In 2011, while an MBA student at San Diego State University, Jenny Amaraneni was inspired to do more than just start a business. She set out to change the world.
That may sound cliché, but there’s no denying that Amaraneni has already improved the lives of thousands of people through SOLO Eyewear, which sells a line of handcrafted sunglasses made with recycled bamboo. Each pair purchased helps fund prescription eyeglasses and cataract surgeries for people in need.
“The idea for SOLO came out of a classroom,” Amaraneni explains. “I was enrolled in an international entrepreneurship course. Our teacher had assigned us to read one of two books. The book I chose to read was called Out of Poverty by Paul Polak. And, in the book, Polak discussed the need for eye care in the world.
“That really caught my attention because I have really poor vision. I had never taken a moment to realize how blessed I was to own a pair of glasses or contacts. So I started doing research and learned that there are over a billion people who do not have access to eye care and that 80 percent of the world’s blindness is preventable.”
Those statistics served as a call to action for Amaraneni. “I had to do something about it,” she says. “So I came up with the idea for SOLO and, less than a year later, launched the company before graduating from the MBA program.”
In just under three years, SOLO has helped to restore the vision of nearly 10,000 people in 19 countries.
Looking Toward the Future
Amaraneni is just getting started: The ambitious entrepreneur from Southern California wants to give millions of people the gift of restored sight. But she needs some serious marketing muscle to help SOLO Eyewear stand out among competing brands.
“Every other brand has a line of sunglasses,” Amaraneni readily admits. “I always tell people that I realize the world doesn’t need another line of sunglasses. But what the world does need are more environmentally and socially conscious brands that care about the world and the people in it. And that’s what we do.”
To support her cause, Amaraneni entered QuickBooks’ Small Business Local Buzz campaign. “If we win the buzz-building prize,” she notes in her entry, “the SOLO team will be better equipped to build an effective social media and email marketing strategy and better able to reach our 2014 goal of restoring vision for 18,000 people in need.”
Today, QuickBooks set its sights on helping SOLO Eyewear achieve its objectives by awarding Amaraneni’s small business a customized marketing package worth $5,000.
“This is wonderful, thank you so much,” Amaraneni says. “This will give us a little extra clout and confidence in our marketing efforts and will help us expose our brand to a much larger audience.”
Having come so far in such a short period of time, Amaraneni believes SOLO Eyewear has only scratched the surface of the good it will do by the end of the decade.
“In another six years, we will be a global brand,” she estimates. “We will have restored vision for over a million people by then. We will be employing artisans in Guatemala and Ghana, who are [already] making our accessories. … And we’ll also find more and more ways to be socially responsible in everything we do. I want us to be the best place to work as well. [I aim to] build a culture of serving each other and others around the world who are in need.”
Check Out the Buzz
QuickBooks’ Small Business Local Buzz campaign is announcing one winner a day through March 28. To learn more about the campaign and those vying for an epic marketing boost courtesy of QuickBooks, click here.