Sticks & Sparrow: Taking a sustainable view on sunglasses
Bec Bennett, the founder of Sticks & Sparrow, once vowed never to design sunglasses for crowded adult market. Then an unexpected discovery changed her mind.
Video: Animation of woman holding smart phone with an Australia Post parcel. Australia Post logo
Text: Small Business Smarts
Video: Woman facing camera, winking, laughing and smiling while trying sunglasses on. Rows of sunglasses on wooden shelves
Text: Lin Evlin Reporting
LIN: The sunglasses industry is fiercely competitive, estimated to be worth around $310 million in Australia
Video: Bec working behind the counter in her store, surrounded by sunglasses, serving a customer
LIN: But Bec Bennet has found her niche. Drawing on sustainable materials to make affordable sunglasses.
Video: Wide shot of store and Sticks & Sparrow logo
Text: Bec Bennett, Founder & Designer, Sticks & Sparrow
BEC: We use bamboo, we use wood and we use cork which are all recycled and sustainable. And we incorporate that into the design of the sunglasses.
Video: Sunglasses on display on wooden stands. Bec, holding a pair of sunglasses, Sitting at a table with more sunglasses and some plant samples
BEC: This is where we’re using some plants. So this is an Australian native Grevillia.
Video: Close up of plant samples
BEC: And we are drying out the leaves and that then gets laminated into the acetate material.
Video: Close up of a pair of sunglasses with the leaves from the plants clearly shown within the frame
Video: Exterior shot of “See the Good” sunglasses store showroom.
Text: Sticks & Sparrow’s new collection, Harvest, which features Australian foliage and flowers will launch in December.
LIN: For Bec, a previous career, spanning 15 years in the eyewear marketing industry, inspired her to launch her own sunglasses empire.
Video: Shots of interior of store, showing rows of sunglasses on shelves. Customer trying on sunglasses, with saleswoman talking to her.
Saleswoman to customer: So bamboo is very light weight…
Text: Bec also owns three other eyewear brands including Frankie Ray, a children’s sunglass range.
BEC: I am told by my family I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Loved as a kid creating, making product, setting up stalls, going to markets
Video: Customer in shop holding a pair of sunglasses, and wider shots of sunglasses in store. Shots of sunglasses cases, bags and other related accessories
BEC: I’ve always wanted to create products. And I really enjoy taking my learnings from each of the roles that I had across eyewear companies and piecing it all together. So, I couldn’t have enrolled in a better course to learn what I’ve been able to acquire over the last 10 years.
Video: Customer and saleswoman approach the store counter where Bec is waiting to help.
Bec to customer: “Hi, you decided on a pair?... Ooh, blush, lovely”
Video: Bec wraps up sunglasses for customer, while chatting to her.
LIN: And since launching Sticks and Sparrow five years ago, Bec has built a loyal following through trade and consumer shows and social media marketing
BEC: We have started doing some more consumer events, whereby we go to existing marketplaces and sell our product direct to customers there which is great to have that interaction.
Video: Shot of Sticks & Sparrow eyewear Instagram page and Instagram posts.
BEC: Instagram is a fantastic medium for us and it allows us to really get that sense of brand identity and style.
Video: Bec, walking through showroom with interviewer Lin Evlin.
Text: The Sticks & Sparrow range is also stocked in over 70 independent retailers across Australia.
BEC: This is my showroom…
LIN: Selling direct to shoppers online creates higher margins.
Video: Bec sitting in showroom on her laptop and looking at Sticks & Sparrow website.
LIN: But Bec soon realised customers wanted to try on specs before committing to a purchase.
Vide: Images from Sticks & Sparrow website.
BEC: The ‘try at home’ has definitely helped our e-commerce sales. Purchasing sunglasses is such a personal decision. You know you’re sunglasses are such a reflection of your identity and they’re very visible. We understand that. And therefore that service allows them to just take the pressure off and have more of a selection.
Video: Bec standing behind counter in showroom, writing on an Australia Post Parcel Post satchel, while a man next to her packs up a box of sunglasses and wraps in bubblewrap.
LIN: In order to make the ‘try at home’ concept possible, Bec has partnered with experts in ecommerce.
Video: Bec and man standing behind counter, with Bec talking.
BEC: Australia Post’s service has really enabled us to get this program up and running.
Video: Both Bec and man are polishing and packing sunglasses and looking at customer orders.
