It all started with a conversation over dinner between two friends, Anton Syzdykov and Steve Nelson. Their exchange centered around how difficult it was for them to find high-end eyewear on the west side of Cleveland, Ohio. And as executives in international business, they could easily see an opportunity existed to fill this need for other discerning consumers in the area. With careful planning over time and with the help of the SBA, the two men expanded that idea into a reality, and in late 2013 Eye Candy Optical, LLC., an extraordinary optical boutique, was born.
Eye Candy Optical caters to a demanding, stylish clientele that is willing to pay for the finest in eyewear. The boutique’s inventory is akin in value and beauty to fine jewelry, and Mr. Syzdykov and Mr. Nelson have traveled the world to find the best in optical designs. In addition, the company prides itself on first-class – yet approachable – service. Eye Candy’s opticians, who are rigorously trained well beyond the requirements of their profession, work with clients to help them find the right look and fit of eyewear. The owners know that their financial investment in their staff greatly contributes to repeat clients. “We have not only created jobs but GOOD jobs with real living wages.” stated Mr. Nelson. “Our opticians are able to earn 25% above the market rate. No minimum wages paid here.”
While the company is now successfully attracting a strong following, it faced significant challenges as it first came into being. It opened in the December of 2013 , virtually in a snowstorm. In addition, the company found some degree of complication as it searched for start-up financing. “It is pretty tricky to get financing in today’s business climate.” said Mr. Syzdykov. “There are a lot of things you need to get right and they actually start much earlier in your life than you think.”
The owners were able to make sure that Eye Candy was secure in its financial foundation prior to its start, in part through an SBA 7(a) loan for $230,000, financed through JP Morgan Chase. The loan was used during the early-most stages of their business for operating funds and the design and creation of Eye Candy Optical’s beautiful space. SBA 7(a) loans may be used for a wide variety of purposes, including establishing a new business or assisting in the acquisition, operation or expansion of an existing business. “You can bet we did some big time celebrating when we got the phone call saying our SBA was approved!” said Mr. Syzdykov.
Adding to the success of the company is the partners’ experience in business. As high-level fortune five-hundred company executives with advanced degrees in business, they have direct experience guiding companies into wealth and creating jobs. In addition, their international business experience gives them the confidence and openness to try new things with their services and inventory. “We use a global framework to filter through our local Eye Candy strategies and challenges,” said Mr. Syzdykov. “When you work with many different businesses abroad, you see a lot of action. We look at a local issue or problem and say, to ourselves ‘how did this one play out in the Bahamas’ or ‘this seems a lot like what our customer in Columbia faced’,” said Mr. Nelson.
The owners look forward to the expansion of their company to other locations. “Isn’t it everyone’s dream to be their own boss?” Mr. Nelson states, “How many people work in corporate jobs and think to themselves ‘if I’d own the company I would do X, Y or Z’ but they never have the power, influence of budget to take something to the next level.”
With the 7(a) SBA loan program and careful planning, Eye Candy Optical has met or bested all its projections since the boutique opened, created good jobs and is leading its owners to fulfilling their dreams.