Angie Stocklin: “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Founded One Click Ventures”
There is tremendous value in focusing on a small number of things and doing them really well. When we were starting out, it was common for our team members to take on many roles at a given time. This quantity over quality approach often led us down a path we didn’t want to be on regardless of the individual’s talent level. Once we shifted to breaking down specific objectives and goals for our team members to focus on in a given quarter and year, we quickly noticed an increase in the quality and pace of projects.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Angie Stocklin, Co-Founder and COO of One Click Ventures.
Prior to co-founding One Click, the parent company to three eyewear e-commerce brands: Readers.com, Sunglass Warehouse, and felix + iris, Angie Stocklin was a nationally certified school psychologist — having received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Evansville and her Ed. S. from Indiana State University. While Stocklin thrived working with students, it was her entrepreneurial aspirations that led her to start her business adventures with her partner. What started out as a small operation has grown to a 80+ person team located in Greenwood (IN). As co-founder and COO, Angie oversees business operations including customer service, order fulfillment, inventory and merchandising. On a regular basis, one will find Angie problem-solving, improving processes, cheering on her team, and speaking around the city of Indianapolis on topics including female empowerment, company culture, business failure, and much more. In her free time, you’ll find Angie traveling around the world, as well as reading just about any book she can get her hands on.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My journey to being a business owner began in 2005, when my partner and I decided to start a business. Turning to the online realm seemed like a good jumping-off point — we could easily set up everything we needed to do from home, while also maintaining our regular 9–5 jobs. Our first business concept we chose was online letters to Santa. This gave us a chance to explore all the various aspects of running a company, such as building a website, email and paid marketing, and an affiliate program. We enjoyed the process so much, that when the holiday season ended, we looked for our next project. Eventually, we went on to own 9 online companies at one point, before eventually selling off all of their brands except for our fastest-growing, highest-margin brands: eyewear, specifically the Readers.com and Sunglass Warehouse brands. These also happened to be the brands our team had the most conviction around.
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First, can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Starting out, we were a very small team. Initially, it was just my partner and I working out of a home office, so we had to juggle numerous roles and wear all the hats. In early 2006, we purchased SunglassWarehouse.com with money from our savings and vowed to spend every non-work hour pouring our heart and soul into learning as much as possible about retail and growing the business. We taught ourselves everything from photoshop to AdWords and made plenty of mistakes along the way. I eventually left my job in 2007 to work on the business full time, and my partner, Randy, followed in 2008. Today, we have around 80 amazing team members. It wasn’t easy at first having to fill all of the roles necessary to the business’ success with only two people, but we pushed through and persevered to the place we are today and we’re so grateful for everyone who’s helped along the way.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
When things got hard, we kept our end goal in sight. We knew we wanted to evolve into the world’s most people-focused eyewear company, and we knew it wouldn’t be easy. We poured everything we had into learning about retail and growing the business and we also surrounded ourselves with good people who would make things easier when the going got hard. We intentionally sought out to hire the best people we could find and to fill positions with individuals who were a good culture fit. When things got tough, it always made it a little bit easier to have others working alongside us who were positive and talented.
So, how are things going today? How did Grit lead to your eventual success?
Today, we own three successful e-commerce eyewear brands, Readers.com, Sunglass Warehouse, and felix + iris, and have over 80 amazing team members stemming from multiple departments including: marketing, technology, finance, merchandising, customer happiness, and fulfillment. Additionally, in Q4 of last year, we were purchased by eyewear retailer, Foster Grant International (FGX), and have been enjoying our partnership together ever since. Through our partnership with FGX, we believe we’ll have additional resources to grow our brands to new heights and to continue on in our mission as the world’s most people-focused eyewear company.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Very early into our life as entrepreneurs, we got a call that The Today Show would like see a sample of our sunglasses to use during a live segment. We happily sent what they wanted and excitedly waited to see if our sunnies would make the air. The morning of the segment, we gathered around the TV and high-fived as SunglassWarehouse.com flashed across the screen. A few minutes later, we realized that we only had two pairs of that certain style in stock and they both immediately sold out. And also? Our sites were down. We had completely crashed from the traffic of one TV segment. AND it crashed again when the segment aired on the West coast. We spent the rest of the day scrambling to see if we could purchase more of that style from our supplier and answering emails and calls from customers looking to purchase what they’d seen on TV. While it wasn’t funny at the time, our lack of awareness and preparedness during that time makes me laugh now. We quickly learned the importance of stocking up for PR placements, and making sure our servers could handle sudden spikes in traffic.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our focus on people has always made our company stand out. The intense focus on people starts with hiring which is the single most important thing we do as a company. We are not perfect but we work hard to hire people who are fully aligned with our core values and inspired by our mission. Once team members are hired, we have a very thoughtful and intentional onboarding process to reinforce expectations that were set during the hiring process and educate new team members on every facet of our business. With the right person in the right seat that understands our business and what is expected of them, it’s important our team members are cared for and supported every step of the way. We ask a lot out of folks and if they are not inspired by our mission and what we are working together to accomplish as a team, it’s going to be difficult for them to perform at a high level.