Untapped Cities recently visited the offices of Warby Parker and met with Online Media Manager Brian Magida, who offered the backstory about the vanguard eyeglasses retailer. But this is no ordinary eyeglass shop. With every pair of glasses purchased, Warby Parker provides glasses to those who cannot afford a pair, directly or via funding to partners.
The company was launched in February 2010 while its four founders–Neil Blumenthal, Andrew Hunt, David Gilboa and Jeffrey Raider–were still attending Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania. Only one had experience working with eye wear: Neil had previously been involved with Vision Spring, a company that is now one of Warby Parker’s collaborators. At the beginning, David’s cell phone would be notified when orders came in and it soon began ringing off the hook. Within two days the entire inventory was sold out, and in three weeks, the entrepreneurs had met their sales target for the year.
It became clear with this type of demand that selling glasses out of their apartment was not going to cut muster. While the desired strategy was creating a person-to-person interaction with customers, the company needed more space. Warby Parker secured an office on 16th street in Manhattan after a brief stint using Rachel Lee Jewelry as their showroom.
Since then, it has been a whirlwind. The burgeoning company launched a website that deals with a flurry of sales on a daily basis. Additionally, Warby Parker has expanded its workforce and moved offices to SoHo’s historic Puck Building which boasts an on site showroom. The goal of Warby Parker is to be open, collaborative and fun, which they accomplish in spades. Customers can make an appointment to drop into their offices to look at and purchase glasses frames. The business is mainly an online retailer but it places a high level of importance on customer interaction and satisfaction in comparison to the often faceless online industry. There are showrooms in Oklahoma City, Portland and Seattle as well as pop-ups in Austin, Boston and Los Angeles which re-double the effort.
The collaborative spirit of the brand is also echoed in their partnerships with fashion label Suno and human rights group Invisible Children. Read more about the Suno x Warby Parker collaboration here.
What’s next for Warby Parker? Look for a new, highly curated collection of glasses in the near future as well as a retail store and community center in NYC. For now, check them out in the Puck Building or online at warbyparker.com.