Reserved and soft-spoken, Dianna Seddon may not fit the stereotype of the extroverted, hard-charging American entrepreneur, but she’s setting a new trend in the world of fashionable eyewear with her Oxford-based startup, Neckglasses.
Her company’s products — which make ideal gifts for older women (and men) with a polished fashion sense — were featured on two top-rated ABC network shows in 2018 as well as the Home Shopping Network and HLN, and there’s more to come.
“It’s grown bigger and faster than we ever expected,” said Seddon, co-owner of Neckglasses, which specializes in contemporary reading glasses that double as necklaces and are just as fashionable as they are functional. “We’re just keeping our heads down and trying to stay on top of it.”
Seddon and Ganovsky introduced their product last year on the website, myneckglasses.com. Described as “jewelry with a purpose,” they’re reading glasses for the Anna Wintour set—smart, elegant and stylish, a far cry from the austere, homely readers your grandma used to wear for knitting.
Ganovsky, who lives in Windermere, Fla., developed the concept after her ophthalmologist suggested she buy a pair of readers from Walgreens to boost her eyesight for reading menus in dimly lit restaurants. “I was only 44 years old,” Ganovsky recalled. “The last thing I wanted was a pair of granny glasses. I tried on every pair of readers on the rack, looking for a pair that wouldn’t make me feel old and frumpy. Then I immediately lost the first pair I bought and kept losing others, too. Before long, the lady at Walgreens knew me on a first-name basis.”
Determined to create quick-view reading glasses that they could wear proudly (and keep up with), Ganovsky and Seddon began to collaborate on tasteful designs—functional readers disguised as chic, boutique-style lockets and pendants that can be folded and worn like necklaces and swiftly raised to the eye to scan a menu or a hard-to-read price tag in a shopping mall. They named the various designs, which soon included styles for men as well as women, after themselves, their children and other family members and close friends.
The two women launched Neckglasses with modest ambitions, hoping to get their eyewear in a few local boutique shops and go from there. Their marketing strategy changed, however, after Ganovsky contacted a producer at the Home Shopping Network (HSN), which showcased Neckglasses twice on its American Dreams program last winter.
Before long, other networks began showing an interest, including ABC. Good Morning America contributor Tory Johnson was so impressed by Neckglasses that she featured them on her “Deals and Steals” segment, which aired nationwide May 17.
“That morning was a whirlwind,” Seddon noted. “Our phones were ringing off the hook all day long and into the night. Most of the callers were women, and they all had questions. They were excited to find a product like this. A lot of them wanted to add to their orders. They weren’t just buying for themselves—they wanted to give them as gifts to their friends and loved ones.”
The “Deals and Steals” segment proved so successful that another ABC producer asked to feature Neckglasses on a “View Your Deal” segment of the popular morning talk show, The View, on July 9. The media blitz continued later this summer with CNN’s Robin Meade, who spotlighted Neckglasses on her HLN show, Morning Express.
Between those three shows, the company sold more than 27,000 units in just three months. Meanwhile, fashionistas in the United Kingdom began sporting Neckglasses when the London-based QVC UK network aired a segment on the product in late August. A second appearance on Morning Express is tentatively slated for January as well.
Ironically, getting their wares into retail stores has been a bigger challenge than netting international TV coverage. “From the start, we knew we had a product with wide appeal,” Seddon said. “But like most small businesses, we didn’t have the wide reach of a major wholesaler. When retailers see what we have to offer, they love it. But getting Neckglasses in front of retailers without a distributor is easier said than done.”
Enter another woman-owned company: The Grommet, an online B2B e-commerce marketplace and product discovery platform founded in 2008 by Jules Pieri and Joanne Domeniconi. The Grommet’s wholesale division serves as a bridge between small, independent makers like Neckglasses and retailers seeking innovative products to offer their customers. The platform uses its popular website and a vast email database to promote unique items ranging from kitchen gadgets and accessories to clothing, jewelry and even pizza ovens for home chefs.
“The Grommet was first interested in us for their retail site, but once they saw our product line, they wanted to go back and change our agreement so they could also offer Neckglasses through their wholesale network,” Seddon said. “We couldn’t sign up fast enough.”
The Grommet helped turn Fitbit—which makes a line of activity-tracking fitness products—into a household name. Others like Otterbox, SodaStream, Bananagrams, and Goldieblox received a huge boost in name recognition from The Grommet. “Karen and I see so much of ourselves in Jules and Joanne, and we’ve both been shopping on the site for years. It’s a pretty big thrill to know they thought Neckglasses was worth featuring.”
When they’re not managing incoming orders, selling their eyewear at trade shows around the country, and fielding calls from TV producers, Seddon and Ganovsky continue working on new designs and refining existing ones to meet rising demand for their readers.
“For a startup in a small town in Mississippi, this has gone beyond our wildest expectations,” Seddon said. “We knew we had a good idea. We just didn’t expect it to take off so quickly. But women in their 40s and 50s today still feel and look young and care about fashion. They may be mothers or even grandmothers, but they’re not grannies. They want reading glasses that fit their personalities and their lifestyles, and we’re excited to help them feel beautiful and stylish at any age!”
Written By Rick Hynum
Mississippi Business Journal