Kids Bright Eyes provides fun, colorful, and quality frames and eye patches for kids at affordable prices. Brad Sultan was inspired to create Kids Bright Eyes when his daughter was born with the eye condition called PHPV. He knew that she was going to need protective eyewear even though she wasn’t going to be able to see out of that eye, but the surgeries had been very costly and the last thing he wanted was to see the fortune that the glasses were going to cost. Being in the field, he realized he had to do something and make a difference and came up with a line that was not only appealing and quality product at affordable price but fun, fashionable, and exciting that kids would want to wear, that parents would want to put on their child.
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Sharkpreneur with Brad Sultan, CEO of Kids Bright Eyes
Our very special guest is Brad Sultan of Kids Bright Eyes, which is founded on quality eyewear at affordable prices. They have grown a very special business to help families around the world. Brad, thanks so much for joining us.
Thank you so much for having me. On behalf of myself, this business wouldn’t be here without my little girl, Ella. I appreciate you guys having me on.
Tell us about that. Tell us how Ella inspired it and how it got started.
I’ve been in the optical industry for about five years prior to my daughter being born. Through the challenges of having a child, little Ella decided to finally make her entrance into the world on September, 10th.A few days after she was born, being that I’ve been in the optical field, I always have a knack for looking at eyes. My wife and I noticed something wasn’t right with her eye. Three days after she was born, we noticed a little white glow in her eye, and that’s not normal. There wasn’t a reflex when pictures were taken. She had a small little squint to her left eye. After we left the hospital, we made some phone calls. With the help of some of the doctors that I knew in the area of North Carolina, we were able to get into Duke Ophthalmology where we were introduced to Dr. Enyedi, one of the best doctors in the world for children with conditions with their eyes.
My daughter was diagnosed with a condition called PHPV, which is where the vitreous never develops while the baby is in utero. To nobody’s fault, millions of kids around the world are born with eye conditions. To help save her eye and give her eye vision, she went to surgery when she was about six weeks old. The surgery started out with trying to remove the cataract that was on her eye. What the doctor ended up seeing was that her eye had so much scar tissue and damage that her eye never physically developed. While they were able to take off part of the cataract in surgery, they weren’t able to fully remove it and they also had to put two little pinholes in her eye to help the eye breathe. They didn’t know if she was going to be able to have any success seeing out of her left eye. She also was born with microphthalmia, which is where the eye is a little bit smaller than the other eye. Two weeks later, right before Thanksgiving, she had a second surgery because the pressures in her eye were not where they should be.
You went through all of that and you are already in the optical world, how did that take you to the evolution of the business you’ve got now?
I almost felt like to my wife and myself, it was a blessing that happens, just because I’m in the optical field and I knew a lot of terms that the doctor was saying to us. What’s important is that we knew that she was going to need protective eyewear even though she wasn’t going to be able to see out of that eye. When we were faced with not only the expensive costs of surgeries, the last thing we wanted to do is look at the fortune that glasses were going to cost. Being in the field, I knew that I had to do something and make a difference. We started working with some manufacturing companies overseas and we started to come up with a line that was not only appealing but fun, fashionable, and exciting that kids would want to wear, that parents would want to put on their child and offer a quality product at affordable price.
Everything that we do now is backed by a one-year warranty on all of our frames. There’s a lot of competitors in the field that we work with. The last thing we want to do is to be able to wholesale it. We’re selling it at a retail point where doctors, ourselves, would not be able to sell it at the doctor’s offices and then they have to turn around and mark it up. We want to be able to bring in at affordable pricing so everybody can enjoy our eyewear.
Is your daughter’s eyesight intact or did anything bad ended up occurring there?
She’s completely blind out of her left eye. She wears a plus two to magnify the one side to make her eye look normal. I will tell you that my daughter is entering kindergarten next year. There is nothing that stops her from doing anything. It’s a blessing. She’s reading on a third-grade level and she’s driving every day because she knows that daddy and mommy tell her, “You will do it and you can do it.” She has had that attitude from birth, it’s a blessing to see that her eyes have compensated for not having vision in that one eye. It’s not bilateral, it’s just the one eye, and she doesn’t know different. It is a blessing.
That’s great that she’s had a great mental ability to tackle what could be debilitating for many others. Congratulations on that. I understand the inspiration and it makes total sense. I have a granddaughter who’s eighteen months old now and she’s got a lazy eye, so she’s been wearing certain kinds of corrective glasses. I don’t know how all of that works and everything, but there are things that can be done with kids at an early age to make some things move in the right direction. Do you get involved in that end of the business also?
We do. One of the things that’s important to know is that you don’t realize the magnitude of how many kids are born with eye conditions until you’re in that doctor’s office. Without education, you don’t know where to turn. Unfortunately, unless you physically see something different in that child’s eye, the kid can’t communicate to you because he doesn’t know how to tell mommy, “I can’t see.” It may be signs like looking really close to the monitor, it might be getting fatigued too early in the day. It’s not the child’s fault. His eyes are just tired. Some kids with lazy eyes have to patch to strengthen one eye. Their other eye overcompensates, so they patch the good eye, so the other eye starts working harder. We’ve created some eyepatch that slide over the glasses.
