Country of Operation
Target income level
- Bottom 20%
- Eye care
SummaryVisionSpring works to provide affordable eyeglasses to tens of thousands of poor customers across the developing world, while simultaneously providing sustainable jobs and access to vision care in the world's poorest, most remote communities.
Both Scojo Foundation and Scojo New York, a high-end reading glasses company serving the US market, were formed in 2001. Five percent of the pre-tax profits from Scojo New York were designated for the Scojo Foundation. In 2008, after the sale of Scojo New York, Scojo Foundation changed its name to VisionSpring, launching a new identity reflecting its mission to reduce poverty and generate opportunity in the developing world through vision. The Open Society Institute provided seed capital to launch the first pilot in India.
Key program components
An important component of VisionSpring's approach involves training rural community members to become Vision Entrepreneurs (VEs). VisionSpring loans entrepreneurs a "Business in a Bag" microfranchise. The Business in a Bag contains all the products and materials needed for marketing and selling eyeglasses, as well as tracking customer information, managing inventory, and running a small business. Business in a Bag empowers local VEs to sell low-cost, high-quality eyeglasses in the hardest-to-reach areas, as well as to conduct visions screenings and make referrals to reputable eye hospitals for those needing advanced care.
Vision Entrepreneurs undergo a three-day training in basic eye care and business management and receive close, ongoing support from staff. Furthermore, VEs learn to conduct marketing and education campaigns in nearby villages, including passing out flyers, putting on skits, and making radio announcement, among other mediums. They host one-day vision campaigns, often with support of the mayor or a health clinic, and sometimes attract hundreds of people in need of vision care. VisionSpring glasses are available for approximately $4 a pair and VEs repay VisionSpring for the cost of glasses once they have been sold.
The program has over 5,230 active vision entrepreneurs, and has sold more than 362,100 pairs of glasses to date.
VisionSpring's early work involved training local people, or Vision Entrepreneurs, to conduct outreach and sell quality, low cost eyeglasses in their communities. Despite the clear need for basic eye care in these communities, the Vision Entrepreneur model soon proved unsustainable in isolation. In response, VisionSpring has adapted its interventions to include a hub and spoke approach that deploys a cross-subsidization pricing strategy enabling VisionSpring to address the public health need for eyeglasses while building sustainable businesses.
Today, Vision Entrepreneurs continue to conduct vision campaigns in El Salvador and India selling glasses on site and providing customers who need more complex care treatment with referrals - either to a VisionSpring Optical Shop or reputed eye clinics in the region. Additionally, VisionSpring is now replicating its proprietary distribution channels in new regions and broadening its reach through its Global Partnerships channel. To do this, they are exploring strategic partnerships with NGOs and businesses focused on last mile distribution in an effort to unlock development gains by aligning its work with products already in high demand by the BoP customer. They are now working in 20+ countries with 23+ different partners to distribute their products, and have their first fixed optical store in Karnal, India.