Warby Parker Hits One Million Glasses Sold, Distributed

More than a million pair of glasses have been distributed through Warby Parker’s Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program that launched with the company in 2010.

Speaking with co-founder and co-CEO Neil Blumenthal, he said this announcement comes with a big thank you.

“It’s a big milestone — so a thank you to our customers, a thank you to our nonprofit partners. Seven-hundred million people throughout the world need glasses and don’t have access to them so this is really a first step,” Blumenthal said. “I think that gives us more confidence that this is a solvable problem and we need to get more people involved.”

The way the program works is once a customer buys a pair of glasses, most of which are priced at $95, the company tallies up the number sold at the end of the month and donates a certain amount to one of its nonprofit partners such as VisionSpring or Community Enterprise Solutions. Blumenthal said he could not clarify how much of the proceeds from the glasses sold are used for donations to VisionSpring.

About 563 million people can have their vision restored with a pair of glasses, according to VisionSpring.

Like Warby Parker, the partners rely on third-party groups to manufacture the glasses to distribute.

A partner such as VisionSpring, which has offices in places such as India and Central America, then trains low-income men and women to start their own businesses giving eye exams and selling glasses in their communities. VisionSpring works with these entrepreneurs to see what they can price these glasses in each.

Blumenthal, who was the second employee at VisionSpring and soon after became director, said in many rural communities in India or Bangladesh, roughly 10 percent of someone’s monthly income was the amount people would pay for a pair of glasses. This could range from $3 or $5 in parts of India or Bangladesh, and $7 or $8 in parts of Central America.

“The beauty of the VisionSpring model is by selling the glasses, they treat the people they’re trying to help as value-conscious customers rather than needy beneficiaries, so they actually offer good customer service and they design glasses according to the style for the community they are working,” he said.

VisionSpring avoids a “culture of dependency” and creates an incentive for continued distribution through this method.

A pair of glasses can improve an adult’s productivity by 35 percent, and about 18,000 women and men have been trained in 35 countries.

Based on these most recent figures, it appears Warby Parker has nearly doubled its sales since last July.

Blumenthal said the world needs more examples of companies that do good, and he hopes Warby Parker’s work inspires not only aspiring entrepreneurs, but also Fortune 1000 executives.