VisionSpring & Warby Parker: A Clearer Vision

In my studies last week, I came across a non-profit organization that resonated with me as a group leading the type of change the world needs, and it reminded me that I hadn’t done a changemaker profile, since relaunching Mothering Humanity in May. This global social enterprise fits the bill as caring for humanity in a big way. The organization is VisionSpring.

According to VisionSpring’s website, Jordan Kassalow was 23 years old and on a “volunteer medical mission in the Yucatán Peninsula,” when the overwhelming need for eyeglasses for the poor and underprivileged became abundantly clear to him. In 2001, Kassalow founded the organization that later became VisionSpring, and to-date has helped in “changing millions of lives across the globe, one pair of glasses at a time.”

In addition to providing free eye exams, the organization offers ridiculously cheap eyeglasses for people around the globe who wouldn’t normally have access to optical services. As of this year, VisionSpring’s website boasts, “6.8 million glasses sold.” They also work with myriad entities around the globe training women and providing loans for them to start their own businesses providing eye care to their communities.

A decade after its founding, VisionSpring teamed up with the socially conscious company, Warby Parker, a carbon-neutral eyewear company that donates one pair of glasses to the VisionSpring mission for every customer-purchased eyewear.

CNBC offers a great in-depth spotlight on Warbly Parker and its founders Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal.

“We also want Warby Parker to influence the way business is done. If we can demonstrate that we can scale, be profitable, and do good in the world, without charging a premium for that, then hopefully that will influence the way that other executives and entrepreneurs run their businesses.”

-Neil Blumenthal, via interview with Lucy Handley, CSNBC

Although Warby Parker is a for-profit company, they have been hailed by Forbes, Inc.com, and more as a business with a conscience—focusing great attention and energy on their global impact and paving the way for other socially conscious businesses. Warby Parker claims, “Almost one billion people worldwide lack access to glasses, which means that 15% of the world’s population cannot effectively learn or work,” (Disruptor Awards) and they say their company and their partnership with VisionSpring is dedicated to changing that.

In my opinion, Warby Parker stands as a wonderful example of a business that doesn’t put profit over people.

When I first read about their partnership with VisionSpring in my marketing class, they were being hailed as innovators and marketing gurus, having basically invented on-line eyeglass shopping and creating an entire direct-to-consumer, e-commerce business that expertly deployed social media to interact with customers and adjust their business and operations models to fit client wants and needs. Their online engagement with customers via social media was a big factor in making their business a success, and fast.

It’s a marketing class and I’m a creative writing major, so basically what I really heard was, Blah, blah, blah… They care about customers and doing social good on a global level, and you can connect with them on Facebook. For some reason, it also brought the business model of TOMS shoes to mind. Brands that care. Brands that listen. Brands willing to take a chunk of their profits and give back to humanity. Essentially, brands that are changemakers.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise that paying attention to customers’ praise and complaints online and responding appropriately helps shape a successful business—but, apparently, many businesses haven’t caught on to this just yet. It also seems that companies taking social responsibility into account as part of their business model are faring better than others… So, hooray for that.

If Warby Parker is an example of the type of Millennial business—innovative, environmentally aware, customer responsive, and socially conscious—that we can look forward to in the future, then I’ll take my hat off to the generation that butts up against mine. As a matter of fact, I might even warm up to the label, or at least embrace “Xennial” fondly.

If you need a new pair of glasses and you’re trying to practice social distancing responsibly, Warby Parker is perfect. Check out their Facebook page for more info. They also just announced a refocus on “diversity, equity, and inclusivity” and a desire to combat systemic racism as part of their brand and business structure. What’s not to love about this socially woke company?!

According to the CNBC article, Blumenthal actually started under VisionSpring founder, Kassalow, as he built the pilot program that would eventually become VisionSpring, proving that great ideas of philanthropy and social awareness are contagious. Change inspires change!

Check out VisionSpring’s commitment to a better world in other areas such as equal employment (all the way up to their Leadership Team and Board of Directors), empowering women and girls (training women especially to perform eye exams in developing countries), offering women of color paid internship opportunities that include paid-travel for work, and their inspiring vision statement.

NOTE: I don’t receive any sponsorship on this blog whatsoever at this point in time. I’m simply highlighting these two organizations as part of my own learning process and in an effort to bring awareness to people who are putting humanity first and paving the way to a world in which I’d be happy to raise my children.

Luv&Hugs,

*Kristine*

Featured image courtesy of Binti Malu via Pexels.com

Millenial/Xennial image courtesy of Ketut Subiyanto via Pexels.com

One thought on “VisionSpring & Warby Parker: A Clearer Vision

  1. Hi Kristine,

    As another MFA student, I know what you mean about posting marketing homework on a blog that doesn’t cater to people who are into marketing, but I think you did an amazing job of working it in to yours. Smooth and seamless, I have to admit that I am impressed!

    When introducing the actual topic of Warby Parker’s strategy, you start off with their mission to help the needy, which is a great way to appeal to those who feel that helping others is the right thing to do. or, as the authors of our textbook puts it, “This socially conscious business strategy makes people feel good about changing their purchasing habits” (19). I noticed that Warby Parker didn’t stop there. The video on their Twitter feed of trying glasses on a sleeping baby reaches out to even more people, and emphasizes their brand as a product that will benefit everyone, even if said baby didn’t need glasses. The post alone made me smile!

    I also liked how you talked about brands and “how they care.” It’s true that companies like Warby Parker and TOMS shoes want to make a difference in the world, and not just their bank accounts, and I for one am glad to see this. We need more socially concious companies out there to make that difference.

    References

    Mahoney, L. M. & Tang Tang. (2017). Strategic social media: From marketing to social change. John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

    Like

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