The Vision of Leadership: How to Build a Social Mission-Driven Brand | Neil Blumenthal | Skillshare

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The Vision of Leadership: How to Build a Social Mission-Driven Brand

teacher avatar Neil Blumenthal, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Warby Parker

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Social Impact


    • 3.

      Mission, Vision, and Brand Architecture


    • 4.

      Your Brand as a Story


    • 5.



    • 6.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Learn what it takes to start a brand with a social mission. In this 45-minute class, Warby Parker Co-founder and Co-CEO Neil Blumenthal reveals how to identify a problem you want to solve, craft a brand’s architecture and story, and launch your vision for the greater good.

Whether you’re curious how businesses begin, eager to build a brand of your own, or already in business, you’ll gain the clarity and insight to start making a difference!

Meet Your Teacher

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Neil Blumenthal

Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Warby Parker


Neil Blumenthal is a Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Warby Parker, a transformative lifestyle brand that offers designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially-conscious businesses.

Prior to launching Warby Parker in 2010, Neil served as Director of VisionSpring, a non-profit social enterprise that trains low-income women to start their own businesses selling affordable eyeglasses to individuals living on less than $4 per day in developing countries. He was responsible for developing VisionSpring's award-winning strategy (Fast Company Social Capitalist Award '08, '07 and '05) and expanding VisionSpring's global presence from one to 10 countries. In 2005, Neil was named a Fellow for Emerging Leaders in Public Service at NYU Robert F. Wagner School for Public ... See full profile

