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Andrew Leary refused to accept the truth.

Despite struggling for months to read without relying on his phone’s light, he hesitated to admit he needed glasses. Finally succumbing, he purchased his first pair of prescription glasses, albeit reluctantly due to their cost. Initially pleased with his new appearance, Leary soon realized the inconvenience of wearing glasses daily and wearing the same pair. As he searched for new frames, he discovered his vision only required reading glasses, yet he was disappointed by the limited choices and poor-quality craftsmanship available.

“I saw an opportunity to provide consumers with the highest-quality readers available, in classic styles and colors for every occasion, and priced to collect [more than one pair],” Leary says.

The idea for LOOK OPTIC was born.

That was in 2015. The company launched in 2017, and now LOOK OPTIC makes quality readers from 100 percent recycled materials and says its mission is to ensure wearing readers is a fun, fashionable, and fearless experience—whenever you need to read the fine print. The home page of explains it like this: “You should never have to surrender your style for a moment of clarity. Because confidence looks good on everyone.”

When he founded the company, Leary was still the CEO of Ipsos SMX (Social Media Exchange). LOOK OPTIC was intended as a side hustle for him and his business partner, Jonathan Saven. However, in 2021, Leary joined LOOK OPTIC full-time. Since then, the company has sold more than 400,000 pairs of glasses and seen double-digit growth year over year. In addition to its stylish readers, LOOK OPTIC sells progressives and blue-light readers for all that screen time we log. They even offer tinted sun readers and a few additional accessories. The company boasts about the style of its products, and Leary claims landing on this point of difference was not just blind luck, if you’ll pardon the pun.

“Having worked for Ipsos, one of the largest market research firms in the world, we did a good amount of research prior to launch,” Leary explains. “We found that the current reading glass options were not very stylish and made consumers feel old. To this end, after releasing our initial collection, we started to focus on oversized silhouettes that were not traditionally found in or did not look like readers. Price testing also helped us arrive at our $68 price point.”

Still, the brand’s success cannot only be attributed to recognizing an unnoticed need. For starters, the product is made to last. The wire-core temples allow LOOK OPTIC readers to be adjusted without heat, the prescription-quality lenses are scratch resistant, and the frames overall are 50 percent lighter than acetate frames. LOOK OPTIC also offers a 90-day trial and a one-year guarantee on all its glasses, along with free shipping. This customer-first attitude is one reason why consumer reviews on the website are almost always ultra-positive; Leary knows that such online reviews can make or break a direct-to-consumer brand.

“For this reason, we believe there is nothing more important than delivering a great product and top-notch support,” he says. “And we have always invested heavily in these areas, which was not always easy as we were trying to get to breakeven.”

Leary’s wide-ranging career prior to LOOK OPTIC included time spent building online communities for innovative brands such as Apple, Nike, and Coca-Cola; it’s no accident that doing so has played an integral role in his own brand’s success. He says the most important lesson he learned in this area is to be a good listener.

“Before raising money and joining LOOK OPTIC full-time, I was the only customer service rep for three years, and probably not a great one,” he explains. “But this experience helped us define our positioning. Specifically, 90 percent of our customer reviews reference comfort, so we saw this as an opportunity to use comfort as a clear point of differentiation in a crowded market and to use the quote ‘The World’s Most Comfortable Readers’ as a tagline.”

Marketing-wise, the brand’s tone of voice is like their readers—sophisticated, yet fun. LOOK OPTIC’s Instagram relies heavily on images of people wearing their products, of course, but it also features some playful posts that align with the brand’s pillars of Fun, Fashionable, and Responsible. The brand’s tagline—“Fear Not the Fine Print”—was developed by Yard NYC. The agency was briefed by Leary and the LOOK OPTIC team, using Barneys New York (circa 1990) as inspiration.

“Fun and fashionable, never taking ourselves too seriously,” Leary says. “When I think of Barneys in the ’90s, I see a man in a tux with pink socks or Linda Evangelista kissing a monkey. We believe having fun is at the heart of being truly fashionable. The third pillar used to be Affordable; however, as we moved into 100 percent recycled frames, we updated this to Responsible.”

Identifying—and operating by—those three brand pillars may not always make life easy for a business, but it certainly does simplify selecting brand ambassadors who will align with your values. In its short history, LOOK OPTIC has collaborated with the likes of tennis legend Venus Williams and actor/model Carolyn Murphy. Leary says these choices were made because both had a previous interest in LOOK OPTIC, and that authenticity is nonnegotiable for the brand. LOOK OPTIC was featured on Williams’s website as one of her favorites before the brand and the tennis star ever became “doubles partners.” Likewise, Leary says the company initially inquired about Murphy due to her interest in sustainability (a shared value).

“When her agent responded with a photo of Carolyn wearing our LIAM frames in black, this led to the development of a new style with her,” he says.

The company does not pay influencers to post about their brand or products. The goal is to partner with people who already wear and like LOOK OPTIC glasses so that they create content and share their own personal experiences about wearing the company’s products.

“Luckily, as we have grown, we have more and more creators interested in sharing their stories,” Leary says.

LOOK OPTIC’s success with what they refer to as an “Opti-Mistic” attitude continues to make the brand desirable for creators—and consumers too. The company says that more than four million frames end up in landfills each year, which is the reason LOOK OPTIC uses 100 percent recycled materials in its products and a circular production model. The company has partnered with recycling leader TerraCycle and encourages consumers to send their old frames back to be recycled. LOOK OPTIC also partners with the Lions Club to refurbish unwanted frames and distribute them to those in need. Consumers can get 25 percent off their next frames by donating or recycling old frames.

The “Opti-Mistic” approach to business does not end there. LOOK OPTIC also contributes a percentage of every sale to a philanthropic organization called charity: water, whose goal is to bring clean water to every human on the planet. The founder of the organization is a longtime friend of Leary’s and was an early advisor who helped the LOOK OPTIC team create a sustainable company.

“When we started LOOK, we made the decision to give a percentage of every sale to charity: water,” Leary says. “Over 780 million people go without clean water every day and contaminated water is the number one cause of preventable blindness worldwide. What I love most about charity: water is that 100 percent of all donations go to actual water projects so donors can see their contributions’ real, tangible, and life-altering impact. Private donors fund operating costs so donors can rest assured that every penny they contribute will change people’s lives.”

Leary says it’s difficult to tell what kind of return on investment there is for maintaining a responsible business, but he doesn’t seem to care.

“For us, it’s in our DNA,” he says, “and we hope that we can not only raise awareness but encourage other brands to act responsibly as well.”

This article originally appeared in FULL CIRCLE as syndicated content and is subject to copyright protections. All rights reserved. Image(s) used under license from Shutterstock.