Social Capitalists: Scojo Foundation

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
2007 Social Capitalist Winner

Scojo Foundation

New York, NY
Year founded: 2001
Director: Graham Macmillan
www.scojofoundation.org

Founded in 2001, Scojo Foundation improves the economic status of families in the developing world by broadening access to affordable reading glasses via profitable microfranchises.

Some 700 million of the world's poorest people suffer from blurry up-close vision (presbyopia), a condition that limits their ability to work with their hands, thereby limiting their productivity, quality of life, and economic stability. While low-cost reading glasses have long been available in every drugstore in the United States, this simple product is not accessible to those that live on $4 a day or less. Reading glasses can double the productive life of those whose livelihoods depend on up-close vision, such as weavers, tailors, mechanics, and women who work in the home, yet less than 5% of people in need have access to affordable, quality reading glasses.

Scojo Foundation uses market-based solutions to address this immense development problem, employing a scalable "microfranchise" model that provides a crucial public health service while generating income for people in the developing world. Assisted in part by the purchasing power of its sister company, Scojo Vision LLC., Scojo Foundation is able to source low-cost reading glasses from major manufacturers, minimizing the cost of reading glasses for those who could not otherwise afford them.

Committed to the empowerment of people in the developing world, Scojo Foundation establishes and supports sustainable microfranchises in marginalized, rural areas. Scojo Foundation identifies, equips, and trains motivated people as "vision entrepreneurs" to conduct vision screenings in their communities, sell affordable reading glasses, and refer those requiring advanced eye care to reputable clinics. Vision Entrepreneurs receive ongoing support and their own "Business in a Bag," a sales kit containing all the products and materials they need for vision screening, sales, data collection, and marketing. Equipped with proven marketing techniques, solid training, an efficient operational structure, and high-quality products offered at affordable prices, Scojo Vision Entrepreneurs run profitable businesses, earning more than twice their previous daily income on each pair of glasses sold. The microfranchise model provides limitless opportunity for Vision Entrepreneurs to expand their businesses and generate income for themselves and their families.

For the past five years, Scojo Foundation has been refining its methodology to make microfranchises replicable across the globe. Scojo Foundation forms strategic Franchise Partnerships with organizations, both for-profit and not-for-profit, that share in its goals and principles and have an existing distribution infrastructure that can be leveraged to integrate Scojo's microfranchise model. Scojo Foundation provides the tools, knowledge, and support for Franchise Partners to implement a business model that adds both profit and social value to established programs.

Scojo Franchise Partners generate income for both the entrepreneurs in their programs and their own organizations while providing a crucial health service. In India, Hindustan Lever's Project Shakti sales force of over 30,000 is adding Scojo eye glasses to the range health care products such as soaps and shampoos that they offer to the rural market. In Bangladesh, BRAC has begun to train its over 54,000 Shastho Shebikas (village-based health care volunteers) as Vision Entrepreneurs, enabling them to earn extra income while continuing their work as the health care leaders of their communities. Scojo Foundation currently works with more than 20 Franchise Partners in India, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico. With over 40,000 pairs of reading glasses sold, more than 560 Vision Entrepreneurs trained, and nearly 65,000 people referred for advanced eye care, Scojo Foundation is closer than ever to achieving its goal of providing access to affordable reading glasses for all.

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