How do you solve a problem like Warby, Away or The Giving Keys?

Feb 21, 2019 | Carrie Bob & Co Blog, Entrepreneurs

“Our most significant opportunities will be found in times of greatest difficulty.”

Thomas S. Monson

Some of my favorite brands were born out of a problem. Someone was curiously annoyed and set out to solve a problem. In some instances, their solution was a billion dollar solution. It’s fascinating. 

A person, a normal every day person, was frustrated or tripped up or struggling with something. And instead of excepting it and moving on, they wouldn’t let it go. They turned it upside down, right side up, inside out, flipped it around and tried to solve it like a Rubix cube, until something unlocked. And out of a problem something beautiful was born. 

What would happen in the world if we just didn’t let our problems go? What if we turned them upside down and inside out to find that seed of significance?

Sometimes when something in front of us looks like a daunting or insurmountable challenge, there is always another solution. We just have to find it.

Here are a few of my favorite brands and why I love their story as much as their products:

Warby Parker

My Warbys: Cora in Desert Tortoise and Crystal Plum, Chamberline in Whiskey Tortoise & Eugene in Rosewood Tortoise.

“Every idea starts with a problem.” This is how the history of Warby Parker begins on their webpage. Those of us who own a pair of Warby Parker glasses know the story. It is told in 100 words on the cleaning cloth that comes with a fresh pair of Warbys. 

The story begins when one of the founders was on a backpacking trip while in grad school. He left his glasses on a plane and it was so expensive to buy a new pair of glasses, he didn’t bother replacing them. As part of a graduate program at the Wharton School of Business, the four founders started digging into the problem around why glasses are so expensive. They discovered the eyewear industry was controlled by one dominate company who kept prices exponentially high because they controlled the entire market. So, they put together a business plan and strategy to make and sell glasses at a reasonable cost, while still looking cool. 

The company was founded in 2010 by Neil Blumenthal, Andrew Hunt, David Gilboa and Jeffrey Raider. According to CNBC, Warby Parker raised another $75 million in funding last year and it brings the total funding to date to $300 million.


My Away Luggage: The Large in Blush & The Bigger Carry On in Blush.

Jen Rubio is a Warby Parker alum and in an interview with Bond Street, Jen explains how after she had left Warby Parker and All Saints, she was “doing a bit of soul searching and traveling. It was funny. This luggage concept was one of the things I’d been thinking about, and as I was coming home from Davos my luggage broke.” And the start of Away luggage was born. Out of a problem.

Away luggage has a built in charger for your laptop, tablet or smartphone. Conde Nast recently featured Jen and she commented that “Our community has come to associate Away with better travel, not just better luggage.” It’s a belief in a better quality of life that doesn’t cost a fortune.

Jen and Stephanie have been named to Forbes 30 under 30 and Inc. 30 under 30 list. In 2018, they were named the winners of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

The Giving Keys

My Giving Keys: Vintage Skeleton (Purpose), Dainty (Strength), Classic (Brave) – these I keep a few of to give away to those who need a little nudge to be brave.

The Giving Keys began not so much out of solving a problem, but more like setting something right. And as a result, a problem is being taken on one key at a time.

The story begins with the founder, Caitlin Crosby who is a singer-songwriter and actress. While she was on tour, Caitlin would wear an old hotel key as a necklace. She was sparked with an idea to engrave inspirational words onto old keys.

The seed of The Giving Keys was taking root, but it wasn’t until Caitlin met Rob and Cera that the idea began to flourish. The couple was sitting under an umbrella holding a sign that read Ugly, Broke and Hungry. Something clicked. Caitlin invited them to dinner where she later discovered Cera made jewelry. The rest is magic.

The Giving Keys webpage describes how they desire to take old, discarded, flawed keys and give them a fresh, renewed purpose. They passionately do the same for people. The company empowers and employs those who are affected by homelessness. People who wear the jewelry are encouraged to “pay it forward” and give their key to someone who crosses their path who needs the encouraging or inspirational word more than them.

The Giving Keys has employed many people transitioning out of homelessness. Their products and jewelry are carried in Nordstrom, Fred Segal, Kitson and in over 1200 stores in both the US and internationally.

The best things…

How many times have I been annoyed or inconvenienced and just kept right on going when there was something more right in front of me? The best things in life are often hidden. And what a better place to hide than inside of a problem? Every challenge, obstacle, problem or tragedy has an opportunity for something beautiful and powerful to emerge. We just have to find it.