4 Lessons on Entrepreneurship from Jeff Raider of Warby Parker, Harry’s

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Jeff Raider, a co-founder of Warby Parker, which started as a trendy online eyeglass retailer a few years ago and has grown to a company with more than 300 employees. I have to admit, when I was directly managing a vision plan, I had a crush on the entire Warby Parker concept. Warby Parker sells smart-looking, single vision eyeglasses for $95.00.

As if the style and price alone aren’t enough to make your heart sing, the company contributes to helping people in need throughout the world get eyeglasses.  The company started with Jeff and his friends while at Wharton, who decided to help consumers find affordable eyeglasses.

Jeff has been bitten once again by the entrepreneurial bug and with another friend has created Harry’s which provides a handsome looking shaving kit including a beautifully crafted razor and blades along with shaving cream.

A colleague of mine knows I am a big fan of Warby Parker and graciously arranged for me to spend some time with Jeff.

We met at Harry’s cramped offices (the same place Warby Parker began) and Jeff was gracious with his time. I could gush on for hours about what Jeff and the team are doing, but I will control myself. Okay. I won’t control myself, but I’ll keep it short. Here are just a few takeaways from our chat.

1.) Regardless of your role or industry, make sure you are solving a real problem for your audience, even if they don’t yet perceive the issue to be a problem.  In the case of Warby Parker, it was buying good-looking, affordable eyeglasses.  In the case of Harry’s, it’s having a great shaving experience, including purchase of the materials.

2.) Don’t take short cuts. To truly differentiate your product or service, it has to have a great design. My knowledge of men’s razors is limited and I can barely picture my husband’s razor.  It might be made of metal, I’m not sure.  I’ve never noticed and have never cared to notice.  But when I saw the razor made by Harry’s I was stunned at how elegant it looked.  I blurted out that it was beautiful and then was embarrassed thinking that men’s personal accessories shouldn’t be beautiful.  Or should they?

3.) Meaningfully engage with your audience. Loyal individuals want to feel as if they are part of and shaping the brand. Jeff believes in his customers having a great, engaging experience. Once again, I wasn’t sold on how you engage customers with a razor after they have purchased the product. Harry’s posts fun pictures of its razors in a variety of settings and its customers provide comments and share photos as well. Each week, followers come to the website to see the latest picture. That’s loyalty.

4.) Stick to your values. Do the right thing, the first time, every time.  If you are living your company’s values, that will shine through to your customers. We discussed values and whether Harry’s made these values transparent to its customers. Even though Harry’s does not post its values on its site, you can see the values at work in the tiny headquarters and you can feel it in the product design.  My favorite value was to do the right thing for the long term.  It’s a little vague, yet so very clear at the same time.

Thanks to Jeff and the team at Harry’s. They truly are a class act. (And yes, I’ll be replacing my husband’s unmemorable metal razor for a beautifully crafted one, but no promises that I won’t use it here and there.)

Speak loudly, step boldly!September 26th, 2013 9:02am Beth Bierbower warby parker Jeff Raider Harry’s