Cork couple sets up blue light glasses company to tackle eyestrain - and give back to others
"A severe lack of training courses for opticians..."
Buy one, give one: that's the business model of new blue light screen glasses company, Sapphire Eyewear.
Set up by Cork based couple Dearbhaile and Seamus Flynn, the business was born of a want to do something about the increasing numbers of people suffering from eyestrain in Ireland - and to give back to those without proper access to eye-care elsewhere.
During a honeymoon trip to Zambia, the couple became aware of the sheer number of people living in developing countries without access to glasses, eye tests, and even regular check ups.
Problems that are easily rectified here in Ireland were being drastically overlooked elsewhere - predominantly due to a lack of training and resources.
"We were shocked to discover that the public [in Zambia] find it very difficult and expensive to access eye testing, and even getting suitable prescription eyewear," Dearbhaile, consultant oncologist at CUH, tells Her.
"We decided that one day we would love to give back, so we now donate a pair of glasses to developing countries like Zambia for every pair of glasses we sell. Giving back was a major part of setting up the business."
Sapphire Eyewear's charity partners are Mission For Vision, a non-for-profit working to eradicate avoidable blindness.
Dearbhaile and Seamus decided to partner with the charity after their trip, an experience that emphasised the glaring issues around eye-care that still exist in some countries.
Optician Seamus says that a lack of education is behind the incredibly low number of qualified opticians currently operating in Zambia - at the time of writing, just 48.
Dearbhaile and Seamus Flynn
"There’s a severe lack of training courses for opticians, and that’s something that we’re looking to tackle in the future," Seamus says.
"We want to take a year or so off to go out there, and set up some training clinics.
"We need to get our new business off the ground first, but spending a year in Zambia, me focusing on the optometry side and Dearbhaile eventually working on the oncology side, that’s the goal."
Covid-19 has not only increased the amount of time we spend at home, it has also increased the amount of time we spend looking at screens.
Zoom meetings, Skype calls, and more hours scrolling through social media has led to more time for our eyes to feel the effects of our digitally-led lives.
Having struggled with eyestrain herself in the past, Dearbhaile says it's not surprising that more and more people have started suffering from headaches and sleep disturbances over the past few months.
View this post on Instagram
#WednesdayWisdom Wearing glasses is cool & not being able to see is not cool. Our little friend Shaban was prescribed spectacles during the Mission Roshni screening programme. He now feels like a HERO wearing his glasses. Through our Mission Roshni project, we conduct eye-screening, provide spectacles, train teachers and even bring about a behaviour change with attractive spectacles that kids enjoy wearing. Read more: http://www.missionforvision.org.in/mission-roshni
"I personally struggled with these symptoms for years," she says. "I was tied to my laptop with my cancer research and other work commitments, often spending 10-12 hours a day looking at a screen.
"The blue light lenses have made my symptoms completely disappear. It's very rewarding to have created an eyewear brand that helps others get relief from digital eyestrain whilst helping those in need in the developing world at the same time."
Right now, Sapphire Eyewear currently boasts close to 50 pairs of anti-blue light lenses to protect against eyestrain and all of the debilitating symptoms that come with it.
The frames are stylish, modern and reasonably priced - something that both Seamus and Dearbhaile were adamant to nail when setting up their business.
"Dearbhaile is the creative force behind everything," says Seamus. “She jetted off to Milan and she went to trade shows to get a good feel for the brand we were trying to develop.
"She has created a wonderfully diverse and modern range that we are delighted with."
You can find out more about Sapphire Eyewear here.