I gifted my granddaughter with an eye patch, too. That’s interesting.
What’s tough is that kids have to pull a sticky patch off their eye and they’re screaming and crying because the stickiness hurts. We have an eye patch that simply slides over the glasses that gives full illusion with a blackout fabric on the back side. What we’ll do is we put an organic felt material on the front and a cute appliqué. We’ll have a felt material on the front, you can decorate it any way you want and then we will put a cute patch on the front. It’s fun and exciting because the kids aren’t screaming and crying anymore when they put on a patch.
I’m a little familiar with the eyeglass business. I’ve had some meetings with the Luxottica company. We have a distribution deal with Luxottica. They’re out in Italy. I went to the Luxottica annual conference. They’re a $50-billion company. They own Sunglass Hut and PearleVision and many of the brands in Sunglass Hut. Do you buy from them? Are they a competitor of yours? How do you compete against the big guys?
In the five years that I’ve been running Kids Bright Eyes, I went from big box retailers to private practices to working with Transitions of America, which was bought out by Essilor. To learn the business, in April of 2017, I decided to quit altogether and run Kids Bright Eyes full-time. We’re growing at around a 10% rate each year. Our repeat customer is around 39%. We have about five different revenue streams that we run with, anywhere from Amazon, to eBay direct to private practice, direct retailer customers to us, for practices that aren’t in the area. I attend trade shows, which is Vision Expo West out in Las Vegas in September. I’ll be in Vision Expo East in New York, which is an expensive event for us, but it’s worth it to me to grow the business the way I want to grow the business. With the rate that we keep accelerating, it’s putting a meaning back to what I’m doing is really working.
Our direct competitor is not Luxottica as they don’t produce a frame like I have. Our direct competitor are companies like Miraflex. ClearVision has a product out there named Dilli Dalli. It’s all very similar product. Miraflex is a brand that is 100% single molded frame. The difference between our competitor and us is we have a coil hinge on the side that allows our frames to completely bend. However, our product doesn’t go out at the hinge like Miraflex does or have a rubber band that goes around the frame to keep the frame adjusted.
My daughter, who also has a lazy eye, is brutal on her glasses. They constantly need to get adjusted. We should get those.
Our frames are adjustment free. They will snap right back into the position that they were. They don’t lose their flexibility, and we don’t have a strap that pushes in. We have a really unique strap that slides in and clips in. We want to make sure that our straps are nice and secure and can’t pop out.
You’ve got another product that goes on the end? Another product that keeps the glasses in place?
Those are our Stay-Puts. A lot of kids have sensory issues and don’t like glasses that have a strap connected to the back of their head. We have Stay-Puts that simply slide on through the glasses and those stretch about 14 millimeters. They’re completely silicon and they’ll slide on the back of the glasses to prevent them from slipping. They do not have to touch the back of the ear to be completely effective, but they could sit a millimeter to two millimeters back. When they’re on the child’s face, he can pull them any which direction he wants. They’re not going to slide off.
I wear them in my glasses in the summer when I’m doing yard work out. They’re a one-size-fits-all. They come in black, clear, blue, and pink. My wife’s dad, he does trap shooting. He’s out there in the extreme heater in the winter and he’s got to make sure that he has precise vision. I’ve used them for golfing. We use them in the swimming pool with my daughter. It’s an amazing product and it has changed lives around the world.
In terms of your business model of getting new customers, are you using digital? Are you retail or wholesale through Internet? Where is your business model focused?
Our vision is to reach everybody and anybody. I can tell you when we first started, we weren’t in private practice like we are today. We have a presence in about 37 states. As we continue to grow, we’re seeing an increase in private practice and a decrease in retail. We’re reaching markets that were in small pockets around the US that other major competitors weren’t reaching out to those areas. Since we’ve now done the trade show, we’re getting larger markets in LA and Sacramento. We’re picking up accounts as we come across. As I went full-time with Kids Bright Eyes, I brought on two sales reps that were starting to get the word out there. We’re growing the business through social media. We have about almost 4,700 followers on Facebook, which to me is a blessing. It’s doing Facebook marketing and advertising. We’ve done fast blasting in the past and we do mass email marketing as well.
The business is good, growing at 10% a year. That’s fantastic. What’s the future? Are there any openings for you that you see out there in the marketplace?
The future is bright. Every day’s a good day. We have been averaging about five to seven new accounts a week. We have another line that also has a 180-flex hinge on it that when the kid graduates, they continued to wear our products so it’s not a one-stop shop with just our flexible frames.
Where are you based?
Out of Maryland. We actually used to be based in Tampa and Brandon. My wife wanted to get closer to home, to be closer to family, so we picked up the business and relocated. We’re out in Hagerstown. Every day, we’re continuing to grow and I’m finding ways to continue to grow the business. One of my biggest challenges for 2018 is doing search engine optimization. If I can figure a way to mastermind that, I will grow quicker because my name will pop up faster in search engines.
