Entrepreneurs Tackling Climate Change: “Working on offsetting our carbon footprint is a feasible start” With David Menning and Amine Rahal

There’s never just one way of doing something and if we all took our climate a bit more into consideration we can find ways — even simple ones — to leave the environment in a better state than how we found it.

I believe that working on offsetting our carbon footprint is a feasible start, whether on an individual scale or as a government, there’s never just one way of doing something and if we all took our climate a bit more into consideration we can find ways — even simple ones — to leave the environment in a better state than how we found it.

I had the pleasure of interviewing David Menning, CEO of the SmartBuyGlasses Optical Group, a leading designer eyewear e-commerce retailer. With websites in 30 countries in 15 languages, David leads a team of 150 people working to improve the way that people buy their eyeglasses and sunglasses online.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was always very interested in international trade in my teenage and university years and had been discussing with my business partners for some time niches or business ideas with a lot of opportunity for the future.

Back in 2006 when we started the company ecommerce was still in its infancy and there was lots of opportunities to start selling online. We identified that in the eyewear industry, there were very few sellers retailing eyewear — sunglasses and eyeglasses online.

It was a product category that hadn’t really migrated online — that was the niche that we identified. So we set out to propose a business solution catering to this need.

What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?

We aim to improve our customers’ experience when buying eyewear online, to put it simply we believe it should be fun, fast and easy — so we’ve made purchasing eyewear a much more interactive and personalized experience. Self-expression and individuality is really close to our hearts here, which is why we provide the largest range of designers and products on our sites, making sure each and every one of our customers can find something they love. Another big passion of mine is making positive changes for social development in developing communities. We’ve donated over $1 million worth of eyewear to the visually impaired in developing countries thanks to our partnership with organizations like Sightsavers and Unite for Sight.

Can you tell us about the initiatives that your company is taking to tackle climate change? Can you give an example for each?

We believe that it is our responsibility to be a part of global change for the better, and we commit to making a positive environmental impact. Thanks to our brand Oh My Woodness! We were able to sponsor the Buy One Give One programme which is in partnership with the Eden Reforestation Projects, planting more trees to encourage afforestation and empower local communities.

What was the most difficult thing you faced when you first started your company/organization? Can you share how you overcame that. This might give insight to founders who face a similar situation.

When we first started selling eyeglasses and sunglasses online back in 2007 people were sceptical about the idea of buying their glasses online. People associated this product with their local optometrist so there were lots of reservations about fit, suitability, quality, etc. What we found was that through strong clear communication we could clearly propose solutions to customers reservations. Don’t be scared about innovation and doing something different just be clear and frank about the product or service proposition and the terms.

Many people want to start a company to tackle environmental issues, but they face challenges when it comes to raising enough money to actually make it happen. Can you share how you were able to raise the funding necessary to start your organization? Do you have any advice?

When starting a business or organisation there is always a great deal of effort and grunt work required in the first months and years. This work is largely unpaid work. Its important to find an alternative funding source for the initial period so that you don’t have to rely solely on income from the project.

Do you think entrepreneurs/businesses can do a better job than governments to solve the climate change and global warming issues? Please explain why or why not.

Climate and global warming issues are problems that effect us all. Whilst government policy and law are important ways of bringing about societal change, the grass-roots changes that we can all contribute to on a daily basis are also of equal importance. Typically NGO’s and entrepreneurs can innovate faster to find energy solutions which can have equally important contributions to bringing about change.

What are some practical things that both people and governments can do help you address the climate change and global warming problem?

I believe that working on offsetting our carbon footprint is a feasible start, whether on an individual scale or as a government, there’s never just one way of doing something and if we all took our climate a bit more into consideration we can find ways — even simple ones — to leave the environment in a better state than how we found it.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. The more you fail the greater you succeed. Its only through continually failing, continually trying and not succeeding that one learns to succeed even more strongly. One shouldn’t have a pessimistic view of failure, its actually a good thing if you think of it in this light.

2. Passion. A healthy dose of passion is required if you want to fight the uphill battle of innovation and starting something new.

3. Persistence. Nothing of importance was built or discovered overnight. Success requires a long-term dedicated effort towards continual improvement.

4. Enjoy the journey. The most important thing is that you do something that you enjoy doing. Life is too short to get stuck labouring on something that you don’t want to be doing.

5. You really can do anything if you put your mind to it. No goal is really too big if you plan carefully and choose to focus your considerable energies to that goal. ‘Anything’ meaning somewhat realistic things but ambitious yes.

You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good to the world, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Giving eyeglasses to people in need in the developing world. In first world countries there is a tremendous amount of waste. Products are made to be single use and we end up consuming and wasting a great deal. We would like to scale up our giving efforts so that we can develop social enterprise glasses programs. Helping to make glasses accessible in poor communities.

What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?


This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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