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1. Introduction: I'm Neil Blumenthal. I'm one of the founders and co-CEO of Warby Parker. Today we're going to talk about building a brand with a social mission, and figure out ways to have positive impact in everything that you do. Warby Parker is a lifestyle brand and we're trying to transform the eye-wear industry by selling prescription glasses and sunglasses for a fraction of what they would typically cost. For every pair of glasses we sell, we distribute one to someone in need. I'm excited to talk to you about impact, about branding, and about marketing, because these are three areas that I'm super passionate about. Your challenge today is to re-imagine one of your favorite brands. One of the ways that you can do this is to put together an info-graphic of what its first year of business was like, or put together a press release. Whatever it is, something that describes what this re-imagine brand is doing today. It all comes down to authenticity, storytelling, doing good in the world, and doing stuff different that's unexpected, that people want to talk about. 2. Social Impact: I'm often asked, how do I incorporate a social mission into my company? And one of the ways that I start is that most companies actually are mission driven and they were created to solve real problems. So, in many aspects there already mission driven. Now, the question is how can you execute against that mission even more so or to a greater extent or how can you broaden that mission? So, when we think about social mission, we should be thinking about within the context of the entire company and why that company exists. So, at Warby Parker, the ideas that we want to disrupt this industry and bring down prices of glasses and we thought that we could bring down prices from $500 to $95. This was this great good because we were effectively going to transfer billions of dollars from these large multinational corporations to normal people. Now, even at $95 there are still hundreds of millions of people that don't have access to glasses, so how could we best serve them? That's where the idea to distribute a pair to somebody in need for every pair that we sold came into being. In particular, the question is how are you going to execute that? How do you do it in a responsible way because often good intentions have unintended consequences? So, if you're going to have a social mission, you also need to stand up to scrutiny and be able to execute it in a really thoughtful manner. So, for us it wasn't just about giving a bunch of glasses away for free because anybody that's worked in international development can tell you that, that at times can create a culture of dependence, it's not necessarily a sustainable solution. So, for us, we decided to partner with the non-profit that used to run VisionSpring, that trains low income men and women to start their own businesses, actually selling glasses in their communities, often when people are living on just $2 to $4 a day. So, what we do is on a monthly basis, we tally up the number of glasses that we've sold, we then make a cash donation to VisionSpring, who then uses that money to procure that number of glasses. They in turn actually sell those glasses to these entrepreneurs who in turn sell it in their communities often for just a few dollars, so they're affordable but they're still making some money, those local entrepreneurs, so that way they're incentivized to continually serve the people in their neighborhood and in their community. So, this as we see will serve this long-term solution to this big intractable problem. So, when you're thinking about a social mission, I think it's really important to think, how does this tie to our customers. How does this tie to the global community and how does it tie even to the local community? One of the ways to do that is to make decisions by considering all the different stakeholders. So, we think about our customers, our employees, the environment, and the community at large, globally, and locally, when we're making decisions, right? How does this business decision impact our customers? Right? Do we charge for shipping or do we offer free shipping? Do we offer returns or do we not? For our employees, how do we create an environment that they're going to thrive? How do we create opportunities for them to learn and grow every day? From an environmental standpoint, how do we minimize the amount of negative environmental impact that we're creating? From a community perspective, it's how can we be a better member of our community? And probably the best example is our Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program, right? Serving those people that don't have access to glasses. But even here in New York City, how can we serve the city in which we live and work? What's important to you and what's important to the company? The social mission needs to be authentic because in the age of the Internet where people have all this access to information and if you're not seen as genuine, if you're not seen as authentic, people are going to see right through it. Eyeglasses were invented 800 years ago, right? We are failing as humanity that we haven't provided glasses to everybody on the planet, right? But when we look at it, it's not a technology problem because I just mentioned that it's been around for 800 years. It's not a production problem or even a real cost issue where we can produce inexpensive glasses pretty affordably, it's really a distribution issue. So, if you think about it from a distribution perspective, how do you help? How do you build that distribution? And that's why we work with VisionSpring that trains low income entrepreneurs to be that distribution. So, when you're thinking about the problem to solve, understanding it in depth is going to help you figure out the best solution and the best solution is what's going to resonate most with your team and with customers. This is not about marketing because if it was, then you're effectively just greenwashing. It's really important to be thoughtful and have it come from the right place. It shouldn't just be about customer acquisition. When we're thinking