Warby Parker’s visionary business model
By Leslie T. Snadowsky
Warby Parker was founded in 2010 with a mission to inspire and impact the world with vision, purpose and style. It’s focused on becoming one of the most impactful brands in the world, inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs and consumers, transforming the eyewear and eye-care industry through design and innovation, considering its stakeholders in everything they do and proving that businesses can scale while doing good in the world and without charging a premium for it.
In 2021 Warby Parker became the first public benefit corporation to go public via a direct listing, and as a public company it remains committed to its core values of integrity, creating positive change and finding fun in what it does.
With more than 160 stores, including one in Charleston, Warby Parker sells glasses that go the distance and are more than what meets the eye.
In 2020 Warby Parker opened a store at 415 King St. in Charleston. Sandy Gilsenan, Warby Parker’s senior vice president of retail, said the location was a perfect fit.
“We love being a part of this community,” she said. “King Street, specifically, is in the heart of downtown, with the College of Charleston, the Medical University of South Carolina and the Citadel nearby. It continues to be a bustling street for shopping, eating, drinking, arts and culture.
“Inside our store customers can find our full optical and sun eyewear offerings, including our new Holiday 2022 collection as well as our first brand of daily contact lenses, Scout by Warby Parker, third-party contacts and a full-time optometrist. Customers can book exams easily on our website. We also partnered with artist Hampton Boyer to create beautiful custom artwork for this store.”
Going the distance
Warby Parker meets its customers in a blink of an eye, wherever they are in-store, online or at home. Its groundbreaking Home Try-On program allows customers to try on up to five frames for five days for free, without ever having to leave their homes.
“When customers find a pair of eyeglasses they love, they can check out online with their prescription, and we’ll send them a fresh pair,” Gilsenan said. “We’re committed to increasing affordable, seamless access to holistic vision care and removing friction in the glasses and contacts buying process. We’ve found that customers really appreciate this customer-first approach, which has been valuable in retaining loyal and longtime shoppers. Our goal is always to make every touch point exceptional, whether it’s shopping in-store or from home with our Home Try-On program or Virtual Try-On tool, and, in return, we’re able to retain a loyal customer base. Our goal is to make shopping for glasses and contacts easier and more fun than it’s ever been before.”
See the light
Warby Parker also is known for its philanthropy and its “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” program. The company has donated more than 10 million pairs of glasses globally to date. Plus its Pupils Project works with local organizations and government agencies to give free vision screenings, eye exams and glasses to schoolchildren.
“This model eliminates barriers to access by providing free prescription glasses and meeting children at school, where teachers are often the first to spot vision issues,” Gilsenan said. “Our partners conduct the vision screenings and eye exams right in the students’ classrooms, which make things easy for the children and the parents. On our end we provide prescription glasses designed by our very own team specifically for these students. We know that style and personal expression are critical for everyone and believe that every child deserves the chance to have glasses that make them feel good about themselves. Students can select from more than 55 options. So far, Pupils Project has administered more than 800,000 vision screenings, 200,000 eye exams and provided more than 160,000 prescription glasses.”
Point of view
Warby Parker’s perspective when it comes to magnifying altruistic programs is that it helps grow companies and impacts company culture. It has pioneered ideas, designed products and developed technologies with the mission of vision for all.
“Doing good has been part of our business from the start, and that’s made it easy for us to scale our impact,” Gilsenan said. “Programs like Pupil’s Project help employees know that their work has a bigger impact, and that can help a business maintain a workforce that is motivated and engaged.”
Online not for you?
For many people, nothing beats trying on eyewear before they buy. Every face and head is different and eyewear often needs adjustments to sit just right. Eyeland Optical is a local eyewear boutique that provides service and stylish frames.