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A Saskatchewan glasses company sees the impact of social media and more on their brand.

Meet Ryan

Ryan Horne is the owner of Spex by Ryan, an eyewear store located on the edge of Regina's hip Cathedral Village neighbourhood. After working in the eyewear industry as a Licensed Optician and Contact Lens Practitioner for over 20 years, Ryan decided in 2015 to start his own retail business. His store, which offers high-end and trendy eyewear that Regina customers wouldn't otherwise be able to buy locally, has thrived in recent years as glasses have become popular fashion accessories.

Now, he's celebrating five years in business, getting ready to expand and contemplating why he's been so successful.

“I wanted to sell brands that nobody else had in Regina," he said. “I thought there was an opportunity to sell a unique product range rather than compete in a price war with everyone else in town who was carrying the same thing."

Ryan credits making this choice with his business’s success, with return customers coming back for more pairs. To encourage this, he began offering discounts to those buying multiple pairs.

“Customers have a month to take advantage of the multiple pair pricing," he said. “They pick a pair and go home and might rethink that and come back in and I honour that pricing."

Another thing that Ryan credits for his success is his social media presence. A budding photographer, Ryan enjoys creating original content to help develop his brand.

“Money's always tight, but social media is free," says Ryan.

His Instagram and Facebook presence are so good that an industry insider once told him that he has the best social media in the whole eyewear industry. So, what's the secret to success on those platforms?

“Don't use canned images," he said. “Make your own images and include real people wearing your gear. Have them make testimonials. Having real people advertise for you is the absolute best word of mouth."

And word of mouth is crucial in retail. One of his biggest struggles is getting people through the door and traffic can be fickle.

“You can have the high of having a monster day of sales, and then not one person will walk through the door the next day and you worry that you're going to go bankrupt," he said.

His advice to other business owners who have similar worries is to just keep working. “Keep plugging away," he said. “Nothing is going to happen if you just sit and wait for it. I would just go online and start posting on social media. People who see it might not need glasses today, but in three months or two years – you want to be top of mind when they are ready."

One thing Ryan wishes he would have known before going into business was how capital intensive it is.

“Don't be undercapitalized," he advises, explaining that he had to cut down on his offerings when he first went into business. “Have a strong plan and know what you want to do and resist the fluff. Customers don't care about granite counters. They care about the product. They care about good people helping them."

Finding good people has been one of Ryan's biggest challenges as a business owner. It's taken him five years to build a team that he trusts. He's so confident in his employees that he's opening a second store in Saskatoon this year – which will be run by trusted staff. Building a good team wasn't easy, said Ryan. It required trial and error of finding the right incentives to help train staff and keep them around.

While more people are buying things online, Ryan isn't worried about having a business that's based on retail. His advice for other retail businesses is to differentiate their offerings and to focus on quality and service in order to keep people coming back.

“Our store isn't pretentious. It's creative. It's light. It's fun," he said.

It's that spirit of fun that's fueled his success – which he believes is also about having the right personality.

“You can't be an introvert in retail," he said. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to really connect with people."

Ryan loves doing just that and is excited about what the next year will bring for Spex by Ryan.

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