Contact lens and eye care distributor AC Lens has more than 75 employees and does business all over the globe− not bad for a company that was started out of an optometrist’s office near The Ohio State University in 1995.
In addition to contacts, AC Lens offers reading glasses, designer sunglasses and optical accessories, such as contact solutions and eyeglass repair kits. Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, that wasn’t always the case.
“We opened an optical office, entitled Campus Optical, at 15th and High Street, and decided to offer contacts online as a sideline,” says its founder Peter Clarkson. “The company grew from that, eventually outgrowing the office and having to move to a warehouse/call-center space on the west side of town.”
AC Lens started selling contacts online and via mail order in 1996, making it one of the first companies to do so. Clarkson saw it as a means for growing the business, but there were naysayers.
“The Internet was very new when we started,” he says. “Many people thought selling contacts online would never work.”
The company’s success proved otherwise and it taught Clarkson a valuable lesson.
“Never be afraid to experiment,” he says.
AC Lens experienced six consecutive years of at least 50 percent growth in the late 1990s and early 2000s due to rapid adoption of the Internet and the increased availability of high-speed Internet. The company’s home has also proven to be an asset.
“Central Ohio offers many advantages for ecommerce firms, including location for quick delivery to 80 percent of the U.S. population, a highly skilled workforce fed by The Ohio State University and other surrounding colleges, and a rapidly growing tech industry that helps support our internal initiatives,” he says.
Fast shipping, low prices, great customer service, and innovative thinking that starts from the top down are what sets AC Lens apart from other contacts suppliers, he says.
“We lead the way in our industry, whether it’s being one of the first to grasp the benefits of a social internet, with our contact lens forums launching over a decade ago, to the addition of unique product lines our competition won’t add until they see how well we sell them,” he adds.
In light of the public’s growing interest in shopping local, Clarkson wants to make something clear: buying contacts online doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not supporting local business.
“All our employees are based right out of Central Ohio and while we sell eye care products internationally, we are all proud Central Ohio residents,” he says. “We also save people more than 50 to 70 percent off of what they would typically pay at an optometrist’s office. So Columbus residents can save money while still buying local through AC Lens.”
To learn more about AC Lens, visit ACLens.com.