Eyecare entrepreneur starts business with minimal upfront costs

Jérôme Lapaire, CEO of Lapaire Glasses

Jérôme Lapaire, CEO of Lapaire Glasses

Swiss entrepreneur Jérôme Lapaire spotted an opportunity for affordable eyeglasses in Africa. Today, Lapaire Glasses has a presence in several African countries and has raised millions of dollars in investment.

What I like about the story of this company is how Lapaire started the business in Kenya with minimal setup costs. At the time, he had no connections in glasses manufacturing nor an established supply chain. But this didn’t stop him from launching the business.

What Lapaire did was he ordered a few dozen glasses from an overseas website using his credit card and presented them as Lapaire Glasses’ initial range.

“I did it totally freestyle,” said the thirty-something entrepreneur in an interview with How we made it in Africa. “I said, okay, where can I get eyeglasses? I know no supplier locally. I know no one in the industry. What can I do? And I went on an online website – you know, in the States, in Europe, you can buy eyeglasses online – and I was, ‘Okay, I’ll just order them online.’ I ordered thirty pairs of eyeglasses. They were shipped to me in Kenya, and I showed them as the Lapaire first models. Simple!”

“The setup costs were very limited. I did everything from my apartment at the very beginning,” he added.

After about six months of ordering glasses online, Lapaire partnered with a proper local supplier.

Lapaire’s approach shows you don’t need to have everything figured out before starting a business. Sometimes it is better just to start and begin getting feedback from the market. You also don’t need to make massive investments upfront, which is important if you are not yet sure about the level of demand for your products or services.

Read our full interview with Jérôme Lapaire: Entrepreneur capitalises on Africa’s demand for affordable eyeglasses