about our brand hierarchy, we first tell people, hopefully that we make beautiful glasses, we then tell them that they're $95, we then tell them that they're good quality. Lastly, we tell them that this pair of glasses does good in the world because it results in somebody else being able to see. But it's important to note that that's not the number one reason why they buy from us. Now, do I think it has a beneficial impact on our customers? Absolutely. Do we think that our customers after they buy from us are more likely to tell their friends because of our social mission? Definitely. Do we think that they're more loyal and more likely to make a second purchase from us because of that social mission? Yes. But I don't think it's a number one reason why they buy glasses from us the very first time. So, don't think about social mission from a purely marketing angle because I don't think it's the right move and it's not a fact of-. A social mission is a reason for being that does good in the world simply put, right? How it's providing a solution for an intractable problem, mitigating some negative impact or just creating positive change and in a situation that requires it, finding ways to make people's lives better. One of the great things about a social mission is that it can help you identify what you are and what you're not and help you prioritize different activities. So, when we think about being a stakeholder led company at Warby Parker, when we were deciding early on whether we should have free shipping and free returns for customers, it was easy for us to think, "Okay. Well, in this decision, should we just be thinking as entrepreneurs or should we be thinking from the perspective of customers, employees, the environment, and the community at large?" When you put yourself in a shoes is like "Oh, we should get free returns. We should get free shipping." You know what? If you do then, you treat your customers well, you'll find a way to make it work financially. So, it's something that's just critically important to follow that golden rule, right? To treat others the way that you want to be treated. Once you've actually settled on what your social mission is, the question is how best to execute it. It's really important to know what you're good at and what you're not so good at, right? Where are your limitations? From our perspective, distributing a pair of glasses for every pair that we sell, we didn't have that expertise in-house, right? There was one person namely Mehu, who had actually done this professionally before Warby Parker and we weren't hiring tons of people to do this and we didn't have staff or offices in local communities throughout the developing world who could do this. So, we decided to partner with experts. We partnered with non-profits, who actually have the ability to do this on an ongoing basis. Who have developed expertise over time because the reason why these problems exist is because they're hard, and they're difficult to solve, and they require experts. So, I would encourage you to really do an honest assessment of what you're good at and play to those strengths. At this point, think about that brand that you're reimagining and think about what is the problem that you want to tackle and what are one, two, three different solutions that your brand is uniquely suited to help solve it. 3. Mission, Vision, and Brand Architecture: Now, let's dive into the branding narrative aspect of the course. So, hopefully you have an idea for our social mission. The question is how do you incorporate that into the story of your brand of your company? It's almost a false question, right? It needs to be fully baked, fully integrated. It is your story. It is your narrative. It is your brand. It's not this appendage that is separate. It's not a department. It needs to be infused in everything that you do. So, it needs to be infused into the brand and the core narrative. So, as you think about what is the brand stand for a brand is a personality it's a point of view, right? Part of that personality is doing good. Your brand is ultimately a future state of the world that you desire. As you're building a brand, the first thing is to identify just like with your social mission, what problem or are you trying to solve? What's your reason for being? So, for Warby Parker, we were trying to solve the issue of glasses being too expensive. We were also trying to look at it from a broader perspective in how could we transform business? So, once you have that mission and vision then you can start to think about what are some unique aspects of your brand. This is where you get into brand architecture and you start thinking about what you are and what you aren't. So, an example is that my co-founders and I would have these long discussions about the nuances of particular words like, where we collegiate? Where we preppy? Those two words have similar meanings, but very different connotations. Like preppy has a certain socioeconomic connotation that perhaps collegiate doesn't. Collegiate might conjure up an image of somebody wearing a varsity jacket. So, the words that you choose have a profound impact on what your brand will eventually be. Other exercises that you can do is to think about if you were a car, what brand of car would you be? If you were a pair of jeans, what brand would you be? If you were a bike, what would you be? You start to create this world, this architecture. The other thing that's super helpful is to put together a mood board. What are some of your favorite images that you think best represent your brand and why? So, I remember the first image that we had on the Warby Parker mood board was a blue footed booby. I know it sounds funny. It's a bird that's found in the Galapagos so you need to be knowledgeable and worldly to know that it exists. It has a quizzical look on its face, so it's curious and for us, we wanted to create a curious brand that was all about learning. When you look at its body it looks like a penguin, so it's got a tuxedo, so it's sophisticated it sort of has these design elements to it. Then you pin down in a blue-footed booby has these webbed bright blue feet. We just thought that was awesome