Glasses retailer, Warby Parker was awarded Innovator of the Year at NRF’s BIG Show. They are such an incredible brand with a great story and business model – they are definitely worth a mention.
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Warby Parker was born in 2010 (as a pureplay) and remains a private company. It was started at Wharton School within their Venture Initiation Program – where the founders had studied together. It’s investors now include retail guru Mickey Drexler.
So what makes Warby Parker different? There’s a couple of things – it’s fully vertically integrated offer – designing glasses in house and selling directly to public at a price well below ‘designer’ – around US$90. The design of these frames though is pretty ‘designer’. It does not sell through any third party stores – but recently started opening it’s own stores (click below to do a ‘Google’ virtual tour of the store).

They’re a responsible brand – running a ‘buy a pair, give a pair model’. For every pair of their glasses purchased, they donate a pair of glasses to people in need. As of mid 2013 they had distributed 500,000 pairs of glasses. Added to that they are a certified B corporation and 100% carbon neutral.
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They also have an innovative program called ‘Home-Try-On’ where customers can choose up to 5 frames from their website and then have them delivered – for free – to their house to try (and return the frames they don’t want). Then there’s the virtual version of this on their site where you can try on frames using your web cam.
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When they accepted the award for innovator of the year they gave some interesting advice on their approach to innovation:
 “ Innovation should be the process of continuous learning and education (not the feeling of jumping off a cliff…but rather slow steps down it)”.
Nice one, Warby Parker!