Company: Ben & Frank
Investors: DILA Capital, Jaguar Ventures, and Various Angel Investors
Interview with: Mariana Castillo, Co-founder and Co-CEO
LAVCA sat down with Ben & Frank co-founder & co-CEO Mariana Castillo in Mexico City to hear how she is building an accessibly priced direct-to-consumer eyewear brand. For more about our discussions with Mexican entrepreneurs, read Mexican Transport Hits the Gas with Emerging Players eConduce, Urbvan and LiftIt.
Having experienced online access to reasonably priced glasses in other markets, like the US, Maria Castillo recognized the gap in affordable and quality eyewear in Mexico.
Can we build a direct-to-consumer eyewear brand that would appeal to Mexicans at an affordable price point and high bar for quality?
The result is Mexico-based Ben & Frank where Castillo is one of three co-founders and also serves as co-CEO with co-founder Eduardo Paulsen.
Castillo says initial challenges with adoption in Mexico included the obvious: People want to try on glasses before a purchase. They piloted a home try-on program in the Distrito Federal, and then nationally. Another challenge: Not everyone knows their complete eye prescription. In response, Ben & Frank launched a network of eye doctors to provide low-cost exams for clients, and picks up the cost.
The company recently launched a partnership with Opternative aimed at solving both problems; Opternative allows Ben & Frank clients to conduct their own digital eye exam from their device at home. “Know what you’re good at,” Castillo says.
Ben & Frank is also making an effort to bridge the payment gap in Mexico, and Castillo says about 20% of online sales are paid through alternative/offline channels, including bank deposits and cash payments at convenience stores.
Ben & Frank has physical stores in Monterrey and Guadalajara, and ships its product nationally with plans to expand within Latin America and to Spain in the coming year. The company has 90 full-time employees in Mexico, and has achieved gender parity among its workforce. Castillo sites the company’s good maternity/paternity policy.
Ben & Frank raised an undisclosed round of capital from DILA Capital and Jaguar Ventures in 2018, with the participation of previous angel investors.