“We’ve always been entrepreneurs. We love it,” says Laura Harrison. “We traveled a ton for shooting weddings, and it was a great job for having no kids.”
Laura and her husband Ben started a wedding photography business shortly after graduating from college. A couple of other businesses and a few—which became five, which became seven—years later, they decided to start a family.
And then, as Laura puts it, with Ben in agreement, “Life drastically changed.”
Their son Jonas was born with Peters anomaly, an unusual visual condition without a known cause.
“You’re born with cloudy corneas. The white part of the eye never separates from the cornea,” says Ben. “There’s light perception, but you never have a sharp image. Jonas’s eyes were just gray.”
Pediatric ophthalmologists evaluated Jonas within a day of his birth. Soon, Ben and Laura were traveling to specialists 100+ miles away from their home for further evaluation and intervention. Jonas received a total of 21 eye surgeries, including the creation of a new pupil. All in all, he has low vision in his right eye only.
A busy start to life, yes. But for Jonas and the Harrisons’ next entrepreneurial venture, it was only the beginning. Jonas is a growing kid, now a big brother and “a blessing to everyone he runs into and interacts with,” who also wears glasses to stabilize and enhance the limited vision that he does have. And the Harrisons now run Jonas Paul Eyewear (JPE) together.
Ben describes it well: “It’s a business that makes glasses cool for kids.” In the optical space, kids are often forgotten about, but they want to feel confident in their glasses, too. And there’s much more to that life-changing feeling than “kid” colors and characters.
JPE prioritizes certain attributes that are important for kids glasses to fit and function well:
- Size. JPE designs its frames to fit kids from 4 years old up to 16. But every kid is different! Some 2- and 3-year-olds can wear the smaller frames, and adults with smaller faces find JPE frames can work well for them, too.
- Bridge. Kids’ faces are smaller, so a lot of JPE styles have a narrower or lower bridge, or even a keyhole bridge.
- Nose pads. Extended nose pads may help stabilize frames on a kid’s face, improving wearability, comfort and, ultimately, effectiveness.
- Tips. JPE frames have adjustable comfort tips that can be wrapped around kids’ ears, enabling a better fit, which in turn improves function.
- Durability. JPE frames are made of cellulose acetate or metal. They’re not indestructible, but they’re made with kids in mind.
- Weight. All JPE glasses come with impact-resistant, polycarbonate lenses with 100% UV protection, and antireflective and scratch-resistant coating.
- Environment. Everyone’s more relaxed at home—kids too! JPE’s home try-on kit includes seven frames in a variety of colors.
Thanks to an early infusion of industry knowledge, capital and some strategic business shifts, within a few years of launching, JPE began running its own lab. Now, a team of 10+ in-house technicians prepares lenses to meet kids’ prescriptions.
In addition to its e-commerce business, JPE also has several wholesale partnerships that are elevating awareness of the brand and, more critically, extending the positive impact it’s making for kids and families. JPE frames are available at Walmart Vision Center, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Eyemart Express, America’s Best and Eyeglass World.
In the wholesale environment, JPE frames sell on par with those of more well-known brands, which may be related to the brand’s social impact. As part of empowering all kids to feel confident in their glasses, JPE considers it a special brand mission to provide vision solutions for children with Down syndrome, who are more likely than other children to need glasses. Children with Down syndrome may also have more trouble finding comfortable glasses that fit their faces.
But that’s not all. The Harrisons extend the impact of the JPE business even further by supporting two organizations that are working to prevent blindness and restore sight in under-resourced regions in the U.S. and around the world. So far, JPE has helped more than 1 million children and families through its Buy Sight, Give Sight initiative.
We commend Laura and Ben for acting quickly and thinking big. As they say, “Having a child with a difference inspired us to make a world of difference.” And they certainly have. We look forward to watching JPE continue to grow. Visit their site and learn more about the kids glasses brand today.