Glens ‘backup’ reading glasses designed in Estonia fit anywhere, are practically unbreakable and cost so little, that you can own as many pairs as you need.
Like many great ideas in this world, the idea for the almost-invisible Glens reading glasses was born out of personal need. The company was founded by the investor Andrei Astapenko, who due to his active lifestyle was both often on the road and had many hobbies. He had often felt the need to have a pair of backup reading glasses, which he could just take along on the plane, in the suitcase, to his hotel room, or even just carry round in his back pocket. Three years ago, then, Astapenko started to develop precisely such a p
air of glasses. He shared his idea with the well-known Estonian wooden glass frame designer Karl Annus, who then sketched the prototype product. However, before Glens reading glasses went into actual production, in autumn 2016 Karl Annus won the lifestyle product award at the Estonian Designers’ Union’s annual design competition BRUNO, so the glasses already started to win recognition in Estonia and elsewhere, on the back of this.
Nevertheless it still took some lead time from designing the invisible glasses to reaching the production stage, as the team, who had now grown into three members, was looking for the appropriate material. Katrin Sõnajalg-Pihlik, who had joined the team in the meantime, says that they talked to various producers in Estonia but, besides great design, there was not sufficient production experience available here, therefore the team turned to Germany. The partner they found was not a producer of glasses, but a company dealing in plastic − Kläger Spritzguss GmbH & Co.
‘Just over a year ago we started tests with the shape of the glasses. This seemed to be successful and we then produced a small batch. At the beginning of this year, we ordered a mould for mass production,’ explains Sõnajalg-Pihlik. She explains that the material for making the glasses is tiny granules of high-quality co-polyester, which means that in addition to being practically invisible, the glasses weigh almost nothing − under one gram. The three so-called points on the curve help wearers to get a better grip when putting the glasses on and also to adjust the position if necessary, and currently the reading glasses are available in three strengths: +1,5, +2,0 and +2,5 dpt. ‘We cannot develop minus glasses because people who wear them often have the problem that their eyes need glasses with different strength. But reading glasses can be temporarily used without a prescription from the eye-doctor,’ explains Member of the Board Kristiina Schults-Otsaru.
The principle of the developers of Glens reading glasses is to offer an affordable product which would become a widely accessible consumer product available in day-to-day places such as petrol stations and kiosks. In addition, they emphasize that they do not aim to replace normal glasses for good, but merely to offer a backup. As part of the current campaign, the first Glens glasses are available for free, with a set of three pairs of glasses having an introductory price of 3.99 euros. Both options are sent by post to the customer inside a protecting, velvety pocket the size of a credit card. According to Schults-Otsaru, the surface of the lens gets damaged in time and therefore it makes sense to keep the cost low so that customers do not think twice about replacing them, and, furthermore, it is no big deal if someone loses a pair of glasses. ‘The set of glasses will probably stay at the same level and the specific price is still something which is to be developed. But our business model is one of mass production,’ she explains. The next goal for Glens is to develop the company homepage and to concentrate on marketing and locating re-sellers for the German market.
This is where the company is assisted by Enterprise Estonia’s Export Advisor in Germany – Kristian Jochen Schnack − who states that this is a unique product which nobody else has done before. In addition, the product addresses a very real need − people constantly forget their reading glasses. ‘How convenient to have a Glens set in your wallet or to be able to buy a pair at a gas station. I use them myself, by the way and show them to everybody I meet – all of whom ask me “when can I buy them?”. “Soon”, I answer,’ says Schnack.
Source: Life in Estonia