Kids can grow out of glasses prescriptions as quickly as they grow out of clothes and shoes.
That fact sparked a business idea for Sophia Edelstein and Nathan Kondamuri during their senior year at Stanford University. “I remember how scary and daunting the experience [of getting glasses] was as a kid. You look different than other kids and the buying process is very medical,” Kondamuri says.
“We wanted to find a solution to a problem universally felt,” Edelstein adds. “We interviewed 350 families about the glasses-buying process for kids to figure out how we could we make glasses more fun, more affordable and easier to buy.”
The pair today are co-founders and co-CEOs of online-only retailer Pair Eyewear. Launched in October 2017, Pair Eyewear sells $95 frames for kids at PairEyewear.com. Beyond frames, Pair Eyewear also sells customizable clip-on top frames for glasses for $25 each that kids can swap out to customize their frames. The glasses retailer also offers prescription and nonprescription sunglasses for $35 each, with $25 customizable clip-on top frames.
Pair Eyewear sells five frame shapes, which fit children ages 6 to 15 years old, and each of those shapes come in three colors. For each frame, the direct-to-consumer glasses retailer also offers 10 color and pattern styles. Any frame can be made with or without a prescription. Pair Eyewear produces the frames and lenses and ships them from its California distribution center. For every pair purchased, Pair Eyewear donates a pair of glasses to The Eyelliance, a nonprofit organization that aims to provide glasses to children in the developing world.
Although Pair Eyewear declined to share its sales, the retailer says it recently donated its first 5,000 pairs of glasses to children in Liberia. So, it has sold at least 5,000 frames, but this number does not include the clip-on top frames, Edelstein says.
Similar to other online glasses retailers, such as Warby Parker (No. 174 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 500), Pair Eyewear offers home try-on kits. Its free try-on kits include paper cardboard cut-out replicas of its designs that kids can play with at home. Additionally, Pair Eyewear a couple months ago launched a home try-on kit with its base frames and 10 top frames. The retailer charges $1 for that kit, but returns and shipping are free.
In October, Pair Eyewear raised $1 million in a seed round of funding, with investors including Corigin Ventures, Outbound Ventures, Precursor Ventures and Bolt Ventures. With the cash, Pair Eyewear “wants to ramp up the marketing and acquisition strategy,” Kondamuri says, without revealing more.
The glasses e-retailer has some other plans for the coming year, including testing new clip-on top frame options, such as offering limited edition and seasonal clip-on top frames. “We have some customers that own the full collection, and they want more color choices, so we are always trying to come up with new frame designs,” Edelstein says.
Pair Eyewear has already begun this effort by forming partnerships with some sports, entertainment and fashion brands for new clip-on top frame designs. Although it declined to provide many specifics about its upcoming partnerships, Pair Eyewear says it will be launching clip-on top frames aligned with the animated movie “Spies in Disguise,” which releases in theaters in August. It may venture into sportswear glasses sometime in the future as well.
“You can come to us when you first need glasses around age 5 all the way though age 15,” Kondamuri says. “We want frames to fit all age groups, and we can continue to grow Pair as kids grow.”