BEC: It makes it very cost-effective for us and it also allows us to get our product into the homes of our customers. One of the aspects of the Australia post services that we really value is the transparency of tracking
Video: Bec and man, her partner Nathan, standing behind counter
LIN: And, Bec’s partner Nathan also plays a key role in the business
Video: Nathan speaks while holding a customer order and packing sunglasses.
NATHAN: I’ve got a print out from our website with a customer who’s picked four pairs of sunglasses…
Video: Nathan packs four pairs of sunglasses in a case and then packs that in bubblewrap. He puts a folded Australia Post Parcel Post satchel inside the package for easy returns
NATHAN: We pack them in a sunglass case. Then we place them in Australia Post parcel packs, which we send out to the customer with a return-paid pack as well
Video: Shot of a customer and 2 young girls cutting open an Australia Post Parcel Post satchel.
Nathan talking in showroom. Shot of customer in a home setting, trying on sunglasses
NATHAN: From there the customer has 5 days to try them on and with no obligation gets to send them back to us, where we hopefully have an order that customer
Video: Customer sits on couch with 2 young girls and box of 4 sunglasses on her lap. Trying sunglasses on and discussing with girls.
Kids: “I like those ones”
Customer: “You think these are the ones?”
Kids: “Yeah, you should get them”
Video: Lin speaks to camera while sitting on couch in Bec’s showroom. Camera pans to shots of accessories on coffee table in front of her.
LIN: Bec is also expanding her product range, with a selection of accessories now available and more to come
BEC: We are definitely, in the next 12 months, looking at export opportunities.
Video: Shots of sunglasses on display shelves. Wide shots of showroom.
BEC: So at the moment, we’re researching like-minded markets that have an interest in eco-friendly products and sustainability
Video: Animation of woman holding smart phone with an Australia Post parcel. Australia Post logo
Text: Small business smarts
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Text: Small Business Secrets
As a child, Bec was repeatedly told by her family that she had an entrepreneurial spirit. She was a born creator who would set up stalls to sell her creations or take them to local markets to gauge people’s interest.
Her love for product design eventually led to her founding and launching EYETRIBE in 2008 with two kids’ eyewear brands under the label.
Soon after, Bec began noticing that among the hundreds of adult eyewear brands in the market, few were concerned with using sustainable material in their product design. That observation would become the point of difference for her next eyewear brand – this time in the adult market.
Bec began creating prototypes for friends and family. By the end of 2013, her collection had matured and she officially launched Sticks & Sparrow.
“We use bamboo, wood, and cork which are all recycled and sustainable,” she explains. “We incorporate these materials into the design of the sunglasses.”
The bamboo used to make the eyewear frames is sourced from one of the largest reservoirs in China. It’s lightweight but incredibly strong.
Sticks & Sparrow also has a strong Australian flavour. Bec incorporates Australian native plants, including the Grevillea, into the acetate material of selected designs. Acetate is a hypoallergenic plant-based plastic known for its strength and lightness.
Since its launch six years ago, Bec has grown the brand’s reach mainly through trade and consumer shows, and social media.
“We’ve started doing more consumer events, where we go to existing marketplaces and sell our product direct to customers. It’s great to have that interaction. As for social media, Instagram is a fantastic medium to showcase the brand identity and style.”
Letting customers shop at home
The other element that contributes to the company’s success is Sticks & Sparrow’s comparatively new Shop at Home service. They send multiple sunglasses to customers who have five obligation-free days to trial them. After that period they can send them back or keep those they like.
“This has definitely helped our eCommerce sales. Buying sunglasses is such a personal decision. They’re a reflection of your identity and very visible. We understand that and therefore, Shop at Home takes the pressure off our customers and gives them more of a selection.”
To make the Shop at Home service possible, Bec enlisted the help of Australia Post, and uses a MyPost Business account to keep track of all the deliveries. She also uses her account to create shipping labels, book parcel pickups1 and access 24/7 support2.
“Australia Post’s service has really enabled us to get this program up and running. It’s very cost effective and also allows us to easily get our products into our customers’ homes,” Bec says.
The partnership with Australia Post means Sticks & Sparrow can offer potential buyers the same experience they would have in a physical store without having to worry about the overhead costs.
Those savings, along with the general popularity of her products, means Bec is now able to concentrate on expanding the Sticks & Sparrow range. She’s now looking towards more audacious goals in the near future.
“We’re definitely looking at export opportunities within the next 12 months. At the moment we're researching like-minded markets that have an interest in eco-friendly products and sustainability.”