SOLO Eyewear creates environmentally friendly sunglasses that fund eye care, encourage adventure, and inspire individuals to change the world. Each pair of SOLOs purchased funds eye care for people in need through prescription eyeglasses and sight saving eye surgeries. They have already restored vision to 10,000 people in 32 countries, which has resulted in an economic impact of $3.6 million dollars.!!!!! They are able to create this amazing impact through their trusted non-profit partners Restoring Vision, Aravind Eye Care System, and LV Prasad Eye Institute.
The concept for SOLO Eyewear originated from a class project at San Diego State University. While completing an International Entrepreneurship course, Jenny Amaraneni, founder of SOLO Eyewear, read Paul Polak’s Out of Poverty where she discovered the great need for eye care around the world. She decided to research the issue further.
Jenny, who has poor vision herself, noticed two very alarming statistics: approximately 1 billion people do not have access to eye care and nearly 80% of the world’s blindness is preventable.
Check out the Q&A with Jenny Amaraneni, founder of SOLO Eyewear
It’s amazing to think that 80% of blindness in the world is preventable. Can you talk about why what causes blindness and why it is preventable?
This statistic exists due to the lack of access to eye care around the world and also the fear of individuals to seek eye care. At SOLO, we focus on addressing refractive error and cataracts. Cataracts is the leading cause of preventable blindness. It is a condition where the lens in the eye begins to cloud and over time it hardens causing total vision loss. Ironically, it’s one of the most efficiently and effectively addressed eye conditions. We partner with Aravind Eye Care System to fund cataract surgeries for people in need.
People walk into operating rooms blind in one or both eyes, undergo a quick, 10 minute surgery and have their vision restored for as little as $15. It’s crazy how so little can drastically change one person’s life!
When a pair of Solo glasses are purchased what does that fund for a patient needing eye care? How does Solo “restore vision”?
We partner with two organizations, Restoring Vision and Aravind Eye Care System, to fund eye care. We donate 10% of our profits to fund prescription eyeglasses and cataract surgeries for people in need.
Paul Polak’s Out of Poverty book seem to really have great inspiration on the start of Solo. Where there any other books that had that same amount of impact on you?
Yes, his book made me realized the great need for eye care in the world. I have had a number of other books that have impacted me; however, it’s challenging to attribute tangible outcomes to them. I generally read non-fiction and focus on subject matter that involves other entrepreneurial journeys and/or spiritual development. Reading has had a profound impact overall on my outlook in life.
Solo has restored vision to over 11,000 people in 32 countries. How wild does that sound when you hear that? It has to feel pretty amazing.
It feels great. It’s encouraging and empowering. I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish and the lives we’ve positively impacted. It’s truly why we do what we do. On the flip side, there are millions of people still in need of eye care… I’m constantly aware that we have more work to do!
Solo has already made an immense impact. What are future goals and mission of the company as it looks to the next five years?
Our goal is to become the leading environmentally and socially conscious eyewear company and to restore vision for over one million people by 2021.
How hard or easy was it to find really good non-profit partners to participate in Solo’s mission? Was it a long search?
Ironically, it was more challenging than I anticipated. Initially, I was reaching out to a variety of organizations in the eye care field and I had a difficult time getting a response. Through research and various conversations with industry experts, I became more focused and decided that we would specifically fund eye glasses and cataract surgeries for people in need. It was important that we partner with highly efficient, reputable organizations. Aravind is the best in the world at delivering eye care to the poor. They were very receptive to working with us. The same applies to our other partner, Restoring Vision, who manufactures and distributes reading glasses internationally.
What is your favorite story or person you have met that Solo has restored vision to?
There have been so many stories. Two come to mind… We got an amazing feature in TIME Magazine and were listed as one of the most influential change agents in the world. Once that article ran, a woman read it while riding on a train in Europe. She sat on the board for a non-profit orphanage in Mali. One of the orphans in their care was at risk of losing her vision and becoming blind. The board member reached out to the Executive Director of the orphanage in Washington D.C. to recommend reaching out to us at SOLO Eyewear for help. She did and before I knew it we were meeting in person in San Diego to figure out how we could help Fatoumata, the orphan. I reached out to an eye hospital – LV Prasad Eye Institute – and shared Fatoumata’s situation with them.
Without any hesitation, the founder of the hospital responded saying they would provide Fatoumata with the necessary eye care free of charge. I couldn’t help but cry when reading his response
Such an incredible act of compassion! We then took the appropriate steps to make sure Fatoumata was cared for and her vision saved.
Another story involves a young boy named Jorge that we met at an eye care clinic in Mexico. We arrived in Vamos Tamaulipas to set up an eye care clinic with a great group of volunteers. On the second day, we had the pleasure of meeting Jorge, a 9 year old, who was having trouble seeing the chalk board in school. He told us that his father works a lot and he gets himself ready for school every morning. He had learned of the eye care clinic and made an effort to come to get his eyes checked. By the end of our stay, Jorge had a new pair of glasses and was sitting in his classroom able to see the board. It was amazing to see him smiling in his glasses.
What are some other social enterprise that have inspired you?
I find strength in following others’ entrepreneurial endeavors. It’s a difficult journey so seeing others experience the ups and downs and prevail is encouraging. I pay close attention to a number of organizations – Bosh Bosh Project, Hiptipico, Compassion It. All of which are founded by women and doing great things in the world!
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Grant is the founder of Causeartist, one of the most influential impact business platforms in the world. Since 2013, Causeartist has been read in over 200 countries. Grant has personally interviewed over 600 impact entrepreneurs from around the world, highlighting innovations in ethical fashion, climate change, ethical technology, impact investing, and sustainable travel.