Yvonne Graber is the founder, president and owner of TravelEyez, a small business based in Boca Raton, Fla. After losing her glasses one too many times in the bottom of her suitcase, she came up with her unique accessory to make small items easily accessible during travel.
Q&A with Yvonne Graber, founder of TravelEyez
What inspired you to start your business?
I didn’t formally launch my business until July 2016, but the idea started years ago. When getting ready to travel, I would pack at least four pairs of reading glasses (along with at least two pairs of sunglasses). I would pack different color pairs to coordinate with my jewelry and outfits.
In hoping that my glasses didn’t get lost within my suitcase, I would cautiously pack them in a drawstring bag and tuck them away. I learned my girlfriends were doing the same thing!
This frustrating task became my inspiration to create TravelEyez.
We needed something to hold multiple pairs of glasses that would not be cumbersome, would be easily accessible, and could be added to as needed.
I later discovered the case was great for holding my phone, jewelry, medicines — even my husband’s watch at the beach! My grandchildren use them to hold their phones on their bikes and scooters when they go to the park. My son and daughter love to attach TravelEyez on their kids’ strollers and diaper bags. My girlfriends use TravelEyez on their purses, tennis and gym bags, while their husbands use TravelEyez to hold their sunglasses on their golf bags!
Sounds useful! What steps did you take to launch your business?
First I made a prototype. Then I showed it to a few people to see if there was an interest. I made some changes in the prototype, and then I moved forward with a provisional patent filing and trademark. Next, I made a small pilot run in two sizes and various colors. I then hired someone to create a website and to do my social media and someone else to do public relations.
Seems like you had a good grip on what you needed to do. Did you come across any obstacles along the way? What did you do to overcome them?
For my business, the biggest obstacles involved product awareness and cash flow. I took a look at my business model and began working on social media awareness and word of mouth. I also focus on working toward public relations, online sales, and wholesale accounts to enable a steady stream of business from national markets.
National markets! Is that a niche of yours?
I found many niche markets due to the flexibility of TravelEyez — from sports, to parenting, to aging, the product has so many uses that it has benefits for multiple generations and markets.
Goals and philosophy
What goals do you have for your business? What about in five years? 10?
My main goal is to succeed with this product and to add others onto the TravelEyez product line that are already in pre-production. In the future, I see TravelEyez on steroids. TravelEyez will be the parent product with many other variations of the product, as well as other products online and in stores.
What’s your guiding business philosophy?
I can pretty much break it down into three concepts:
- Find a void and fill it.
- Treat people the way you want to be treated.
- You are never too old and it is never too late to start a business.
Wonderful. Along that same train of thought, what three words epitomize success in your book?
Perseverance, resourcefulness, determination.
What strengths do you bring to the table as an entrepreneur?
I bring life experience to the table. I have been on my own since I was 17, and I have worked for large corporations, as well as had two previous successful businesses.
Tools and advice
What online tools do you use for your business?
Constant Contact. I use Constant Contact for product exposure and newsletters.
QuickBooks Online. QuickBooks is my go-to tool for bookkeeping.
Social media. Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are integral to spreading the word about TravelEyez.
USPS. All my shipping needs.
These tools are essential to running my business. Each one helps with a different aspect of maintaining, marketing or building my company.
Also, as an entrepreneur a MUST HAVE is a business coach/mentor/advisory board/board of directors all rolled into one. Your need a sounding board to get you through those tough decisions, someone to hold you accountable and get you through the times when you just want to cry. Someone who keeps you focused on your business and the big picture. A constant reminder that you can reach your goals and the endless possibilities that lie ahead.
That’s great advice. What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned since starting your business?
It is not easy! You need to really be serious about it and be able to take some risks.
Too true. Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs?
If you want to start a business, go for it. Find a void and fill it. Remember — if you don’t do it, you might have regrets later.
How do you unwind?
I unwind in the evening with a glass of wine in hand watching senseless TV/movies with my husband of 40 years. On the weekends, we spend time with our four grandchildren ages, 6, 5, 21 months and 5 months. We also enjoy live theater, restaurants and the beach. Most of all we love to travel to other parts of the world experiencing different food and cultures.
How do balance the needs of your business life with your personal life?
As a business owner, you work 15 hours a day — just not all in a row. You make your own hours, and you are able to squeeze in personal time and even the gym.
Also published on Medium.