Lucas Lagera sat on the subway as two women boarded raving about the Panda sunglasses they saw at ABC Home. A quiet, rewarding smile spread across his face – as it well should – he is part of the trio that turned Panda from a Kickstarter project into an addition in the tidal wave of today’s conscious capitalism.
Started in collaboration with college friends, Mike Mills and Vincent Ko in 2011, Panda is a collection of polarized sunglasses, made of sustainably-sourced bamboo (they float!), a staple of Ko’s Chinese-American heritage. Inspired by the TOMS Shoes’ socially responsible business model, the three asked themselves how they might create positive change that they and the world would see instantly. Sunglasses with a purpose – with each purchase, Panda provides the gift of vision – a free eye exam and eyewear to a person in need through the Tribal Outreach Medical Assistance Foundation (TOMA).
After the 2008 financial crisis, TOMA, a non-profit pioneered by their family friend, was in destitute having lost a majority of its funding. Just a year old, last month Panda donated the largest individual donation TOMA has yet to receive granting visual assistance to thousands in need. “We knew we wanted to be mission-based from day one,” said Vincent. “We wanted to work with a foundation and see the results, rather than just donate money. We helped a friend and are engaging with an organization long-term at the same time.”
The company’s vision isn’t stopping there. Moving forward, Panda hopes to bring their mission back to the States, says Vincent, in collaboration with Teach for America. Additionally, furthering the good they have done in South America, Luke says, the company will work with aiding the Marina Orth Foundation, which seeks to close the technological divide for children denied educational opportunities in Colombia.
We at ABC are honored to share in the vision.
Check back here at Reveal for Vincent and Luke in-store and as we follow their trip to Colombia to visit TOMA this winter.
-shari monique gab