and funny and has a little bit of flair, a little bit of surprise and that was something that we wanted to bring to Warby Parker. Then, of course, the name blue footed booby, right? You laugh when you hear it, and we want to take our work seriously, but not ourselves seriously. So, if you think about all of these images and all these aspects and why does it inspire you? Why do you think it's core to the brand? Where you'll start to create this brand architecture. So, we've tried to create our packaging to instill confidence in the brand. So, you open up your shipping container you get this charcoal-grey gift box, you open that, and there's a light gray glasses case, you open that case and there's this pop of Blue which is actually inspired by the blue-footed booby. You have your glasses. You have a lens cloth that also is a glasses pouch. Of course, in the packaging, you get a nice little note that says thank you because we're grateful that you took a bet on us and for buying glasses from us. But then we also talk about the fact that this pair of glasses that you just purchased has helped somebody else get a pair. Once you have a brand architecture and you realize what your brand is, then you can think about having a proper name for it. So, for us, Warby Parker was always about going against sort of the grain and innovation and bringing something new to an industry that hadn't seen much innovation in the last 30 plus years. So, we thought about different creatives and writers and people that did go against the grain and we kept coming back to the beat generation writers, and people like Kerouac, and Ginsberg, and Warby Parker, the name, actually comes from too early Jack Kerouac characters. So, you can see that we only were able to get to that point to have a good name if we had a strong sort of brand identity, a strong architecture in which that would lead us to come up with a good name. Now, of course, we wanted to test that name because you might think that something is a great idea, but you're in isolation. So, we did a quick test. We surveyed about 200 of our friends. We asked them is their gut reaction negative, neutral, or positive? Overwhelmingly, it was positive with some neutral. We then asked people, are there any associations? So, what do you think of when you hear this brand? For the most part, people said that they didn't really think of anything. A couple of people said, "Oh, it sounds familiar. I think that I've heard it before." So, for us, these were great reactions because it meant that we had a blank slate from which that could build this brand or that people thought that it existed already, so we had this built-in credibility. If you are testing a name and you find that there's associations that you don't want to have, you might want to revisit that name. Once you have the brand architecture. Once you have a name, then you can start working on a visual identity, a visual center for the brand. That can be specific colors that you plan to use, a logo and a name. Often, if you're like me and you're not sort of a graphic designer or an expert in logos you're probably going to need to spend some money and hire somebody else to do that. But it's really important that you understand that branding is not a logo, right? Branding is the work that goes into a logo, right? Branding is a brand architecture. It feeds into the name and then feeds into the visual identity. Then once you have that complete picture then you can start figuring out what to do with other aspects of the business because the brands should guide how you run the other parts of the business. You should always vet everything that you do through a brand filter. So, as you're crafting your brand and you're building these narratives question is, how can you have really strong attention to detail and involve that narrative into everything that you do? So, even in our stores, we have bookmarks, right? That goes back to that literary theme, but that sales associates can write down frames that you like in case you're not ready to purchase it right away. You can take the bookmark home with you and know what frames that you tried on. Also, in our stores, we have books from 14 independent publishers that are available for sale, but also show our commitment to independent publishers. So, we can actually be a member of sort of the literary world which we subscribe to. At Warby Parker, when we're deciding what to do we often think of four questions. Is it authentic? Is there a compelling story or narrative? Does it do good in the world? Is it unexpected? Is this something that somebody wants to tell their friend at dinner? For us, those four things are really important because we want to be authentic. We want to be genuine. If we don't feel like we'll lose trust with customers and ultimately it's not something we want to do. From a narrative or storytelling perspective, we think that's important so that way people can repeat what we're doing and share with their friends and that it also is simple and easy to understand from a do-good perspective. Does what we're doing have a positive impact? That's because that's cored to our mission as a company and our social mission. Lastly, is it unexpected? This is for us going back to that blue-footed booby and those bright blue webbed feet. Is this going to bring a smile to someone's face? Is this different? Does it stand out from the pack? Ultimately, the more things that you do to stand out, the less that you have to spend on marketing because the more writers are going to write about you, the more customers are going to refer you to their friends. So, it really helps to be able to do something that people want to talk about and share. 