On this episode of The CEO Story, we have Alex Feldman. Alex is the CEO of the independent luxury eyewear brand ALEXANDER DAAS, with brick-and-mortar optical boutiques in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, and the e-commerce platform AlexanderDaas.com.
Alex was exposed to entrepreneurship at an early age. After a move to California, Feldman’s Family business was a “mom and pop” eyeglass shop where he was raised among several opticians.
Feldman continues to build on his family’s vision of opening luxury shops in quaint neighborhoods that feature skilled eyewear stylists, representing a true intersection of the medical and fashion industries.

 

With weekly podcasts released, “The CEO Story” takes a deep dive into the success (and sometimes pitfalls) of being your own boss! We encourage each and every individual to candidly share their stories to help other entrepreneurs understand the highs and lows that come with the journey. As always be sure to check out more of our podcast episodes!

You can find Alex at
Website alexanderdaas.com
Instagram @alexanderdaas
Twitter @alexanderdaas
Facebook Alexander Daas
Instagram @alexf519
Twitter @alexfeldman

*Podcast Website – https://ceostory.buzzsprout.com
*Website: https://www.togethercfo.com/
*Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TogetherCFO/
*LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/together-cfo
*Instagram: @Togethercfo

 

Transcript

Kc Chohan: So welcome ladies and gentlemen, to another episode of the CEO story. And we’ve got a great one
today. We’ve got a fellow entrepreneurs, organization member. Alex joining us, Alex Feldman is the founder and CEO
of a really cool company called Alexander DAS. And they specialize in. I wear so. We both need that right now, as
you can see, we’re both white and not Alex. Thank you so much for joining us. How are you doing?
Alex 5:10
I’m good. Thank you for having me.
Kc Chohan 5:12
Yeah, we’ve got, we’ve just been talking off screen and we’ve got a lot of friends in common and we’re in the same
part of the world, relatively close, at least San Diego and LA. So we’ve got a great episode that we’re going to
dig into. Alex. Do you want to start just by telling us a little bit about the company, how it started, what it’s
doing, and then we can dig into the history and the nuggets from there.
Alex 5:35
Yeah. Alexander. I was a high end luxury brand. We have retail stores in San Francisco and Los Angeles and San
Diego and Damar. And we have our eyewear brand, which we distribute to other independent. Boutique optical
retailers.
And, you know, our, our whole. Just the entire thing with our brands or with our brand is just all about quality
and experience in the stores. Creating that. Luxury styling experience and helping people slept the right eyewear.
We’re doing, you know, wonder. Great lens. One’s work to not chips. It’s not people have the best optics out other
ones.
And I, I kind of grew up into the industry and the business, the San Francisco store was originally my parents’
store. And I grew up around it and at one point. Took over. Bought it out and started expanding from there. I
launched the eyewear line out of the San Francisco store many, many, many years ago. And then we expand itself.
And started opening up stores. And Southern California.
Kc Chohan 6:40
Fantastic. So it sounds like a family. Of Iowa professionals and you’ve kind of taken it to the next level. By
expanding and kind of growing the business. So what initially got you. Into the family business. Let’s start that.
Alex 6:57
Well, I grew up around my, you know, Ever since I was like 12 years old, I was always being pulled into helping
with inventory or. You know, bookkeeping stuff. So I’ve just, I just, I was always something I was around. And I
really learned to love eyewear, you know, just the frames and need, especially doing inventory. I got real close
with the different frame brands and the different materials and it always fascinated me. And so after college, I
ended up doing. Bio-psychology for my. Major in college. I emphasize a lot of vision science stuff. And I at one
point thought about even, maybe becoming an eye doctor, but I was always more interested in the business side of
things and the. The fashion and frame side of its site. Ended up refocusing to that, but I. You know, Got
involved. In the business. On a deeper level after college and was working with my dad. For a couple of years
until he. Finally retired.
Kc Chohan 8:02
Fantastic. It’s good that you family so close that you kind of. Brainwashed into it at a young age, did different
sections of it. So you see what you liked and didn’t like, And then took it to the next level, because by the
sounds of it, you guys have grown not only your I-frame brand competing with these big brands, like Tom board and
all the other big, amazing names in Iowa, you know, while B Pako, we saw went from nothing into this multi-billion
dollar company, it’s a. It’s definitely a great industry to be in. How do you see it changing over the next few
years?
Alex 8:40
Well, one of the big changes right now. As the online presence, I. I’m in a small segment of the eyewear industry.
So we’re in there. The boutique independent. Brand segment. And an hour.
You know, Michael world of the eyewear industry online was always a big no-no. Because it’s always been about
exclusivity. And making sure that clients. You know, when, when they’re, when they’re. Getting into these eyewear
brands, if they’re really treated properly, you know, In person with an optician to make sure the quality from a
