Scojo Foundation: Finalist's Statement
History and Mission
Scojo Foundation was founded in 2001 to create and sustain livelihoods through sales of affordable reading glasses and other eye care products to people in the developing world.
Presbyopia occurs naturally in all people and progressively worsens with age. The condition can easily be corrected with simple magnifying "reading" glasses. Left untreated, presbyopia can impede economic productivity and diminish quality of life. Individuals whose livelihoods depend on clear up-close vision such as tailors, bookkeepers, or mechanics become unable to work after they reach a certain age and they lose their ability to earn an income. People's quality of life suffers too as they become unable to sew, cook, or read newspapers, literature or religious texts. Worldwide, nearly 1.6 billion people suffer from presbyopia.
In the West, low-cost reading glasses are conveniently sold in pharmacies and supermarkets without a prescription. In the developing world, however, readymade reading glasses are neither accessible nor affordable to the majority of the population. People living in rural areas are rarely able to access urban optical shops and hospitals where glasses are available. Even when they can access them, the price of the exam, frames, and lenses is often prohibitive to the poorest citizens.
What We Do
Scojo Foundation is focused on providing economic opportunities for low-income people by helping entrepreneurs create micro-franchises to sell reading glasses within their communities. Scojo Foundation has two primary sets of clients: Scojo Vision Entrepreneurs and their customers. Scojo Foundation trains Scojo Vision Entrepreneurs to successfully operate micro-franchises which more than doubles their monthly income. This newfound income enables them to invest in their families.
Scojo Vision Entrepreneurs' customers are low-income people in developing countries (weavers, mechanics, goldsmiths) who need reading glasses to see up-close to sustain their livelihoods and maintain their quality of life (reading religious texts, sorting seeds for planting). Millions worldwide lose their livelihoods every year due to a lack of access to this affordable product. Scojo Vision Entrepreneurs also refer customers in need of more advanced eye care to local partner eye hospitals where they are treated for cataract, glaucoma, etc.
Reading glasses are not available throughout the developing world. Scojo Foundation is innovative because it has developed new markets for reading glasses by creating new distribution channels. This mimics the successful shift that occurred in the West that made reading glasses a commodity item available in pharmacies and bookstores rather than one wholly-controlled by eye care professionals.
How We Do It
Scojo Foundation sources low-cost reading glasses from major manufacturers and benefits from the assistance of its parent company, Scojo Vision LLC., through purchasing power. Scojo Foundation is able to pass these low costs onto its entrepreneurs who can sell the reading glasses at a fraction of the cost charged by local opticians and eye doctors.
Scojo Foundation's distribution channels bring reading glasses directly to hard-to-reach urban, peri-urban, and rural consumers by selecting and training local entrepreneurs to start their own micro-franchises selling reading glasses. Mobile units also have been established to sell reading glasses on a mass scale by targeting factories and other high-density, high-need locations. Scojo Foundation also works with partner organizations to train and equip their community health workers in launching Scojo micro-franchises.
Scojo Foundation utilizes several innovative social marketing techniques. Creative messages are spread through radio, flyers, church groups, local associations, eye campaigns, Peace Corps volunteers, and local markets. Scojo Foundation also leverages existing networks of health promoters to educate consumers.
Scojo Foundation aims to:
- Increase the number of people with access to affordable reading glasses.
- Create jobs for local entrepreneurs.
- Facilitate access to comprehensive eye care services.