4. Your Brand as a Story: As you're building out your brand, I think it is helpful to look at the competitive landscape. Where do all of the other people that sell your products and services fit? You can look at it on a couple different axis. You can look at in terms of size. You can look at in terms of prices. You examine the competitive landscape based on your industry, and what are the key attributes to look at. So from Warby Parker's perspective, we were looking a lot at price, because there were some options that you could buy really cheap poor quality glasses, or you could buy really expensive, really good quality glasses. There was nothing in the middle where we wanted to be which was low price high quality, and frankly, that's probably where every business wants to be in order to win over customers. But it's important to think of yourself within reality, within the local market, and when you put yourself on this graph, or this table on this plane where you have these different accesses whether it's quality and price, or medium of sales, bricks and mortar versus selling online and price perhaps. You see where you fit and is there white space for you to be the only one? You don't have to go on to start a business where you're the only one in a particular area, but you'd better stand out if there are tons of competitors. So, if you were to layer yourself up next all these competitors, how do I pick you in this lineup? What differentiates you from these other players? So on our website we've tried to find ways to just make shopping for glasses as easy as possible with big bold images that make it easy to purchase. We also made it fun with different features that make the shopping experience feel different and fun. So this was fun, this was actually an innovation idea that came from one of our graphic designers who every year basically does an infographics for his entire life to show what he did over the past year. For us, we decide to do that for our customers. What if we were to create this annual report that didn't just have financial statements, but talked about what we accomplished over the past year, and give you a sneak peek into Warby Parker. We thought that this might be something that was just fun for fans of Warby Parker, but it ended up getting shared so widely that it led to our three highest consecutive days of sales of Warby Parker. So something that was seemingly just something fun ends up being this great marketing tool for us. Again, if this was true to the brand because it is about learning, is taking a deep dive into Warby Parker, it was providing transparency which is also important to us. Once you have the brand, and once you understand the environment what you're operating, the question is what's your story? How are you going to tell that story? Tell the world who you are? I think it's really important to think about your company or your idea as a story because that's how human beings communicate. Too often we want to just put stuff in a PowerPoint and bullets, and it's very corporate speak, and it's unrelatable. You want to be able to tell a story from beginning, middle, and end. Maybe even spice it up in the middle there. You should treat your customers, you should treat potential employees right as human beings, as friends, and how do you guys interact. You often don't interact through bullets and a PowerPoint. So think about storytelling in the classic form. Literally, if you were in the middle of the desert, and you're trying to keep yourself occupied, what is going to be a compelling story that you can tell that other people are going to listen to and not just walk away. So when we think about our social mission, we're always trying to figure out different ways to better serve the communities where we live and work, and get to engage our team members. Here we partnered with this nonprofit RxArt which gets contemporary artists to do big installations in pediatric wards of hospitals. So we sponsored this coloring book in which we got contemporary artists to do different graphics in which young patients could for coloring while they're at the hospital. We even did one ourselves which was actually a mask that you could take out and coloring. It was actually fun because they went the two-sided mask; one was a person in a library obviously very Warby Parker, and then the other one was just little athletic somebody playing tennis with the fun had been. So when you think about this story about Warby Parker, it's four guys who were graduate students, who were frustrated about how expensive glasses were, that saw an industry that was taking advantage of customers. They talked about this idea in the computer lab at school. One had just lost their glasses in an airplane traveling right before school started. The other one had seen category after category move online and wondered why glasses weren't sold online. One of the other students had worked at a non-profit that should be eyeglasses in developing world, so he knew a little bit about the industry and how to manufacture glasses, and they came together to come up with this idea. When you start talking like that, it becomes more memorable, and it becomes more humanistic versus thinking, "Hey there's a big market $65 billion, 98% of it is sold in stores, so we're going to sell it online, and we're going to sell glasses for a fraction of what they usually cost." Intellectually that makes perfect sense, but it's not as relatable. When I think about Warby Parker's story, and I break it down into different parts, you have pain points, glasses were too expensive, you have personal stories, so in our case, we actually had users of the product that walked into optical shops gotten super excited about a pair of glasses, and then walked out felt like they got kicked in the stomach because the glasses were so expensive. You had a big hairy audacious goal to transform a big industry, and to ensure that everybody on the planet had access to glasses. These are components that get people excited, that get people wanting to hear more. They get people rooting for you and ultimately, that's what you have to do when you're building a brand. You have to tell a story that people want to hear that portrays you in a manner that people want to connect with you. One of the things that we think a lot about is how do we grow storytelling into everything that we do? So as I mentioned, we have these brand filters, and we won't do something unless there's a compelling narrative to it. So, we had this idea to do a bus tour across the US, figure that we would sell glasses, we'd introduce the brand, and the question is well, what's the best way to do that? We