to Z. In the note. From adjustments to the proper lens. Fittings was always up to par. And you can’t really do
that online, but you know, since COVID happened, it’s kind of changed the dynamics and a lot of brands have
started going online now. And they’re allowing more, you know, more of the product. Well nine, so it’s become. A
little bit more of an open field. And I think that that’s going to. Just become. You know, more and more. Thing in
our industry, which it wasn’t before. But at the same time, I don’t think it can replace that in-person
experience. But what we’re doing is we, we launched an eyewear like our online sites to mimic. The in-person
experience we’d deliver. Online. And so we actually, CNN just wrote a story about shopping online with us. They
secret shopped us. And talked about the experience and we got some good results out of it. So.
Kc Chohan 10:17
Fantastic. It’s always good to know. And you, you. My perspective is you’re a very trendy brand as well. Like the
areas in which you have selected for your locations, like in LA allotment village is super cool. It’s very hip,
very trendy, same in San Diego as well. Delmar’s pretty cool area of San Diego. So is that part of your brand
identity also?
Alex 10:40
Yeah, we, in terms of the retail stores, it’s always about, for us, we love the like, Boutique neighborhoods with
the communities.
Type of setting.
The Damar village area and in the marina. In San Francisco, where we are on Chestnut street. These are
neighborhoods that are you. They’re there. They’re cool hip neighborhoods with a bunch of boutique shops and cafes
and restaurants. So it’s a nice place to come visit. But they are the. Like the downtown with like the local
community. And so. Great communities that we’ve really build relationships with people. Come by and pop into the
store on a daily basis to say hi, to get treats for their dog treats for their dogs.
And we really developed those relationships. So we get to do cool things with like local schools and whatnot in
terms. Skipping back. And so that’s always been the setting, you know, versus a more like mall setting. Or
something like that to where you don’t really get to build these personal relationships. So that’s what we like
for our retail settings.
Kc Chohan 11:51
Very cool. So yeah, big, big tip. That is to be in the proximity of your clients, right? Because if y’all not in
those cool neighborhoods and your clients have got to drive. In LA. It takes an hour to get anywhere with the
traffic. Then likelihood is you’re going to miss out on some clientele. So make sure your local, whether that’s
being local online or with a physical presence. I think there’s real, a lot of importance in that. So let’s dig
into the business side of things. Let’s get some real value to the listeners. Let’s talk about the business, cause
I’m sure there must’ve been some tough times. Coming in and then taking over and then growing the brand. So do you
want to talk over how that process went, how you navigated. Through the ranks within the family, on the business.
And everything in between.
Alex 12:40
Yeah. You know, it was pretty, I mean, It had its complications, but. I started, you know, when I started working
with my dad, we get along really well, but when it came to business, And as I started getting deeper involved, in
my opinion, started mattering more. We found that we have a very, very different. Mindset on how things should be.
And so that created.
Tension at times in terms of, you know, like, I think we should do this. He thinks we should do that. But
ultimately, you know, just with time, I was able to. To, I guess, prove myself that I would be able to keep things
going and he felt comfortable. You know, making his exit and it was, it was pretty straightforward and simple.
Luckily, we didn’t have any kind of crazy or stories with that. So sometimes you hear these. Wild
Kc Chohan 13:35
stories. You said it was straightforward and simple. But you also said that as you started to be more valued. So
what were the steps? So what did you do in the business to have your father who’s been doing this. A lot long,
long, long time. Start to value your opinion more because obviously I had a similar dynamic with my father, so I
know how it is, but. When you’re spending more time in the business now, and you’ll learn it more, then coming up
with grit, innovative ideas that possibly the younger generation is more in tune with than the older generation.
And that is what the brand is. These fresh ideas are probably more relevant. I’m generalizing, but. How did you
negotiate that out? Kind of get around.
Building the value and the trust with, with the family. To let go, because that’s often the hardest part, right?
Alex 14:31
Yeah. You know, the thing is the same in any business transaction, too. You know when owner. You know, sells their
business to anybody they always wants. You know, oftentimes they wants to make sure that who they’re passing it on
to is going to be able to keep it going. Let us not going to. Go out of business.
Kc Chohan 14:49
Yeah.
Alex 14:50
So, you know, just ultimately I think it just came down that he saw that, you know, I was doing very well with a
lot of like, You know, PR and marketing initiatives that we were doing locally in San Francisco. And. You know,
just are. The business was doing well and growing. So just everything, everything was just moving along on the
right path. There was, there was a time there was a transition because initially, you know, I started working with
him. I worked with him for many years and then he kind of stepped aside. And so I was running things. And, but he
