Schroeder: What words of advice do you have for entrepreneurs building a community?
Loumis: When you tap into and work with your customers on a very deep level, they are essentially part of the company and they feel like they’re part of the company. While we only have 6,500 members that’s equivalent to 200k+ members for other startups because the retention is so high for us. I’d rather have 10k loyal customers than 10M because they’re interacting with the company and they’re moving the company up. Every new customer we get is obsessed with what we’re doing… not only is that really good for retention but it’s really good for growing it. Our tribe is growing because we’re bringing authenticity and recruiting the people who are aligned with us. Instead of spending money on numbers we’re going for quality.
Schroeder: Tell me more about Ellison’s social impact.
Loumis: When I was participating in Doctors Without Borders, I fell in love with an eye organization called the Himalayan Cataract Project which was giving people their eyesight back. I realized how big the problem was and I wanted to be able to impact that problem. This was around the time Tom Shoes was just getting launched so this one for one model was very innovative. I thought to myself, if there’s a one for one model what if I was to do an eye for an eye.
I knew at the time there was a market gap when I created this. There’s essentially two big players that own the rights to licensing to some of the biggest brand names that everybody buys. What they do is they buy these brand names and then they artificially inflate the prices 10-20x the cost to manufacture them. I knew there was a way to create a better product at a better price, and that’s the idea behind our membership model.
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This article originally appeared on Forbes.com