Warby Parker is an online darling. The eyewear designer and retailer topped Fast Company’s list of Most Innovative Companies in 2015 because of its flair for design and buy one, give one mission. For every pair of eyeglasses the retailer sells, one is donated to nonprofits that provide eyeglasses to those in need.
Now there is a local company that brings the mission (and design aesthetic) closer to home. Chromos Eyewear, founded by Daniel Childs, offers a line of hip eyewear designed by Childs which works on a buy one, give one model.
Childs is no stranger to the eyewear business. He’s the son of Norman Childs, Pittsburgh’s iconic eyewear maker. While in business school at Syracuse University, Childs launched Chromos Eyewear with a line of sunglasses that fill a gap in the market. “The sunglass industry was separated into two major tiers: established brands charging over $100 for a quality frame, and their flimsy and essentially disposable $15 counterparts,” says Childs. “I wanted to fill that by creating a line of durably crafted, stylish eyewear at a more reasonable price point.”
Chromos Eyewear, launched online in 2013, was a hit and Childs followed with eyeglass frames.
After graduating in 2014, Childs moved back to Pittsburgh and continued to work on his business. Last year, he opened up shop in Lawrenceville and introduced Chromos Cares. Chromos Cares is the nonprofit arm of Chromos Eyewear which provides free eye exams and glasses to children in financial need. It’s funded by profits from Chromos Eyewear.
“Business for me is always about doing more. I never just wanted to sell a product. I want to use what I earn and the influence that I create to change people’s lives and make them better,” Childs says.
According to Childs, about 25% of school age kids have vision problems that go unaddressed. “This can create big issues. A child who is in 8th grade may be reading at 4th grade level because he may have a vision impairment that has gone undiagnosed,” he says. “If you can’t see, you can’t learn and that’s a problem we can help with.”
Chromos Cares has forged a partnership with the Pittsburgh Public Schools and last school year, Childs piloted his program with Arsenal Public School in Lawrenceville. The program gave 30 full eye exams and 20 pairs of eye glasses to students. This school year they plan to offer free eye exams and glasses in 10 Pittsburgh schools.