was still, you know, it was pretty no prior to his exit, but I kind of got to lead it and be the CEO essentially.
And it finally got to the points where, you know, with me running it. You know, again, things were going smoothly
and things were going well and growing and.
And, you know, that was, you know, without his day-to-day involvement. So, you know, we got to the point to where
he. You know, finally exited.
Kc Chohan 15:46
Fantastic. So it’s building up that value in trust. Pretty much department by department. If I’m understanding it,
right? You started with the sales and marketing piece. You prove that you were doing that very well. And then one
by one, you kind of took things off his plate. So where he may have maybe had. 20 or 30 hour work week. It went
down in increments from AB down a tad. The five and then ultimately where he sat, twiddling his thumbs thinking. I
could be playing golf here. I’m not needed here anymore. Yeah. Pretty
Alex 16:18
much.
Kc Chohan 16:19
Yeah, fantastic. I’m glad you could do that because I started when my father was a little bit different. God rest
his soul, but we were too similar in certain aspects that we would butt heads.
Alex 16:32
Yeah.
Kc Chohan 16:32
But the wrong traits. And then we don’t necessarily take criticism very well either, but because we butt heads and
speak our minds, we would get. We would disconnect it a lot of the time. So.
Alex 16:46
We had a similar, we did have a similar type of thing, because again, I said we. Often saw a lot of things
differently. And that, but that only was an issue when we were both, you know, Involved in operations, right when
we were both working in the business. And so with time as he stepped back more and more, and I took more and more
of the lead and it was, you know, essentially with that being. You know, being able to do things my way and seeing
that that works, he finally took his exit and you know, when we’re not doing business together, we’re great. As
soon as we start working together. You know, the bickering starts because we just, we see a lot of things
differently. And in a lot of things, it’s not even that I’m right or he’s right. Or I’m wrong or he’s wrong. Just
sits. It’s two different viewpoints. A lot of times, both of us are right. It just, you know, And
it’s a, you know, it’s just, you know, it depends on the time and, you know,
Kc Chohan 17:44
And how did that put a strain on the rest of the family?
Alex 17:50
They at that point, the rest of the family wasn’t really involved. They were like, you know, through, through the
years that my siblings. Did their time move. You know, working in the store and being an optics, but they, you
know, everybody ended up going off on their own careers. Doing other things. And so it never really. Never really
involved much for the rest of the family.
Kc Chohan 18:09
Got it. Okay. So I’m a really big technology nerd guy, geek, whatever you want to call it. And I love it. And I’ve
been hearing all this time, you know, virtual reality, this virtual reality, that, and then more recently
augmented reality. From an expert in the eyecare world. What are your thoughts on AI? And how it can be
implemented into like something as simple as there’s a difference that most people were.
Alex 18:38
You mean? And so in terms of the production of frames or for like online shopping,
Kc Chohan 18:44
Both because ultimately.
Alex 18:46
A little bit, so I didn’t, I didn’t catch it yet.
Kc Chohan 18:49
Yeah, both. Like, how is AI going to change the average person’s day-to-day living. By having now a computer in
the ISAT that gives you all this additional information.
Alex 19:01
Yeah.
You know that honestly, that, that whole concept scares me.
But I don’t know. You know, it.
We’ll see how it goes. Cause. I think that they’re bringing it back now. Well, it’s it’s it’s, they’re trying to
bring that concept back, but it kind of, there’s an attempt the first time with Google glass, right. And it kind
of, it failed in the end. Yeah, Google last was
Kc Chohan 19:29
terrible, right? Because they didn’t figure out the whole camera looking at people. All the time. It was bulky.
Battery. Wasn’t great. But when apple brings out products, I’m a huge apple fan. And when they bring out a
product, it’s usually a lot better straight from the off, right.
Alex 19:46
It’ll be interesting to see. It’s one of those things that personally. I just was that, that whole concept scares
me. I already feel that. You know, phones as it is. And whatnot, people are, you know, social media, everybody is
so.
Isolated now, and just like a knowing worlds and. We’re losing more and more of that social aspect. And now people
are walking around with like, you know, computers and their lenses and everything. That’s computerized.
It’s just, I feel like that’s just gonna be another, another distraction from, you know, people. Socializing each
other and kind of that real world concept. So the whole thing. I don’t know. Well, we’ll see if it, if it really
gets there, but I’m not a huge fan of it.
Kc Chohan 20:31
Yeah, I can tell. Yeah. I’m a huge fan of it. I’m just excited by technology and how it can take us forward.
That’s the side of it. I enjoy it. And obviously I wear glasses anyway. So it’s a double whammy for me, rather
than some of these people that don’t wear glasses and try and look cool by wearing glasses, which is a different
level altogether, but we’ll not worry too much about that.
Alex 20:57
Yeah. I
Kc Chohan 20:58
got a lot of everything in LA, though. So that doesn’t surprise me. So let’s talk about the future of the
business. So you’ve taken it from. Mom and pop. Kind of one location. Now you have walked four or five locations