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Schedule time for things you enjoy and hold yourself accountable for making it happen. For example, I purchase monthly gym memberships and sign up for classes at least one week in advance because I know that I’m more likely to attend if it is pre-scheduled and people are expecting to me to be there. I also learned over time that I cannot do it all myself. I originally had the mindset that I needed to keep control of all of the important tasks on my team to ensure they were done on time and to my expectations. The truth is, however, that I learned I could trust my team to carry more weight when I stopped long enough to teach them and set proper expectations. My job is to make sure everything is completed daily, but that doesn’t mean I have to do all of those things myself. It isn’t scalable.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Alongside fellow team members, we’ve cultivated a strong company culture and worked to empower individual team members to make One Click successful, therefore, I credit much of my success to the talented individuals who work tirelessly for our brands each and every day. Without my team, I don’t think we’d be in the same position we are today. And outside of work, the individuals who I work alongside every day have become some of my closest friends. They’re the people I choose to spend time with when I’m not working and who I turn to in tough times. I’m extremely thankful for my team.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
As I’ve mentioned, our mission at One Click is to become the world’s most people-focused eyewear company and we take that to heart. Our three main pillars are team members, customers, and community, so we try our best to evenly support all three groups. However, on the community side of things, we partner with Timmy Global Health, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit that expands access to healthcare in other countries, to provide monetary and supply-based donations. We are their exclusive eyewear partner and we donate thousands of pairs of reading glasses and sunglasses a year to give to people who are in need of necessary eyewear.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- When hiring, never compromise.
There was a time at Readers.com when we were prioritizing the speed of getting someone into an open role rather than taking time to make sure that our values aligned and that they actually had the necessary skills to perform at a high level. This approach resulted in a series of hiring mistakes that took several months to uncover from. It was painful and stressful, but we were able to learn so much.
One of our biggest takeaways, as we peeled back the layers of the hiring process, was to hire for attitude and not always place a premium on experience. Because of that, we hire people who are not only aligned with our values but also someone that has an amazing attitude and is really passionate about the work that they will be doing for us.
2) Be intentional about defining your company culture — or it will be defined for you.
Early on, we felt like modeling the behavior that we wanted to see from our team would be enough to set a positive tone for our culture. We learned that we were very wrong. It actually took us a while to figure out why the culture we desperately wanted was slipping from us. Finally, we figured out that as leaders, we had to create structure for our team.
To define our core values and company mission, we solicited feedback from our team and immediately had a retreat to hammer out the details. We wanted everyone to have a voice in the process, which overall helped with alignment and buy-in. Since that initial meeting, we’ve used our core values as the backbone of our company culture and have actively worked to ensure that our company remains grounded by what we believe in.
3) It is extremely important to create a strong peer network and a group of advisers.
When is the last time you had all of the answers and everything figured out? If you are like us, the answer is never. Since the beginning, we had to teach ourselves everything we needed to know and worked hard to learn as much as possible in spaces we knew nothing about. We didn’t do this because we thought it was best, but because we didn’t know any better. Here in Indianapolis, we are surrounded by a vibrant business community that is full of people who are willing to help, and we’ve leaned on groups of advisors throughout the years more times than we can count.
4) There is tremendous value in focusing on a small number of things and doing them really well.
When we were starting out, it was common for our team members to take on many roles at a given time. This quantity over quality approach often led us down a path we didn’t want to be on regardless of the individual’s talent level. Once we shifted to breaking down specific objectives and goals for our team members to focus on in a given quarter and year, we quickly noticed an increase in the quality and pace of projects.
5) It is important to work with vendors and partners that are aligned with your values and work style.
Our team places a premium on data and analytics but this isn’t the case with every company. We learned this the hard way when working with a media buying partner last year. Our partner at the time was very good at their core function. However, they did not apply the same rigor to data collection and analysis as we do which led to our team being forced to take on the majority of the reporting which should have been owned by the media firm. In addition, conversations regarding results were oftentimes difficult because we were looking at the data in a different way than the media firm. This experience was a good reminder of the importance of ensuring there is clear alignment on the collection and use of data to make decisions.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
If I could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, I would work to bring eyewear to every person who needs it in the world. Eyewear is such an important necessity, yet oftentimes, it’s forgotten about. Not only do people need prescription glasses in order to see correctly, but they also need reading glasses to help them read as they age and sunglasses to help protect their eyes from the harsh UV rays from the sun. Eyewear shouldn’t be a luxury, and I’d love to see every person receive the eyewear they need and deserve.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow One Click Ventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @OneClickVentures, or any of our brands at Sunglass Warehouse (@SunglassWarehouse), Readers.com (Readersdotcom), or felix + iris (@felixandiris).
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!