September 12, 2012
It’s easy to take our sight for granted; in fact, many people probably take their expensive, designer sunglasses for granted.
But the team at SOLO Eyewear doesn’t. When they realized how many people suffered from preventable blindness, they set out to help. Their solution was to create a line of sunglasses selling from $74 to $82 and donate 10-15 percent of their profits toward eyeglasses and cataract surgery for people in need. They work with organizations like Restoring Vision and the L V Prasad Eye Institute and Aravind Eye Care System in India.
Armed with $30,000 in funding from Kickstarter, SOLO Eyewear’s summer line features frames in blue, black, yellow, leopard, and aviator styles, with bamboo arms.
Below, cofounder Jenny Amaraneni explains what inspired her to start SOLO and push through early hurdles.
Tech Cocktail: What was the inspiration behind SOLO Eyewear?
Amaraneni: It was actually a book, Out of Poverty, that inspired us to start SOLO Eyewear. This book exposed us to the need for eye care in the world. We learned that 80 percent of the world’s blindness is preventable and nearly 1 billion people do not have access to eye care. These stats were our call to action and the reason why we launched SOLO Eyewear.
I most enjoy working with our team. We work very hard to accomplish something much bigger than ourselves. The fact that we’re able to have fun even after working 16 hours straight together says a lot about us. It’s awesome.
Tech Cocktail: Describe a challenging moment or a crucial decision for SOLO Eyewear.
Amaraneni: Our biggest challenge to date has dealt with manufacturing a high-quality line of sunglasses. Our initial product line had quality issues. We decided to stop selling that line and focus all of our energy on crafting a superior line of hybrid bamboo sunglasses. As we made improvements, manufacturing costs increased substantially and we had to increase our prices. We learned the importance of offering a high-quality product when building a brand. Our confidence as a company is now at a whole new level with our latest collection of SOLOs.
Tech Cocktail: What’s one quirky fact about your team?
Amaraneni: We randomly bust out dance moves during our work sessions.
We also love awesome quotes like Salvador Dali’s: “I ask myself in rapture, ‘What wonderful things is this Salvador Dali going to accomplish today?'” We start our team meetings saying this quote out loud (we fill in our own names). It’s pretty funny.
SOLO Eyewear was a showcased startup at our Tech Cocktail San Diego mixer in August.
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