Visionaries Series: VisionSpring
By helping people gain universal access to eyewear, Jordan Kassalow aims to see everyone live up to their full potential.
Helping others isn’t just right thing to do—its also good for business. Case in point: Warby Parker. Led by co-founders Neil Blumenthal and David Gilboa, the innovative eyewear company has transformed the way people think about buying glasses and giving back, proving it is possible for companies to do good in the world while still being profitable. Inspired by their success, we partnered with WP to recognize other socially conscious entrepreneurs in our third annual Visionaries Series. These forward thinkers have blended business with philanthropy, changing the game for their industries as well as millions of people in need around the world. Check back next week to meet the complete class of 2015.
The Person: Jordan Kassalow
The Business: “VisionSpring works to ensure affordable access to eyewear, everywhere. Our central objective is to provide eyeglasses to people who have not been able to access or afford eyeglasses in the past. We stand for the ideal that everyone has the right to see so they can live up to their full potential. The original idea was that there were millions of people, particularly women, who were under or unemployed and hundreds of millions of people who were losing their livelihoods because they couldn’t see. I thought why couldn't we train women to sell eyeglasses to their neighbors who needed them to work? This way, we would both create and sustain livelihoods for people living at the base of the economic pyramid.”
The Goal: “Our ultimate goal is to ensure that anyone who needs glasses can get glasses. We want to see a world where no child falls out of school or an adult falls out of the workforce because they do not have access to affordable eyeglasses.”
The Impact: “In VisionSpring's first year of business, we sold 800 pair of eyeglasses. It took us ten years to sell our first million pair and just two years to sell our second million pair. In 2014 alone, we sold 548,000 pair and anticipate our annual sales will be at one million pair by 2016.
The Inspiration: “My inspiration comes from knowing that if my team and I do our work well, millions of people will see better and live more fulfilled lives.”
The Surprises: “I’ve learned that the concept of synchronicity is real. What I mean by that is that if you are living your life aligned with your passion and purpose the world will conspire to help you.”
The X-Factor: “If it’s understandable and simple, people can relate to the problem, and the impact is measurable and profound. We have a great group of people working for us and patient long term-thinking donors who support us.”
The Future: “Our objective is to continually increase the number of glasses we put on people's faces while reducing the philanthropic subsidy needed per pair. We plan to reach at least ten million people over the next ten years.”
The Visionaries in His Eyes: “Jeff Skoll of the Skoll Foundation, Sam Morgan of Jasmine Charitable Trust, David Peery of The Peery Foundation, and others who are leading the way in creating the field of social entrepreneurship and supporting leading social entrepreneurs. Also, business leaders like Neil Blumenthal, and Dave Gilboa of Warby Parker who clearly demonstrate that you can create a profitable business that is a significant force for good.”
The Message: “Remember, wisdom is the profound ability to listen to yourself.”