We know a few people who could help you with that.
Seth, that’s right down your alley. It’s a great situation to be able to focus a brand in that arena, isn’t it?
I was also thinking with your eyewear cleaning device that you were showcasing at the last mastermind meeting, there might be some eyewear synergy. You mentioned Luxottica not a competitor, but what if he could provide them one-stop entry into that market place or something like that.
I was at a Vision West trade show when the CEO of Luxottica USA came by the booth and we started talking. We were showing them the product that we’re involved. It’s an eyeglass cleaning product and they invited us to come down to their annual conference. We’ve taken that product to 5,000 a day then to 10,000 a day pieces of sales. It’s up to 15,000 during December. It was a really hot item at Christmas. It’s backed off a little bit since, but it’s very powerful. All of that was done via digital. I highly recommend that you check to see how you can tune into the digital side. It’s very powerful. The market that you’re in is huge. How many pair of kid’s glasses are sold on an annual basis? It’s got to be tens of millions, right?
I couldn’t tell you the exact amount that kids glasses are sold. Unfortunately, a lot of it are underprivileged kids that go through the system that never even had the opportunity to get quality eyewear. That’s what we’re about. I feel like when we offer a product at a price point that could not only go to private pay but through insurance, because the wholesale price is so low, it can be offered to everybody. When you come into this market and you offer a product at a wholesale rate that not everybody can get, it limits your product to a certain customer base and that’s not we’re about. Our wholesale rate, even our self-pay rate, is a product that anybody could purchase.
Since you mentioned that philosophy, which is amazing, have you thought about at all about pricing in like a TOMS shoes model-type of, “Buy one, get one,” or, “Buy one, give one,” where we pay regular price and then another pair goes to someone who can’t afford it?
I reached out to one of the largest down syndrome organizations where we’ve offered to give them a coupon code for 10% off advertising us on their website and we would match the 10% that saves the customer and donate it back to the down syndrome organization. There’s a few organizations that I work with locally that we do a lot of giveaways, a lot of frames to give away. Somebody comes to me in need, I help them out. We’ve done prescriptions as high as a plus 30. I don’t know if you know how thick that is, but with our technology and with the labs that we work with around the US, it produces amazing products. We do what we have to do to make a kid see. Our vision going forward each and every day is to educate eye health and continue to put eyewear when everybody that needs corrected vision.
What we try to do through the audience that we have is get you the exposure for any needs that you might have. Are you looking for any other partnerships, affiliations, or financing requirements that we can put out to our community here?
I discussed it with my wife, who is a true business partner of mine. I would love to further our business and to continue to grow it at a fantastic rate. Capital investment and choosing the right partner to help us grow and to get into the right channels, whether it’s licensing something or reaching some major players in the optical field. I’d love to see our product on every optical shelf out there. We’re at KidsBrightEyes.com. We’re on Facebook with Kids Bright Eyes and we can always be reached at 443-639-5907.
We greatly appreciate your time. Amazing and inspiring story and an incredible mission that you’re on. We hope that we can help in some small way with that, Brad. Thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you so much for having me.
I’m going talk to my son and hook you guys up. I got to make sure that my granddaughter is getting the best of the best. After talking to you, I think you are the best of the best and I appreciate all the good stuff we’ve talked about.
Thank you so much. I look forward to working with you guys.
Thanks so much for listening to this special productivity series of the direct response marketing podcast. I’ve interviewed hundreds of the most successful entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and CEOs all over the world and I want to share with you one of the biggest ways I’ve discovered to triple your productivity that I’ve learned from these amazing people. Even better, I’ll pay you $500 to test drive it. Just go to Takethe500Challenge.com to learn more. Thanks so much.
- Kids Bright Eyes
- Dr. Enyedi
- Sunglass Hut
- Vision Expo West
- Vision Expo East
- Dilli Dalli
- Kids Bright Eyes – Facebook
About Brad Sultan
Brad Sultan graduated from the University of Tampa in 2004. He found his way into the optical field. Brad has experience running big-box and private optical stores, as well as working with a major lens manufacturer. He found major success in sales management in the optical industry, managing hundreds of accounts and creating hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales growth. He took his success and used it to train other opticians on how to drive their business and how to educate their clients on using benefits.
In 2012, Brad became the Founder and CEO of Kids Bright Eyes. Kids Bright Eyes was founded on providing quality eyewear and accessories at affordable pricing. They offer pediatric eyewear at a value price and back it with a 1-year warranty. As parents of a daughter born with a rare eye disease, he and his wife experienced first-hand, the high cost of specialists, surgeries and frequent office visits. They knew the last thing a parent wants to do is spend a small fortune on is eyewear. Their full-service retail store allows you to pick from many shapes, sizes and colors in eyeglasses, patches, and accessories that are as fun and cute as your child! They also offer prescription lenses with no limitations for higher scripts. Kids Bright Eyes has made a difference in 1000’s of lives daily and they will continue to grow into a household name.
In 2017, Brad has gone full time with Kids Bright eyes as he continues to see an approximately 20% growth and now sells his lines and accessories in 37 states.