Safilo bought a majority stake in the local startup, leaving founder and CEO Chase Fisher at the head
A billion-dollar Italian eyewear giant has acquired a majority stake in Blenders, a popular San Diego-based sunglass startup, pegging the local company at a $90 million valuation.
Founded by 31-year-old Chase Fisher, a Pacific Beach local and longtime surfer, Blenders has become a household name across the nation.
The deal comes just two months after the Union-Tribune profiled the startup’s fast growth. Launched in 2011, Blenders only recently exploded online. In 2016, the company brought in $1.3 million in sales. This year, the company expects to hit $42 million.
The Italian company, Safilo Group, has purchased a 70 percent stake in Blenders, leaving the remaining 30 percent with Fisher. The startup will keep its headquarters in San Diego, and Fisher will keep his role as CEO.
Known for colorful lenses and beachy styles, Southern California is a big part of the company’s branding. Blenders plays up its roots in San Diego, pulling inspiration from the local lifestyle to influence its design and branding. People around the world are buying sunglasses Fisher named after local neighborhoods. The North Park Collection — a series of glasses that sports a classic, rounded rim — is a customer favorite.
Currently, the company does about 95 percent of its sales online. Earlier his year, Fisher told the Union-Tribune that e-commerce can be a turbulent business. Internet promotions can go viral at a moment’s notice — it’s a blessing and a curse. Unexpected demand puts immense pressure on inventory management.
“You can go from selling seven pairs to 700 pairs overnight,” Fisher said in October. “In one month, we could sell anywhere from 6,000 to 40,000 units.”
Fisher said the acquisition has been in the works since May, coming together quickly from start to finish. He said the deal will allow Blenders to expand internationally on a greater scale.
“Safilo’s product know-how and global distribution capabilities are the perfect complement to our digitally native business model, opening up worldwide expansion potential,” Fisher said in a statement.
Blenders also boosts Safilo’s e-commerce business and helps the giant better tap younger customers.
“Blenders’ skills in attracting millennial and Generation Z customers are formidable,” said Paul Altman, managing director and partner at The Sage Group, which represented Blenders in the transaction. “Blenders has an unparalleled grip on its targeted demographics, and expertly knows how to communicate with them to build sustainable, lifetime value.”