable hearing aide business. The industry is controlled by a few companies who price gouge the people who need them. Another industry thats ripping consumers off is the prescription eye glass industry. The mark ups on both these industries is criminal.
    Thanks for your time.

  2. Kathleen Awai

    May 10, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    I believe you are not true to what you agree on. The easy to DISCONTINUE POLICY is so FAKE. I have SENT several emails to discontinue my subscription…IT HAS NOT HAPPENED!…DON’T SEND ANY FUTURE SHIPMENTS, THE TELEPHONE NUMBER TO AUTO DRAFT FROM YOU ACCOUNT IS NOT IN SERVICE.BUT THE PRODUCTS KEEP COMING, MY BANK ACCOUNT HAS CHARGED ME OVERDRAFT FEES, BECAUSE I LIVE FROM PAYDAY TO PAYDAY.

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Business

Tips On How To Manage An Online Business

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Having the right e-commerce site can make shipping and tracking your inventory easier. IT is constantly changing and it is important to have a secured site to make sure your customer’s data is safe. Following these steps will seem daunting at first, but remember that success will come if you keep pushing towards your goals. America was built by small business owners and with faith, you can have a profitable online business.

Determining your target audience.

The first step in opening an online business is determining who will be your target audience.  It is important to research your competition online and find out who will be buying your products. There is a lot of competition online, so you have to find a way to stand out. I suggest coming up with a unique business name or signature product. Separating yourself from the rest of other online businesses is important to succeed long term.

You also have to decide if you want to sell a product or provide a service. Once you have identified your business model, you will need to come up with the terms of your business. I suggest seeking legal advice, so you can protect your company. It will need to be clear to your customers who you are as a business and what service you provide. It is also important to outline how you will provide customer service and solve any problems that arise.

Selecting the products you want to sell or determining which services you want to offer.

Before you start selling products or offering services, it is important to get registered with the state you are in. There are many advantages of becoming an LLC or incorporating your company. I recommend researching the options that are available in your state. It is important to protect your brand and make your customers trust you as a business owner.

In order to succeed as an online business, you need to have a strong vendor list. Being a licensed company makes more vendors’ want to work with you. Once you have added companies to your vendor list, you need to decide how you want to market your business. You can either hire a SEO company, marketing firm, or you can learn how to do it yourself. There are hundreds of free online tutorials on how to market your company for free on social media sites and YouTube. You can also use Google AdWords and Adsense to help promote your business. There are also several apps that can help you manage your social media sites as well.

Making sure your e-commerce site is effective.

I suggest hiring a website developer or technology company to build your site. There are several user friendly e-commerce sites that are very easy to set-up yourself. Having the right IT support to very important, because they can quickly resolve any issues that may arise.

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15 Ugly Truths About Entrepreneurship Everyone Should Know Before Starting a Business

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Becoming an entrepreneur isn’t everything you see on Instagram or what you see in most interviews. There’s no map and what has worked for another company may not work for you. You’ll constantly find yourself in a state of despair and hopelessness but still have to keep your head above water in order to not look like a failure to everyone who has believed in you. 

1. Most things don’t work the first try

Just about everything you do seems to somehow “not work”. If you’re developing an App or software, expect it to turn out completely different than how you explained it to your developers. If you’re running an online store or business, expect emails to your customers to go straight to spam for some reason. Things never seem to work the first, second, or sometime the 50th times. But you keep going and keep fixing until it works!

2. The REAL stressor that breaks you

You obviously expected a certain level of stress. But we bet you never expected WHERE it will come from. Your startup will without a doubt give you plenty of stress to deal with, however most of that is eustress and good for you. Solving business related stress makes you feel good. The stress of dealing with everything else around you is what will ultimately wear you out. Your business is starting to grow and now moving higher up your ladder of priorities. Other things are starting to become less important but you still need to take care of them. And taking care of them starts to become more stressful and mundane without yielding much reward. 

3. Losing friends

Expect to lose the majority of your friends. Being an entrepreneur is hard and making time for your friends will gradually become harder. You can only bail on your friends and families so often before they stop inviting you out. 

4. It’s a REALLY long journey

Don’t expect your business to take off overnight. Most entrepreneurs expect their idea to take off and exit within a year or two. Having that kind of expectation will often lead to feeling like a failure and losing faith in your business. Tony Robin says, “Most people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in a decade.” 

5. Regrets

Oh yea…expect this to happen real soon. And expect it to happen often. You will regret all the sacrifices you’ve ever made for this business when you start considering choosing tofu over chicken just to save a few bucks at Shoprite. 

6. Anxiety Competition

It’s normal to worry that somebody out there is executing the same idea. Having anxiety over potential competition is natural. Don’t let this drag you down. Let it inspire you to work harder and become better than your imaginary competitors.

7. Other People Depend On You

It’s not just about you anymore. It’s not just your life and your future that’s at risk. Once your business starts taking off and you become an employer, you’re responsible for everyone you employ. 

8. You’ll see people’s true colors

Will Smith once said, “If you’re absent during my struggle, don’t expect to be present during my success.” Unfortunately those closest to you may act differently depending on where you are in life. Those who are true to themselves are worth their weight in gold. 

