Westporter gives back with new eyewear brand
WESTPORT — Sometimes, a difficult moment in life is the turning point before prosperity.
Mark Agnew, a 58-year-old Westport resident, said one such moment was an impetus for change. At 26-years-old, Agnew was a stock broker salesman living in Portland, Maine. One night while walking down the street he was mugged and suffered a life-changing injury.
“I was hit in the eye with a stick and permanently blinded in one eye,” Agnew said. “It was a life changing wake-up call.”
While the moment left Agnew permanently scarred, he said it sparked a change in his career choice. He decided to follow a path that would help contribute more to society.
“Working on wall street there’s not a good connection,” he said.
In 2000, he founded Eyeglasses.com, an online shop for eyeglasses, prescription lenses and sunglasses, to make purchasing eyeglasses an easier and less costly process. Agnew said the decision came from his personal experience after numerous visits with an eye doctor.
“After I was mugged, I went through a series of eye surgeries for about six months,” Agnew said.
He continued visiting his eye doctor over the years, each time having to pay $400 for eyeglasses. Soon the internet began to take off, and Agnew saw an opportunity.
“I started looking at the eyewear industry and realized it’s highly fragmented,” Agnew said. “Over half the industry is done at the eye doctor’s office.”
For Agnew, the internet represented the great equalizer, where eyeglass wearers could be provided with more information and more choices at better prices, he said. However, in the first decade of his business he had to battle with an old culture of shopping.
“People are trained to buy things in a certain way,” Agnew said. “Even now, the internet only accounts for 10 or 20 percent of overall business. It takes people a long time to shift their patterns.”
Now, with nearly two decades in business and stores in Westport and West Hartford, Agnew is launching his new Pi Wear charitable brand.
For every one pair of Pi Wear eyeglasses or sunglasses purchased, Eyeglasses.com pays for one eye surgery in rural India.
“I’m still looking for more ways to give back and better ways to do that,” he said. “I want to do more.”
Agnew said his business represented how a negative moment in life could sprout positivity. Looking back, he said he wouldn’t ever wish to change the mugging incident or how things turned out.
“It changed my life so much for the better,” Agnew said. “I met my wife. I developed a family. I moved from one career to another career where I can help people. It has done nothing but positive things in my personal growth and my life.”