Crann’s Eoin McGuinness on e-commerce and sustainable sunglasses

25 Feb 20201.16k Views

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Eoin McGuinness. Image: Crann

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We spoke to Crann founder Eoin McGuinness about the business of selling sunglasses and watches made from sustainable materials.

Eoin McGuinness is the founder of sustainably focused fashion brand Crann, which specialises in sunglasses and watches. The start-up sells accessories made from sustainable materials including recycled plastic, metal and wood, with the aim of using materials that would otherwise end up in landfill.

“I’m from a very entrepreneurial family, which is where my love of business and everything about it came from,” McGuinness told Siliconrepublic.com.

“At an early age, I was always doing something like selling fish on holidays door-to-door as a child. I’ve always enjoyed doing things a little differently.”

Prior to setting up Crann, Meath-native McGuinness worked in software in Dublin, gaining experience in marketing, sales, operations and customer support. But in 2018, he decided it was time to start his own venture.

“The idea for the products was very simple – use only recycled and eco-friendly material,” he said.

“We wanted to innovate designs as well as keeping to the classics. Finding the right manufacturer was tricky, but we have been able to find a manufacturer in south-east Asia who sources the materials and manufactures the sunglasses and watches.”

As well as focusing on accessories made from 100pc recycled materials, the company is also partnered with the Native Woodland Trust to help protect woodlands in Ireland.

Running an e-commerce platform

McGuinness said that the products are shipped to the company’s distribution centre and HQ in Meath, where his team runs an e-commerce platform.

“We use Shopify for several reasons, but mainly due to the speed, uptime and the vast library of APIs and apps. It allows Crann to be leaner with a small team,” he said.

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“The other tool I couldn’t live without is Hubspot, which is my CRM for marketing automation, social posting, reporting and content planning. Shopify and Hubspot have a two-way integration, so it helps to make the process as clean as possible.”

McGuinness also highlighted Hotjar, Facebook retargeting and AdRoll as important tools for growing the business.

“We have also been working with Irish-owned company Booster Apps, which has helped massively with SEO – that’s something I’ve learned over time is like gold when it’s done correctly.”

Growing the business

McGuinness said that customers have responded well to the products so far, helping the business to grow steadily. Last year, RSVP Magazine named his product as Best Sunglasses of 2019, which the founder described as “a massive reward” for the company.

When asked about the challenges in setting up this kind of business, McGuinness said: “For me personally, it’s learning all of the processes involved in sourcing materials, manufacturing and project managing, while being thousands of miles away. This has been eye-opening for me and something I really enjoy, but it has had its sleepless nights.

“Another challenge is the aspect of time when it comes to testing. You need to know why customers aren’t converting and exactly what they want. Without continued research it’s not going to happen and with a lean team this can be hard.”

‘Find a good mentor who has done it all before to run ideas by and get started’
– EOIN MCGUINNESS

As a founder, McGuinness said that he looks up to Nike creator Phil Knight. “I find his story so interesting and everything he has done is based on passion, innovation and grit. He created a new market by innovating, marketing and believing in a product he was passionate about.

“I think he would have some wonderful insights into why having a product you are passionate about drives the most amazing things to happen and to think outside the box.”

When it comes to advice for others considering starting a business, McGuinness said that there are lots of brilliant podcasts out there worth checking out. In particular, he recommended The Entrepreneur Experiment by Gary Fox.

“They hold no punches and it shows what it takes to be a business owner, without all the glamour that’s connected with being an entrepreneur today.

“It takes eight hour weeks, sleepless nights and a lot of stress. If that excites you and you understand what it takes, then find a good mentor who has done it all before to run ideas by and get started. Don’t overthink it or try and do it alone!”

Kelly Earley is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com