Peepers by PeeperSpecs, a reading glasses and sunglasses designer in Michigan City, has seen tremendous growth and is eyeing further expansion at pharmacies and gourmet groceries such as Whole Foods.
The fourth-generation family-owned company again made the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing companies with 162 percent growth over the last three years. Peepers, owned by brother-and-sister team Alec and Lindsay Sammann, brought in $10.4 million in revenue from nationwide retail and online sales last year, up from $1.5 million in 2009.
"The growth of our company has been phenomenal. We are up 600 percent since 2012 when Alec and Lindsay purchased the company, we’ve achieved this success with no venture capital which is unlike most of our competitors," said Ariel Berrier, Peepers acquisition marketing strategist. "We just launched a new innovative line of blue blocking computer glasses. These reduce digital eyestrain and headaches from computer usage, and are also available for those that do not wear readers in no power."
Peepers saw a significant boost in sales after Oprah Winfrey recommended its glasses in Oprah Magazine, and Sheryl Crow plugged them in a Mother's Day Gift Guide in People magazine.
Peepers sells its reading glasses online at peepers.com and at gift shops, book stores, optical good stores, and grocery stores across the United States and Canada. The company has invested in its website to ensure users have the best experience and can find the right product as quickly as possible, said Alec Sammann, president and CEO.
And it copies Zappos's customer service playbook, ensuring that any issues shoppers have immediately get resolved.
"There's no crying at Peepers," he said. "We have no policies we're trying to protect."
About 40 percent of the business is online, while about 60 percent comes from wholesaling to 4,500 retailers nationwide. Hallmark for instance carries Peepers reading glasses in its 400 corporate stores nationwide. Its diverse customer base includes people who make impulse purchases, suffer eyestrain from staring at their phone or computer screen too long, don the glasses as part of a costume or want to look smart.
Peepers envisions more growth by broadening its distribution network, and recently reached a deal with the country's largest supplier to independent pharmacies.
The company's reading glasses sell for an average of $22 a pair.
"We're not the cheapest or the most expensive by any means," Sammann said. "Customers recognize we offer real value."
Peepers comes out with 80 to 100 new designs for reading glasses and sunglasses each year, unveiling new styles for each season. The company's designers stay on top current trends, keeping up with what's going on in the fashion industry.
"They look at data of what's planned up to two years in advance," he said. "One specific thing was they saw that pineapples would become a trend a year in advance. So we put pineapples on a frame. Before, long you started seeing pineapples everywhere. It became our No. 1 seller. It was wild."
To nurture employees' creativity, Peepers tries to have a fun work environment and has been named one of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce's top places to work. When the company hits revenue targets, it offers employees rewards such as free breakfast or lunch, bags tournaments, Starbucks gift cards and swag. It's even planning a dunk tank.
Recently, Peepers invested $300,000 in a renovation of its Michigan City office that includes a showroom, a design room and a gym for employees.
"There's a ping pong table," Sammann said. "We really Googled it up. People are working eight hours to nine hours a day, so we want it to be fun. It's a recruiting tool. We want the best and the brightest taking care of the customers."