went straight to this idea of a school bus. Again going back to the Warby Parker narrative that was founded by students that there's this connection between vision and learning, so we bought an old yellow school bus, we outfitted it with beautiful oak shelves, and we drove it cross-country, over 5,000 miles to 13 different cities over 12 months, and we called it the Warby Parker class trip. When you went on to this bus, you were surprised because the bus was so beautiful. Literally the guy that did the interior designs, the interior of high-end yachts and motor coaches, when you bought a pair of glasses, it came in a brown paper bag, and it had a stamp on it 'Warby Parker Class Trip', so it looked just like a bunch if you are going to have an excursion from school. You could even buy a sweatshirt, or a flask in case you were one of the kids that were bad and were drinking in the back of the bus. When we launched, we were just woefully unprepared for the amount of orders that we got. We literally spend all day answering customer calls, and all night responding to customer e-mails. But it was having that one on one touch points, so really what helps you define that customer experience. I remember literally we had Google Voice routed to our cell phones and when somebody would call our 1-800 number, it would ring all of our cell phones at once, and it was whoever answered the phone first actually got a customer. Because we sold out, we had to just profusely apologize over and over to people, "Hey we're so sorry. We didn't expect to sell this number of glasses. We'll put you on the waitlist as soon as we get the glasses back and stock we'll shoot you an email." But it was having that personal touch that I think really created special customer experiences, and you need to think about what do you stand for as a company? For us, customer service was essential to that, and having it not be rogue or overly corporate was important in that it came from the heart that it was authentic, and it came from even us founders personally. 5. Launching: Once you have your social mission, you have your brand and narrative, the question's how best to launch. My co-founders and I think about entrepreneurship as a really long journey of baby steps and at times, you constantly feel like you need to take these giant leaps of faith, and the best thing to do when you feel like you're about to jump off a cliff, is to take a step back and figure out how can I break down this challenge into much smaller pieces. So, for us, what we started to do was put together a business plan. We would talk to our friends, professors, you name it, to get feedback, and that was a pretty low-risk thing to do, right? Because we weren't investing a lot of money. We were investing some time to plan it out, but we were getting great feedback. One of the things that we started to hear was that people were really reluctant to buy glasses online because they want to touch and feel the product, and that makes perfect sense, right? Glasses are something that's so core to your identity. They sit on your face. They are health products, so you want to make sure it's good quality. So that obviously gave us some considerable fear like, would this thing work if we launched our website and we started selling glasses online, would people actually buy? In that moment of doubt, we took a step back and thought, "Okay, how can we solve for this problem" and that's where we came up with this idea to do a home try-on program, where you could select five pairs of glasses, we ship it to you free of cost, and you have five days to try it on at home. If indeed there was a pair that you'd like, at that point, we would put in the prescription lenses and send it to you. For us, that would help get customers get over that hurdle of buying glasses online, but would also reduce our costs because we were going to offer free shipping and free returns. The thing is, if somebody returns a pair of prescription glasses, you actually have to trash the lenses and the lenses are the most expensive part of a pair of glasses. Because you can imagine, what's the likelihood that somebody has the same exact prescription in each eye, the same pupillary distance, and wants the same pair of glasses. So, coming up with that idea only happened because we were asking friends for help. We were conducting focus groups. We were surveying people. Frankly, I think if we didn't come up with that idea, we probably wouldn't have continued to push forward. But once we came up with that idea, it gave us the confidence to invest more time and money into Warby Parker. So at that point, the question was, well, what else do we need to know to move forward? There really wasn't anything. We need to test whether people would buy online. So, the question is how do you test? Well, you need products, so we designed product and we worked with our manufacturers and you needed a way to sell it, so we built a website. Then the question was, when we're building this brand, you only have one shot to launch a brand. So, we hired a PR firm to try and make sure that that launch was as successful as possible. So, it was only three things that we focused on; the product, the website or our store, and PR. Actually my co-founder and I interviewed over 40 different PR firms and freelancers before deciding who to go to, and we were fortunate enough to get featured in Vogue and GQ and the company just took off like a rocket ship. We hit our first year sales targets in three weeks, sold out of our top 15 styles in four weeks and accumulated a waitlist of about 20,000 people. Now, at this point, where we have the confidence to continue to invest more time and money into the idea, because we had now traction, and the market had spoken, and people were interested and confident in buying glasses online. So, as you think about, what do you need to move forward where there's all this talk about, minimum viable product, and how do you come up with the plan that is the absolute minimum, because you don't want to be investing more time and money than you have to. What I would caution you is, to have a really good understanding of what viable means in the context of your