“Every good idea starts with a problem. Ours was simple: glasses are too expensive.”
– Warby Parker
Last year Warby Parker, an eleven year old prescription glasses company founded by five friends in business school – went public with a valuation over $3 billion.
Warby Parker’s “Our Story” page tells the story of one of the founders who lost his glasses on a backpacking trip. He couldn’t afford to replace them, so struggled through a semester of grad school without them, “squinting and complaining”.
This sparked his decision to create an eyewear brand, with four of his friends, that was affordable, looked great and helped others.
The only problem was that the eyewear industry was a monopoly. A single company had been able to keep prices artificially high, reaping massive profits from consumers who had no other alternatives.
So here’s what the founders of Warby Parker did.
They threw out the industry rule book.
By circumventing traditional sales channels, the company decided to design glasses in-house, and work with customers directly. The result? They were able to provide a better quality, better-looking pair of prescription eyewear at a fraction of the market price.
They made buying prescription glasses fun. And the sales process easy.
Their ad campaigns were upbeat and playful. They offered consumers the chance to order five pairs of glasses, mailed to them for free, and only keep the ones they liked. No strings attached.
They anchored their business in making a positive social impact, which resonated with their target market AND further set them apart from their competitors
“We also believe that everyone has the right to see. 2.5 billion people around the world need glasses but don’t have access to them; of these, 624 million cannot effectively learn or work due to the severity of their visual impairment. To help address this problem, we work with a handful of partners worldwide to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need. To date, over eight million pairs of glasses have been distributed through our Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program.”
By designing glasses in-house, engaging customers directly, and making the buying process fun and easy, Warby Parker turned the prescription glasses industry on its head.
The take away: every industry can be disrupted, and every business can become the disruptor – it just takes the right strategy.