Nathan Kondamuri started wearing glasses when he eight years old. When he was in his senior year at Stanford University, his little brother needed glasses and was dreading it. The bad memories came flooding back to Nathan: being different from the other kids, being taunted, the difficulty keeping up with his lessons because he wouldn’t wear his glasses. Why couldn’t glasses be cool and fun like anything else kids wear?
He mulled over the problem with Sophia Edelstein, his friend and fellow Stanford student, and they saw an opportunity to solve the problem of kids and glasses, not only because of the erosion of self-confidence that kids feel, but also because of how essential good vision is to classroom learning.
Nathan and Sophia interviewed hundreds of families in the Bay Area and created focus groups to get input from the kids themselves. The result was Pair Eyewear with Nathan and Sophia as co-founders and co-CEOs.
Pair Eyewear sells affordable, customizable glasses for children between the ages of 6 and 15. Children choose from among the five base frames with spring-loaded hinges for flexibility and durability and proprietary nose pads that ensure the frames fit all kids comfortably. The base frames comes in six colors. Now for the fun part—magnetic tops that snap onto the base frames in a wide variety of colors and patterns: stripes, polka dots, rainbow, tie-dyed, plaid and on and on and on. A kid can change his or her look easily. Any kid can be a fashionista! There are also tops that turn prescription lenses into sunglasses.
For the convenience of parents and the relief of children who don’t find the optician’s office much fun, Pair Eyewear sends out cardboard replicas of their frames and designs for kids to try on at home. Busy parents do not have to bother mailing them back. Also, parents can take a snapshot of the prescription and forward it to Pair, or Pair will call the optometrist to get it.
Sophie and Nathan were able to get their business up and running while still in Stanford, because both are business savvy and accomplished. Sophia had worked as an analyst for Goldman Sachs, in business development for TeachAIDS, and researching the health care system in Mexico and its cultural implications in a Stanford Study Abroad program. Nathan had been CEO of Copernican Solutions, a mental health group. With the Stanford Consulting Student Group, he advised student-run companies. With GE, he consulted on efficiency measures in startup companies. At MIT, he helped high-achieving high school seniors with research and presentations.
Also, Stanford has excellent resources for students interested in entrepreneurship. Design for America guided Sophie and Nathan in how to approach design issues and user research. Cardinal Ventures assisted them in constructing a business plan and gave them a supportive on-campus entrepreneur community. With Lean Launchpad, they were able to flesh out their business plan and create prototypes.
Nathan and Sophia donate one pair of glasses for every pair sold. They have partnered with EYElliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing children around the world with glasses where that need is not being met and is hindering educational progress. They also hope to lead by example, demonstrating to the children who love their glasses the value of reaching out to make a difference in the world.