business. So, within eyewear, you're working in fashion, so viability in the fashion world is a bit higher, right? You need a brand, product needs to look good, it has to have good quality, you have to launch through credible sources. So, that's why for us it was really important to have the right PR, fashion PR to launch so that way, we had the stamp of approval from a Vogue and a GQ. That may not be the same case for your particular business, so I would think about what are the most important things to your customers. Then after you've thought about that, what is going to give people the confidence to actually join your team? What's important to your employees? Then if you're going to need to raise capital, what's going to be important to investors? Usually those things are quite synergistic. If you're serving customers well, then you'll have traction investors who will want to invest and you'll be able to hire folks. But it's really understanding those jujitsu points in your particular industry. We believe a lot in testing and asking a lot of questions. We've actually met a lot of people who are starting businesses and they'll often say, "Oh, my business is in stealth mode." Frankly, we found that we were most successful when we told everybody what we were doing, so that way they could help us. The more information that they know, the better they can help us. The challenge is that when your friends don't know what you're doing and they don't know details, they can't recommend that you should go talk to so and so, that you should talk to their boss or their friend that works at this company, right? The idea that somebody is going to steal your idea if you share it, is a little bit naive from my perspective because if it's a good idea chances are, there's already 100 people already working on it. If it's a good idea, the market is ready and people are trying to solve this problem. Frankly, if it's a really innovative idea that nobody's working on already, then maybe the market's not ready for it. It's probably too novel, too new of an idea. But the more you share, the better you can execute and the better you can execute, the better that you'll be able to face off competitors and people that are simultaneously working on the same idea as you. When you're preparing for launch or post-launch, the question is how to gain traction. For our type of business, PR was incredibly helpful. We were consumer-facing brand in the fashion world, so fashion press was important. We had an innovative business model, where business press was able to write about us and helped us again a bunch of new customers. While that was super helpful, at the end of the day, it all comes down to the product that you're selling, and is it good enough that people want to buy it? Is it good enough that people want to buy it a second time, a third time? So we invested a lot in customer service and I would encourage you to think about customer service, not as some call center that should be minimized and outsource, but as a form of marketing and a part of that entire customer experience. It's as important as the product that you're selling. So, we gain traction because our customers told their friends about us and it's because they had good experiences when they visited our website or even when they had a problem. If somebody was waiting for their glasses and because we had no idea what we were doing when we're getting started, and we were shipping a week, two weeks later then we would have hoped, people would call up and they got a chance to talk to somebody who actually cared about them, and was friendly and wanted to do whatever it took to make them happy, whether it was to give good discounts, send them a new pair of glasses. You have to be willing to do that and train people on your team and empower them to make customers happy. If you do that, you'll gain the traction that you need. At this point, you've crafted a brand. You have your brand architecture which includes your mission and vision, what you are, what you aren't, your mood board, you have your brand name and you have your visual identity. At this point, you're preparing to launch or reimagine brand and you should think through, what is the bare minimum that I need to do to launch in effective way? What is the way that I'm going to be able to do this the fastest and the cheapest way possible? Now, that we've talked through building a social mission, crafting a brand and narrative, and launching a brand, take a moment to think about your reimagined brand and what would be that announcement that you want to make now, whether it's a press release, whether it's an infographic looking back on the last 12 months of all that you've accomplished in this brand, what would you want Fast Company for example, to write about you? As you're putting together this package to share with your class, in whatever medium you choose, really think about those points that are going to hit home. What have you accomplished? How you've made the world a better place? How has this impacted in different areas of your business? Has it made your customers more loyal? Has it made it easier to recruit and retain talent? Has it helped your standing in the local community? Mostly, has it made you happier? What do you want to tell the world? What are you proud of that? Of course, if you're creating your own brand, feel free to use that brand as the course project? 