Julie Allinson was 42 when she started Eyebobs, which offers high-quality, funky reading glasses at reduced prices. Fourteen years later, her company occupies almost all of a 37,000-square foot building near downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Optical shops, clothing stores and even museum gift shops around the world carry Allinson’s eyeglasses. She has a celebrity following that has included Katie Couric, Andrew Zimmern and the late Joan Rivers.
And what about the company’s name? As explained in this Forbes story written by Deborah L. Jacobs, “Eyebobs” is a play on Southern nicknames for guys — Jim Bob, Joe Bob, etc. It also works for women who refer to their earrings as “earbobs.” “I tell every guy named Robert that I named my company after him,” says Allinson.
In Forbes, she talks about the ingredients for starting a company. One is a strong support system that includes people who are risk-tolerant. If your family and closest friends are risk-averse, it’s better to talk to other entrepreneurs who can relate to what you’re going through.
Courage also is critical. If we analyze the risk, “no one would ever start a business — there are so many reasons not to,” Allinson says. Still, few things are more fulfilling than living and dying by your own sword. “I don’t like other people telling me what to do,” she says.
She has a clear understanding of her target market. As her website puts it, Eyebobs sells “eyewear for the irreverent and slightly jaded.”
“I don’t pretend to sell to all the Baby Boomers,” says Allinson, who’s now 56. “I want to sell to the Baby Boomers like me who have some moxie.”