9. It never gets better for those closest to you

This is a strange one because it’s both a good and a bad thing. You’ll eventually make promises to either yourself or a significant other that things will get better and you’ll take them on some exotic vacation etc. Unfortunately it never truly gets better. At first you’ll struggle to get your FIRST client. After that, you’ll stress out on getting your 10th client. And before you know it, you’re constantly chasing bigger and bigger things. That’s your nature as an entrepreneur, you’ll always want more. 

10. Leadership is hard

Once you start having people work for you, you’ll quickly realize how difficult it is to get a group of people to work productively together to achieve a common goal. Leadership is a lot harder than you think because it’s not just doing a few things. True leadership require years of commitment, hard work, and self discipline to prove yourself a competent leader to your team. 

11. No Appreciation

If you’re a good leader, then you’ll know that appreciation is what YOU give to others, not what you expect to receive in return for your hard work. No matter what you’ve done and what you’ve sacrificed, you won’t be appreciated for it. But it will be demanded of you. 

12. Meditation becomes your best friend

As silly as it was in your teens, meditation now becomes a ritual you can’t live without. It becomes the only few minutes in your day where you can think clearly and not be bombarded at every angle. 

13. Dealing with being sick

At first you’ll be invincible and can do just about anything to your body and deprive it of sleep for days on end. After a while…you’ll actually get sick. It’s a weird feeling being sick and not having insurance because your company isn’t quite there yet. But this will be one of the many challenges you’ll have to overcome as an early stage founder. 

14. Realizing that you’re actually “stupid”

This may or may not come as a shock to you but you’ll eventually realize how stupid you are or have been with your business. There will be plenty of “Aha!” moments where you asked yourself “how could I have been so stupid?!” These are character defining moments that you need to cherish and take notes of for your future self. After all…if you know everything, why aren’t you rich yet? 

15. You’re going to look back and cringe

These are the best moments. At some point in your business you will look back at posts, photos, tweets, text messages, and notes and just…cringe. Similar to feeling stupid, these are also character defining moments that you should cherish. What’s the difference between this and #14?  This is absolutely hilarious and your fellow team mates will die of laughter while you die on the inside. 

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5 Ways To Create An Amazing Employee Experience

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There is no perfect formula when it comes to running a business and managing employees. Every environment is different from the next and each employee should be treated in a unique way. If you survey 100 employees about the things that would motivate them to quit a job the majority would point to management in some aspect. In order to avoid some of the missteps that come with maintaining an employer to employee relationship, you must know what your employees need. These 5 tips are going to provide valuable information into creating an amazing employee experience:

Communication/Employees Being Heard

The most important aspect of any relationship is to communicate effectively. Communication helps to avoid small issues that can snowball into bigger issues. It is imperative that employees are not only kept in the loop, but are provided clarity when miscommunication issues arise. Miscommunication at work can turn into a game of telephone and spawn untrue rumors that can spiral. In addition to keeping an open line of communication with management, employees must feel that they are being heard. It can be very frustrating when you have ideas that you want to be heard but feel dismissed by management. This calls for a bad employee experience. Dialogue is healthy, so keep talking.

Utilize skills correctly

Any successful business person will tell you that many times resources are not as important as how you utilize them. The same goes with the people that are helping to grow and operate your brand. You can have as many good people on your team as possible, it is pointless if they are not being utilized based on their strengths. Some people may fear being outshined or having their employees outgrow the company, but it will do the opposite. If everyone is allowed to flourish by doing what they are best at, you may unlock growth in the company and the employees that you didn’t know was possible. Pushing people to discover their full potential will benefit you because everyone will be putting their best foot forward.

Flexibility

Many people have demanding schedules outside of work that don’t necessarily allow them to adopt conventional schedules at work. When employees are not allowed the flexibility to attend to things outside of work it can affect them negatively at work. Of course, people are responsible for managing their time effectively as adults, but every occurrence cannot be planned for. Allowing remote work, or even telecommuting which is becoming a growing trend, employees can better manage their schedule around work. This eliminates certain stressors that can affect time at work, morale, or even home life. Everyone has to sacrifice certain things when taking on a full-time commitment, however employers have the ability to make things a bit easier.

Positive Culture

A fun, positive culture is necessary to keep up morale at work. Team building exercises, keeping everyone in the loop, even respectful disagreements are all healthy in workplace culture and creates a positive employee experience. Some people spend more time in their office or workspace, then they do at home, meaning your employees should enjoy their time at work. Spending the majority of the day with people that you barely know or don’t get along with affects work performance as well. Employers must realize that you can have the most beautiful office space, the largest salaries, etc but if your team is not clicking you’re going backwards. Sometimes stepping back from work in an outside environment can help people to get to know each other in a different, more relaxed way.

Challenging Work

Nobody wants to be bored at work or feel as though their job is meaningless. It is important to make sure that employees feel challenged and look forward to coming to work. Not feeling challenged can cause employees to lose motivation, which can directly result in declining performance due to the negative employee experience. A domino effect, which can be avoided by communicating with employees about what can make them better. Growth is a critical component to forward movement in life. If employees feel that the work is complacent they will start to become complacent. Implement incentives, have friendly competitions, make things interesting so that boredom is not an option!

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