6. Final Thoughts: As you start to think about scaling your business, how does the social mission, your brand, your launch strategy, all fit in? At the end of the day, in order to attract the best talent, you're going to need a social mission, and there was a survey done by the World Economic Forum that showed that 80 percent of millennials choose mission over compensation when choosing where to work. This is not only the right thing to do having a social mission, but it's becoming essential in business today. To hire the right people, you need to do good in the world and have a positive impact. In order to have the full impact of the social mission, it can't just live within one department, it can't be siloed in a corporate social responsibility department, it has to live throughout the entire organization. Everybody needs to feel it, everybody needs to know it, everybody needs to be involved with it. I saw some research done that showed that 30 percent of US workers feel engaged in the workplace. Well, what better way to get your team engaged than to have them involved in some of your social mission related activities, to interact directly with beneficiaries, for example, or to do projects that support the nonprofits or the other organizations that directly support beneficiaries. How do you get your team to use the talents that they're using every day in your core business to do good in the world? How do you make this prevalent throughout the culture? You got to talk about it, you need to celebrate it, you need to live it through core values, through how you prioritize work throughout the business. If your social mission indeed is going to be a core part of your business, you got to make it so. It's got to be incorporated and integrated into everything that you do, the way you prioritize projects, the way you celebrate projects, what you talk about at team meetings, it needs to be a priority, it's got to come from the top, and it's got to be prevalent throughout the organization. As you're growing your company, when things that everybody's struggling with is how to stay innovative, how to foster creativity, what we do at Warby Parker's, we actually ask for it, we demand that people are creative, and we even have reports that people have to fill out on a weekly basis. It should take no longer than 15 minutes to write, five minutes to read, what did you accomplish the week before? What's your plan for next week? But also, what's your innovation idea this week? I know that the idea of a report is anathema to innovation, but I just give that as an example of something that we were doing anyway, but we took this extra step to ask people for an idea to share because the question that they asked, the answer's always no. So, demand from your team creativity. Just like your social mission, you need to celebrate it, you need to ask for it, and you need to push people. Looking forward at Warby Parker, I'm just most excited about scale, and the challenges that come with that, how do you maintain that innovative fast-moving culture within a larger organization? How do you build a brand that's both mass and niche? I think most people aren't as excited about scale, but from our perspective, we're building this business to demonstrate that you can create scale, can be profitable, can do good in the world without charging a premium for it, so we need scale in order to have the influence, and to have the positive impact that we want. So, I'm excited for those challenges over the coming years. So, much of what we do from a mission perspective, from a brand perspective is to try and create rules. That's like, "Hey, these are guidelines that we're going to follow, so that way we can maintain the brand." Now, the challenge is that as you scale, this gets more and more complicated, and then frankly brands evolve, and while there's certain things that are sacrosanct and you can't change, like your core values, and you want that to be core to everything that you do, you have to also be comfortable with change, and embrace it because it's happening, it's happening whether you're growing or not, it just happens faster when you're growing quickly and you're achieving scale. So, one of the things that we try and think a lot about is how do we culturally make people comfortable with change? Because uncertainty is scary, but if we find ways to embrace change, then we'll also be working to create the world that we want to live into our social mission, and will also be innovating. That will help the company continue to grow and be more successful. So, we've identified a bunch of core values that are true to Warby Parker, it's about injecting fun and quirkiness into everything that we do, it's about taking action being biased towards action and just keep moving forward, being comfortable with making mistakes because we know we are going to make them along the way, and frankly for not making enough mistakes, probably means we're not moving fast enough, it's about doing good in the world, it's about treating others the way that we want to be treated, it's about setting audacious goals and measuring results, so that we're data-driven and we keep pushing ourselves. It's about holding each other accountable, and helping each other learn and grow every day. Our last core value is presuming positive intent, and to sort of build trust among the team, and to trust our peers and coworkers and work closely together. We've made a lot of mistakes along the way, one of the biggest was when we were getting ready to launch, we needed to build a website. So, we reached out to about four different firms that built websites. One of whom gave us a proposal that was half the price of everybody else. So, we thought, "Oh great, this is the cheapest option, let's go with it." Of course, within six months, we realized we had to fire them, all the work that they had done was just not up to snuff, and I had to go back with one of the other folks and pay full freight. So, that was a learning that sometimes you get what you pay for. Core to the Warby Parker brand is this idea of learning, and there's always been that tie between vision and learning where you can't learn in the classroom, if you can't see the blackboard, books, they're the primary vehicle for learning, and classes help you read. So, for us, learning has always been core to the brand, and we think that it's essential just to create an innovative company. We need to be constantly learning and adapting, and we want to create a culture that celebrates that. So, whether it's having book clubs, whether it's moving people between departments, whether it's having workshops where actually different people in the organization can present areas where they are experts. We want to constantly challenge ourselves to learn and grow, and we view it as everybody's responsibility, both sort of upwards feedback, and downwards feedback. But for us, learning is essential to building a high growth company.