Warby Parker: Best New Artist
Warby Parker is a design-world darling; it’s also a rising star in the world of social enterprise. After just two years in business, it has already impacted hundreds of thousands of lives with its buy-one-give-one business model for eyewear.
Glasses do more than just improve vision or help people look cool. According to Warby Parker, among bottom of the pyramid recipients, they can increase an individual’s productivity at work by 35 percent and boost their income 20 percent, a huge step toward escaping poverty. And the potential to scale this impact is enormous—almost a billion people across the planet are without access to glasses.
So for every pair of glasses it sells, Warby Parker provides one pair to someone in need. To date, the company has helped distribute over 100,000 pairs in emerging markets. And NYC fashionistas benefit too. For years, the optical industry, controlled by a few large companies, kept prices of glasses artificially high. By designing its own frames and working directly with manufacturers, the company circumvents traditional channels to drastically cut costs—its high-quality prescription eyewear is available for just $95.
So far, people have responded enthusiastically. To keep up with demand, the company hired more than 50 employees in its first 18 months. Warby Parker has also been recognized as a breakout company in publications such as Time, Entrepreneur Magazine and AdAge. It’s expanding into boutique shops across the United States and opened its very own storefront in New York.
Our success means success for others around the world.”
So it can focus on managing its own rapid growth, Warby partners with innovative organizations such as the nonprofit VisionSpring to distribute its give-one glasses overseas. For example, Warby partners create micro-franchise opportunities for entrepreneurs in emerging markets to sell Warby glasses as affordable prices. “Our partners are helping create jobs, and our glasses are great tools at alleviating poverty,” said Lane Wood, Director of Social Innovation.The company works to empower its nonprofit partners across multiple fronts. In addition to financial support, Warby Parker staff help the organizations with website design, social media strategy, and public relations. Their stronger partners can then operate more effectively and help more people.
Expanding into boutiques across the United States, creating new frames, and fostering exciting collaborations with designers and nonprofits, Warby Parker is positioned to explode. And others think so too. Warby is backed by mainstream venture capital, and insists that “as we scale and sell more glasses, we will maintain our model of buy a pair and give a pair,” Wood said. “We have a commitment that our success means success for others around the world.”
Find out more about Warby Parker