Vision Quest

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A Park Slope-based eyewear company celebrates the first year of an extraordinary business plan: donating a pair of glasses for Every One it sells

Just a little over a year ago, a startup venture in Brooklyn was established with a disarmingly wonderful idea. The new company, MoralEyes, would sell fashion eyeglasses—as dozens of other retailers are doing throughout Brooklyn and Staten Island—but they would also donate a pair of glasses to the needy for every single pair they sold. This might seem like an impossible adventure in cost-efficiency business management, but in the hands of Joe Sacks, who had previously run a company focused on private label lines for a number of department stores, the plan seemed perfect.

“While in business school, I knew I wanted to start a philanthropic and socially responsible business,” Sacks recalled. “But for a long time I wasn’t sure what it would be. When I heard about TOMS Shoes’s buy-one, give-one model, it became obvious: I would use my knowledge of the sunglasses industry to start an eyewear company that employed the one-for-one model to help those less fortunate.”

Sacks began formulating the business plan—suitably enough—on Thanksgiving day of 2010, and the business officially opened its doors in January of the following year. Thus far, MoralEyes has donated just over 15,000 pairs of reading glasses, and plans to make an additional donation of 5,000 pairs soon. To augment donations, they also started an eyeglasses recycling program to collect some of the four million pairs of glasses thrown away annually in the U.S., and the company was recently featured in a collection for Pink Tartan.

According to the company site: “Donated glasses not only promote and sustain literacy and education, but foil preventable blindness and vision-related job loss. A single pair of glasses can mean the difference between a young girl seeing and understanding her school teacher’s lessons versus that same young girl merely attending those lessons. In these ways and more, each Moraleyes purchase has the power to transform lives.”

“Things are going about as well as well could have hoped,” added Sacks. “Of course, we’ve faced the growing pains of any young startup, but we’ve been able to donate an impactful number of reading glasses to New Eyes for the Needy, and the business is growing slowly but steadily. We’re opening a collaborative showroom at AmericasMart in Atlanta, which is dedicated to the exhibition of fellow socially responsible companies. It’s called A Beneficent Collection, and will be fully open in mid-April.”

The company’s goal for 2012 is to donate no less than 30,000 pairs of glasses and two, according to Sacks, “grow our business in team as responsibly as possible. Basically, we want to become a better company.”

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