But what were the actual steps the team took to take Warby Parker from an idea to business? Blumenthal shares how Warby Parker started by dramatically simplifying their message to focus on fashion first, price second, and social mission third. They then “shouted the idea from the rooftops” to get as much input as possible.
Next, they took a series of rapid but small steps to iterate until launching with a series of inexpensive, but impactful, marketing tactics like creating a behind the scenes “annual report” that was spread widely around the web. “You build trust by giving it away. Brands can do better than sitting in the Ivory Tower,” says Blumenthal. “If you want to build deep relationships you have to show some warts.”
Warby Parker designs and sells vintage-inspired frames and prescription lenses for $95 whereas comparable quality glasses cost $500. For every pair sold, a pair is given to someone in need. To date, Warby Parker has distributed over 100,000 pairs to those in need around the world.
Neil had been the Director of VisionSpring, a non-profit social enterprise that trains low-income women to start their own business selling affordable eyeglasses to individuals living on less than $4 per day in South Asia, Africa and Latin America. He was responsible for developing VisionSpring’s award-winning strategy (Fast CompanySocial Capitalist Award ’08, ’07 and ’05) and expanding VisionSpring’s global presence from one to 10 countries. In 2005, Neil was named a Fellow for Emerging Leaders in Public Service at NYU Robert F. Wagner School for Public Service.
Prior to joining VisionSpring, he worked with the International Crisis Group and attended the Institute for International Mediation and Conflict Resolution in The Hague, Netherlands. Neil received his BA from Tufts University and his MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania where he was both a Social Enterprise Fellow and a Leadership Fellow. Neil and his wife, jewelry designer Rachel Leigh, live in NYC