Named one of Outside Magazine’s 10 Best Places to Work in 2014, San Diego-based SportRx has raised the bar for wearers’ and ECPs’ expectations of sports eyewear across the U.S. The business came to be in 1996, and was originally run by the couple who came up with Bobster brand eyewear. Rob Tavakoli, MSBA, ABOC, is SportRx’s vice president, and describes himself as someone who just might ‘bleed sunglass tint.’ He told us more about the various components of what makes SportRx tick.
VCPN: Describe the ways in which SportRx sells.
Rob Tavakoli: It’s mostly retail and direct to consumers-e-commerce, but we also have a growing dealer program and dealer network where we sell to eye doctors and opticians. Our business is online, via telephone, live chat, and email. If you call here and want to talk about prescription shooting glasses, you’re going to talk to an optician who’s also a shooter. These people are legit. They know about your sport. They do your sport.
VCPN: Who are your distribution customers, primarily?
Rob: They’re all over the country. We do a lot of prescription ski goggles. Most offices have no way of selling prescription ski goggles, so we create different inserts that fit inside goggles. For example, if you take an Oakley Airbrake snow goggle, we make an insert that sits inside of it and holds the prescription lenses in place.
VCPN: What’s your approach to
acquiring and keeping retail customers?
Rob: Referrals and repeat customers are a big, big part of our business. About 30% of daily orders are from existing customers and their friends and family, which lets me know that we’re doing the right thing. We also do a lot of digital marketing and a lot of print magazine ads.
VCPN: What kind of feedback do you get from customers?
Rob: The best compliment I ever got from a customer was, “Hey, you guys let me do what I want to do.” If you have a strong prescription or a moderate prescription and you live to ride your bike, those eyeglasses are a serious part of your equipment.
VCPN: What sets SportRx apart from other sports eyewear businesses?
Rob: We’ve got a reputation of being really high tech and able or willing to do things that other people don’t do. We don’t really believe in “no.” If it comes to a point where a patient’s regular eyeglasses aren’t cutting it, we are willing to push the envelope and do whatever we can, to work with customers as a team rather than say, “I’m selling you these glasses and you’re buying them.” We work together to find a solution.
VCPN: How’s your relationship with local ECPs?
Rob: We get a lot of walk-in business from local ECPs who refer people to us because they just don’t do this kind of eyewear.
VCPN: What brands are the most successful for you?
Rob: We have 34 brands, and our best sports brands are Nike (Marchon Eyewear), Oakley, SMITH, SPY, Tifosi, adidas, Costa, and Bollé.
VCPN: What’s the history of your office/showroom?
Rob: Our office used to be a high-end, antique English furniture showroom. We’ve made it relevant to our customers and products. We have, for example, an 8-ft. x 4-ft. framed piece of functional art, which is made with 351 mirror lens samples, like a rainbow wall. It changes with how sunny it is.
VCPN: What’s the best thing about your job?
Rob: We’re helping people see better while they’re doing the things they love.