James Murray Wells

James Murray Wells

James Murray Wells is an English entrepreneur who owns and runs Glasses Direct (an online retailer of spectacles in the UK) which he started whilst a university student. Currently (2008), he is aged 24.

Early life

Murray Wells attended Harrow School before attending the University of the West Of England to read English, with the intention of studying Law subsequently. Highland Capital Partners profile, http://www.hcp.com/news/newsdetails.php/id/53823 ] Federation Of Small Businesses profile, http://www.fsb.org.uk/data/default.asp?ID=75&loc=conference2007]

His father is an investment analyst and his maternal grandfather, Wendell Clough, helped bring Ford and Chrysler to the UK.

Glasses Direct

While studying for his final university examinations, Murray Wells discovered that he needed to start wearing spectacles. Surprised by the high price quoted by an optician, he contacted first manufacturers and then individual workers until a technician told him that a pair of glasses selling for £150 costs only £7 to make. Inspired by this, he created a website selling spectacles directly to the public, initially funding his business using the remains of his student loan, establishing the first online retailer of spectacles in the UK's traditionally highly controlled, arguably monopolistic spectacles market. (See the article UK Opticians (retailers) for a discussion of industry structure.)

In its first year of business, Murray Wells' new company Glasses Direct sold 22,000 pairs of glasses, and had an annual turnover of £1m. www.startups.co.uk/6678842910549345769/murray-wells-named-top-entrepreneur.html]

When starting Glasses Direct, Murray Wells adopted a dog as an office mascot called Sapphie, who he loved for "her quiet discreet nature." He later named a pair of spectacles frames after her. [ [http://www.glassesdirect.co.uk/release_000/product_30000156.html Sapphie frames on Glasses Direct] ]

Feud with Specsavers

Several established chains of conventional bricks and mortar opticians attempted to close down Glasses Direct with legal and regulatory threats, leading to a particularly bitter feud between Murray Wells and the offshore based chain Specsavers. [ The Observer observer.guardian.co.uk/business/story/0,6903,1446134,00.html ] Financial Times http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/b40f6a84-7352-11db-9bac-0000779e2340.html] These attempts have to date failed, and now seem to be abandoned, with Specsavers itself now attempting to sell spectacles online.

When Specsavers tried to stop Glasses Direct from trading, Murray-Wells published their lawyers’ letters on his website, where they remained until the embarrassed lawyers used copyright to force their removal. Murray Wells then replaced the letters with a note explaining why they were no longer there. [ [http://www.glassesdirect.co.uk/release_000/specspensive.php Specsavers & Glasses Direct price comparison ] ] Murray-Wells also sent out men dressed as sheep to Newcastle city centre to hand leaflets explaining how much cheaper his products were than those of high street opticians, suggesting that spectacle wearers were being "fleeced". Specsavers threatened and then abandoned legal action.


Murray-Wells won the 2005 Shell Livewire award for entrepreneurship, the 2005 Startup Award, the 2005 Wales and West Country Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the 2005 Natwest Business of the Year and Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and the 2006 Isambard Kingdom Brunel Young Entrepreneur Award.

Political activity and business advocacy

Political advisory roles

Murray Wells has served as an advisor on business and enterprise to both the UK's current Labour Party government and the Conservative Party opposition. He is currently an advisor for the Shadow Chancellor, George Osbourne. [ [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/columnists/columnists.html?in_article_id=494348&in_page_id=1772&in_author_id=230 Battle of a dame and a damsel | the Daily Mail ] ]

Taper relief

Murray Wells has taken part in the campaign by UK entrepreneurs against the changing of UK taxation laws to end Taper Relief, arguing that this change will damage the prospects of future entrepreneurs and start-up companies. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/b40f6a84-7352-11db-9bac-0000779e2340,dwp_uuid=033e5be0-57b7-11db-be9f-0000779e2340.html FT.com]

Promoting entrepreneurship

In addition to his involvement with the taper relief campaign, Murray Wells has been a keynote speaker at the Federation of Small Businesses annual conference [ www.fsb.org.uk/data/default.asp?id=119&loc=conference2007] and has taken part in events aimed at promoting entrepreneurship to school children.


Murray Wells has expressed a strong interest in Web 2.0 and disruptive technologies and business models. He took part in organizing a Flash Crowd event as part of the taper relief campaign, Flash meeting on Taper relief reported by Daily Telegraph http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/politics/brassneck/oct07/entrepreneurs-call-flash-meeting.htm ] and his website Idea Volcano is designed to promote collaborative open source problem solving between entrepreneurs.

Murray-Wells seems to make a habit of searching for blogs that refer to Glasses Direct on the Internet, replying to them and occasionally adopting customer suggestions. [ [http://markharrison.wordpress.com/2007/03/27/do-you-wear-glasses-if-so-how-about-this/ Do you wear glasses? If so, how about this? « Negotiation, Negotiation, Negotiation ] ]


Murray-Wells asked customers to write about Glasses Direct on Wikipedia, somewhat to the irritation of some Wikipedia editors - although no attempt seems to have been made to suggest "what" contributors should write. (See the history of .)

ocial life

Murray Wells is a close friend of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and was involved in advising Middleton with her own potential fashion business. [ [http://www.royalanecdotes.com/2006/07/13/kate-middleton-needs-glasses/ Royal Anecdotes » Kate Middleton Needs Glasses ] ]


External links

* [http://www.glassesdirect.co.uk Glasses Direct]
* [http://www.excellentvoice.co.uk/speakerdetail.php?id=61 Speaking engagement profile]
* [http://blog.ideavolcano.com/ Idea Volcano - collaborative entrepreneurship blog]
* [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2007/10/11/ccview111.xml Article on UK government's discouraging of entrepreneurs in the Daily Telegraph]

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