and growing.
Alex 21:12
Yeah. We’re at three locations right now.
Kc Chohan 21:15
And then how do you see the expansion of your business over the next five years?
Alex 21:22
We’re looking to continue to expand the retail. So we’re.
I have a couple of locations I’m exploring actively right now. So we want to, you know, I have a goal in the next
five to 10 years to. Hopefully. You know, 20 stores across the us. So we do want to expand out of California. Once
we kind of set the set, all the spots that we want to be in here.
And then the bigger component that I’m even more focused on is the brand and the, you know, the, the production,
the new designs. Production and distribution to really, because of that, that’s going to be our step to going into
global and getting into international distribution. So we’ve had a Canadian accounts and even like we have one
account of New Zealand. But. You know, mostly we’re in the us right now. And that’s, I think that the, you know,
building the brand is going to be the. To me, that’s, what’s going to like lift the whole thing and take us to the
next level.
Kc Chohan 22:21
Yeah. That’s really cool. Like that 20 goal 20 star goal. This is pretty, pretty awesome already like that. When
y’all thinking of those goals and kind of goal setting. What type of metrics or numbers do you look at to kind of
say 20 is achievable or 20 is a stretch. And then what are you doing to motivate the team or hiring a new team to
expand? Because I’m guessing the team that you have now is not going to be the same team. That’s going to get you
to the. 20 plus locations. How do you go about building that infrastructure? So you can expand.
Alex 22:58
That’s the tough part.
I really try to. Even the way we operate now, I tried to have all of our operations. Being done. As if we already
have 20 stores. For, for one to, you know, to be ready to more, to be more ready to scale.
The team we have now, I think is going to be a core and important factor into our growth because. There I’m. I’m
trying to develop leaders out of the current people to. As we grow, we’re going to have to obviously hire on more
opticians and more people in the stores. At those locations. And so we are really embracing. A lot of the
technology that, you know, like. You know, zoom meetings now on this not to be able to get into really managing
our retail business. With these virtual meetings so that we can be ready for, you know, more and more. Team
members, you know, all over the place.
But in terms of.
Metrics and, you know, that’s, that’s always the tough part. It’s just calculating. You know, What it’s going to
cost to open up essentially at the, you know, You know, find the right location. Do projections on how much
revenue we think you can do there. That’s a little research on competitors, obviously, and whatnot. And then to
just snap it out from there. Fantastic.
Kc Chohan 24:33
Yeah. So knowing your numbers, knowing. The area, the demographic. We’ve
Alex 24:37
got a lot of Intel from, you know, having our online store and seeing what other areas, you know, most of our
orders online are not in our local store areas. Most people that are local tours stores want to go into our
stores. Yeah. So we’re seeing where we’re getting interests from online and our traffic online. So that’s a big
factor in looking out for where. Locations. We’re interested in. But then also just, you know, on the wholesale
side too, we’re able to see where things are. Product is moving well.
Kc Chohan 25:07
Yeah. So it’s really important to one, know your numbers and your traffic sources, whether that’s an online
demographic of, Hey, we have a big pool of people in New York, Audra and our glasses are looking on our site
versus we have a lot of people in LA physically going into the store. What are the cost of opera? And in that
state, in that city look like how much inventory do we need to have? Do we need to have. A million dollars worth
of frames. Ready? Roll. Before we open the next door. What’s the impact on cashflow. So there’s a lot of different
moving parts when we get to physical products. And then on top of that medical as well, because then you need
medical equipment to do the eye tests and all of this other. Additional fixed overhead that may or may not be.
Necessarily for other types of businesses, so many different factors that layer into that decision. But I think
you start with the target and I think you’ve got the sales and marketing down very well and dialed in, but
ultimately if there’s traffic that. And the demand is there. Everything seems to fall off from that point, right?
Alex 26:08
Yeah, pretty much.
Kc Chohan 26:09
Right. Okay. So Alex, thanks for your time. Where is the best way for people to reach out to you? I’ll find the
brand online.
Alex 26:18
Yeah, we’re first, our website is Alexander dos. Dot com. And that’s D a s.com. You can also find us on Instagram
at Alexander dos or on Twitter at Alexander dos. You know, you can search us on Facebook too. My personal
Instagram is Alex F five. One nine. And on Twitter. I’m Alex. Solman. At the LDL man. So you can always reach out
to me like that too.
Kc Chohan 26:45
Perfect. Everyone listening. We will put the links down here below so you can get hold of Alex. And go check out
Alexandre. dusk.com. Thank you so much for your time, Alex.
Alex 26:56
Thank you very much. I really appreciate you having me. You got it. Right.
Kc Chohan 27:02
All right, buddy. Thank you so much. That’s a wrap.
Alex 27:06
Cool. Thank you very much. I appreciate it

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