Small Business Profile: Kyly Rabin, Founder of Zak. - Los Angeles
Hi Kyly! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hello! I’m Kyly Zak Rabin, an LA native living in Silver Lake with my husband, Ryan. I spend most of my time on Fairfax at my brick + mortar location for my new company, Zak. – the 21st century approach to your eyes. My days are spent thinking about ways to make the eye care and eyewear experience more seamless and inviting while drinking a lot of tea!
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
My background is a combination of production, operations, fundraising, and marketing. After graduating from Northwestern University, I worked on the development team for the Board of Trustees at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and then transitioned into the start-up world. I had a front row seat to creating new business in marketing roles at varying start-ups in the food and beverage space, which was a particularly insightful education for all things Zak.
What led you to start Zak? What went into the decision to start a business with your father?
Zak. was born out of a casual dinner conversation with my dad, a veteran Optometrist. The eyewear industry is fragmented. We are streamlining the typically clunky process to provide a seamless one-stop shop for all our eye care and eyewear needs. Our ethos, design, culture, products and services are created to make taking care of your eyes easier for those with prescription needs while encouraging everyone to consider their eyes.
What are the values behind the business?
We all have eyes! Yet they typically do not get much attention. And those obligated to acknowledge them because of prescription needs are met with an antiquated optometric model that doesn’t effectively marry medical, retail, and the modern consumer.
A commitment to your well-being should include your eyes. We’ve re-examined eye care to inspire awareness and offer the products and services to do it better, more affordably and without compromising quality.
Our concept, aesthetic and brand values create a physical and digital destination that makes people want to take care of their eyes while providing an uncomplicated service and shopping experience. Zak. frames make it simple (6 shapes, 2 weights, 3 colors) while our services elevate the entire experience, making the process more seamless, palatable and encouraging for everyone.
What went into the design of your frames? What can people choose from when they purchase from Zak?
In order to be a one-stop shop, it’s necessary that we provide a competitive accessible eyewear line as the demand is ever growing. Our product is not just affordable (starting at $125 including frame and prescription), but it solves for what can be a very overwhelming selection process: too many styles resulting in indecision, the frame you like doesn’t come in the color you want, and everything starts to look the same as there are endless riffs on the same shapes (frustrating!).
35 years of sales data from my dad’s practice brought us to 6 unisex centralized frame shapes. The style names, The Really Round, The Round, The Square, The Rectangle, The Cat, The Pilot are deliberately simplistic identifiers. Each shape is available in 2 weights (thin or thick), 3 colors (black, tortoise + translucent) and as optical or sunglass.
The goal is to combat the typically oversaturated selection process making it more consistent while providing styles that are timeless and unfussy.
When creating your space, what did you want your customers to feel when they visit?
Every touch point in the Zak. journey is infused with great care and thoughtfulness to best communicate our vision and showcase our services/products.
A doctor’s office is inherently a place that encourages us to consider our well-being and yet most often the environment does not lend itself to making us feel our best (unflattering lighting, uncomfortable fabrics, that off 80’s wall paneling etc). Zak. was designed with the goal of elevating and modernizing the look and feel of being in a doctor's office while maintaining a functional space that seamlessly integrates technical services and design in order to create a hybrid retail space and medical practice focused on enjoyable and comprehensive customer experience. We are encouraging our customers to consider their health and it’s essential to provide an environment where they feel their best and even better, are inspired. The goal of the design is to transform the “obligation” of an eye exam to eager participation.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
Sight allows us to experience the world and keeps us safe, which is profound! Creating a space and brand with products and services that educate, entice and impact our community and health is unbelievably exciting.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face?
Starting a business is incredibly challenging. You have to have the will to muster through it (lots of it). Deciding how to spend limited funds is crucial. I wear a lot of hats and take on too much. I’m working on delegating and making sure I’m hiring the right team members to support our growth.
What are some of your short/long term goals?
Long term, we’re using the first Zak. location and all of its varying service/product offerings to collect data that will illuminate the best path forward. We’d love to have select Zak. locations around the country and connect with, educate, provide products and services digitally that allow and encourage people to consider their eyes.
Short term, I’m eager to work with graphic designers, artists and creatives to expand our visuals and make the Zak. experience as interactive as possible.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
By supporting each other, we can more successfully level the playing field. Women are insightful, empathetic, wildly smart and nuanced – our perceptions, opinions, and needs will become more mainstream as a defined unit.
We have a series called Purchase from Women - what women-owned businesses are you encouraging with your dollars?
Love this! I have lots of very talented friends who make incredible products. I’m fueled, inspired and guided by the support of all my female friends and founders. I encourage everyone to check out:
Reset & Rewind: incredible hand-sewn and hand-marbled sleep masks (we sell them at Zak.!)
Bani: thoughtful and interesting handcrafted cord bags and clutches
Besito: your new favorite vape! (the mint is my favorite)
What have you learned from creating your own business that you think can apply to any creative endeavor
It’s really easy to compare your company or self to other brands or entrepreneurs. There is such an emphasis especially now on “unicorn companies” and businesses that have raised multiple rounds of funding to achieve massive growth. I constantly remind myself that every company is different, and that the path we’re on with Zak. is right for us.
On a small team, there is no job too big or too small. Some days I change light bulbs, some days I have a light bulb idea for a new product offering. We all literally do it all. Being humble and active are key.
I realized early on that I was not being an effective listener. I was always doing something else (because there was always something else to be done) when my team was sharing insights, telling me about a challenge, or coming up with new ways to make our process more efficient. I cannot over emphasis the importance of quality listening and being present. I’m continuing to iterate on how our team receives and gives feedback, but quality listening is a core value.
Do you have any creative, business, or female-centered resources that have been helpful to you that we should know of?
I’ve found that one of the most important support systems in my life is other entrepreneurs. I have amazing female friends who are also launching brands in Los Angeles, and our communal dinners, laughs and frustrations have been overwhelmingly important to my sanity and personal growth as a leader. Find your tribe and ask your network for introductions to other female founders.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
When starting a new business, sometimes everything feels like a mistake. And then you quickly realize those “mistakes” are meaningful learning experiences. There aren’t definitive rules or handbooks for this kind of thing – we consistently iterate on protocol to provide the best products and services possible. I’m learning to not beat myself up over these “mistakes” and let go of the little things in pursuit of a bigger impact.
What are some of your favorite places in LA?
My favorite spots near Zak. are Badmaash, our neighbor and also a family business, for incredible modern Indian cuisine and Catwalk, a vintage store that’s been on the block for over 20 years. I’ve been shopping here since my High School days! The Silver Lake Reservoir for long walks or picnicking in the meadow with friends is an east side go to along with The Raven, for an amazing and affordable Thai massage.
Find Kyly at:
416 N. Fairfax Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90036