Nick Perry’s journey from Australian Farm Boy to world-travelling Bailey Nelson Co-Founder , all sparked from a less-than-stellar experience buying eyeglasses.
Nick grew up in rural Australia, and moved to the bright lights of Sydney looking to experience the big city and what it had to offer.
Unfortunately for him though he found out straight away that he needed glasses, and all the money he had planned to spend enjoying university life went into buying a clunky pair of spectacles (not ideal).
Not only did his plans to transform his image go out the window, but the entire buying glasses ordeal turned out to be stale, clinical and expensive — he remembers thinking that on every level it was a very poor retail experience.
Once his vision was restored, Nick went on to ace his way through University exams and took a high paying job at a prestigious firm.
Secure, thriving and making his parents proud, Nick still had this quote from Richard Branson replaying over in his head: ‘If you want to start a business you should find an experience that you find painful and start there’. After another underwhelming visit to the optometrist, Nick and Pete, his equally educated friend, packed in their office jobs and they hit the beach with a vision for a new kind of eyewear experience.
Fast forward half a decade, Nick arrives in Vancouver to help guide the international expansion of his once-fledgling dream. While he was in town, we sat down with him and he gave us a sense of how it must have felt for people to walk into he and Pete’s first Bondi location.
What do you tell people you do for a living?
Ha. Ha. Luckily I don’t have to tell people I flog sunglasses at the market anymore. I guess I would say I work for Bailey Nelson, we’re a global company and I get to meet exciting people and tell them what we are passionate about, it doesn't really feel like work. On the people side of things Pete and I were lucky to have gotten to work for big firms that really invest in their people. We were able to attend good universities and there are lots of other people who don't get those opportunities and it’s been really exciting and touching for us to get to develop our people.
How would you explain Bailey Nelson to someone that had never heard about it before?
I would describe the structure of the business, which is that the prices [of eyewear] are very high.
Glasses cost a very small fraction of what they are being retailed for because Italian giant Luxottica owns the manufacturing, the brand and the retail. For example, they own and manufacture Ray Ban and sell directly through their own stores Sunglasses Hut or Lenscrafters. So when we explain this to people they almost feel smarter, like a light has gone off that they shouldn't be paying this much for a pair of glasses.
At the time that I was buying my first pair of glasses, I was part of a team that launched The Iconic which is the North American equivalent of Zappos. We were looking at companies like Zara, Uniqlo and H&M and they were coming in and disrupting department stores. When you walked into those stores you'd see someone young, cool and stylish and you’d just be like “tell me what to wear” and I though that is the opposite of what you get when you go in to buy a pair of glasses.
What we’ve built at Bailey Nelson is like that - an affordable experience that people enjoy, one that they look forward to. That’s how I want every person who visits us to feel.
When did you decide to go all in with Bailey Nelson?
I’ve seen people try to start businesses but didn't quit their job. [Pete and I] did that for awhile but it wasn't working and we got to a point where we just couldn't keep doing both. We were familiar with the story of Alexander the Great who burnt his armies boats when they arrived in Persia thereby removing their only means of retreat. He then turned to his troops and said, “We go home in Persian ships, or we die”. They won.
So we quit our jobs and we had to make it work, we essentially burnt our boats.
It was hard, we went from high paying jobs in prestigious firms into beach markets and buying our coffee from 7/11. We would hide when we saw people we knew at the markets, Pete had a full scholarship to Oxford to go study and we’d both come from big companies — and here we were with our wares on a table next to someone selling candles.
If Bailey Nelson quit selling glasses tomorrow, what would never change about the business?
We have been able to attract a group of people who really believe in what we are trying to do, we are committed to changing our industry. Trying to make buying eyewear one of life pleasures. We have a group of people who believe in that very powerfully. Almost all of our staff started as guests, they just came into the store and said they wanted to be apart of what we’re creating. We have staff living together, they've gotten married and they are friends. Its incredibly touching to watch it grow.
When we were opening NZ people stepped up and moved their families. We have people moving to the UK and Canada now, and all across the world. We have a group of people now that are united by a common vision. By 2025 we want to help 5 million people look differently at the world. I don't think we would ever move to another industry but its this community that we’ve created that is really special.
What did you mean by the 5 million people seeing differently?
The last 5 years has been really busy and intense and you just open stores and get people interested, involved and into what you're doing. Pete and I were finally able to sit down and think about where we want to be in 10 years time instead of next week or next month. It’s an amazing phase where the concept is working and we can think bigger about where we want to be. If you want to attract incredible people to something you have to have big goals and that puts pressure on your execution. These goals are not monetary but that through Bailey Nelson we can reach 5 million people and be able to entice them to look at things differently.
This final thought that we got out of Nick really hit home:
“The thing I’m the most proud of is that we can bring our friends and family and everyone who shops with us and we feel like there is a lot of integrity with what we do. We attract a group of people who don’t need to be defined by a big logo, they have their own style. “
1135 Robson St, Vancouver COMING SOON