Rebel with a Cause

An entrepreneur’s vision to end Vitamin A Deficiency

When Wes Stoody entered Eastern Michigan University he thought he wanted to be a professor. Five years later he is educating people, but not in the way he originally planned. Along with business partner Jay Parkin and his sister, Maggie Stoody, Wes created Aframes, a socially conscious line of unisex eyewear. The company sells fashionable sunglasses with the dual goal of raising awareness about vitamin A deficiency (VAD) and helping to fund programs that prevent it.

Aframes is partnering with Helen Keller International and will donate 5% of all revenue to help HKI’s vitamin A supplementation programs around the world.

Next week, Aframes is going one step further: the company will donate 50% of its revenue to HKI in celebration of the start of summer. We encourage you to visit their website between May 28th and June 2nd to take advantage of this generous offer!

I wanted to find out how this entrepreneur became so passionate about ending vitamin A deficiency, so I recently sat down with Wes to learn more.

How did you first learn about VAD? “In an economics development class in college my professor showed us The A Factor, a documentary film that features Dr. Alfred Sommer and his work bringing vitamin A capsules to the children of Nepal. It blew my mind. This [vitamin A deficiency] was such a huge problem and nobody knew about it. I wanted to make a difference and decided I would email Dr. Sommer for advice. To my surprise, he e-mailed me back right away! He told me my best bet was to get a medical degree, but I knew I didn’t want to be a doctor. Throughout the summer I kept thinking about what else I could do, and finally came up with the idea of creating a for-profit business that could raise money to help prevent VAD.”

Why eyeglasses? “I have always worn glasses and am into fashion and design, so it was a natural fit. The fact that VAD can cause childhood blindness was also a good synergy. I just became passionate about the idea of starting an eyewear company and founded Aframes in 2010.”

Why HKI? “I have to give the credit again to Dr. Somner. When I asked him about an organization that might be a good partner he suggested I get in contact with Helen Keller International. After some research and several meetings, we decided to enter into a partnership.”

Do you have any advice for other socially-conscious entrepreneurs? “The number one thing I would say is start slow. Talk with as many people as you can to really flesh out your idea and figure out what you want to do. I like to say creativity is generated via enthusiastic conversation!”

What is your hope for Aframes’ future? ”My hope is that Aframes will become synonymous with Vitamin A Deficiency, and that our brand will become so successful that VAD will become an issue more people are talking about.”

Wes Stoody (center) with partners Maggie Stoody and Jay Parkin

Aframes glasses are named for countries where HKI works. Shown above: the Senegal in Honey Tortoise.

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Categories: Preventing Blindness, United States

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