From the start, Dr. Tammy Vo knew running her own practice was the way to go. In 2014, about a month after graduating optometry school, Vo signed a lease and began transforming the Austin-based space she found into Look + See Vision Care. “While my office was being built, I worked for other people,” she says, and adds, laughing, “I was like, ‘Well obviously I’m making the right choice, because this is terrible.’”
This article originally appeared in the August 2016 edition of INVISION.
Quick FactsLOCATION: Dr. Tammy Vo
LOCATION: Austin, TX
AREA: 2,250 square feet
DESIGNERS: Matt Fajkus Architecture (www.mfarchitecture.com) and Dr. Tammy Vo
TOP BRANDS: Garrett Leight, SALT, Brooklyn Spectacles
Vo set up the practice with care, making every decision that goes into building a space from scratch. “I chose every piece that went into my office, every piece of furniture,” she says. “I drew out the shelves, and a millwork crew, Hatch, did all the woodwork.” Vo spent weeks deliberating over just the right stain of reclaimed wood — “gray and brown, but not too gray, and not too brown.” She hired an architect who had no experience in optical design, but whom she believed had a great eye for design. The process was a true collaboration.
When it comes to the reception space, anyone looking for old issues of Time and Money, or a TV in the corner need not apply. Instead, the area welcomes patients into a fun and interesting book collection, curated by Vo herself. The library includes things like Calvin and Hobbes, pictures of dogs under water and books of short stories. “I think people really appreciate and enjoy it,” she says.
The music is also important. “We bump it through our Sonos speakers,” adds Vo, a former piano major and violinist in an indie folk band.
Once their wait is over, patients are treated to a personalized experience on which Vo prides herself. “I get to help people, and I see them back every year, which is cool,” she says. “Nobody dies in my office, so that’s great,” she adds, sounding relieved.
2016 America's Finest 2nd Place: Look + See Vision Care
Look + See has two full-time staffers: optician Alisha Sanford, and optician/receptionist Lauren Wiles. “Patients always know who they’re going to see,” Vo says. “I chose them very carefully, and I got very lucky.” She describes them as “opticians who also do everything else.”
When Vo says she chose her team carefully, she’s not kidding. “I think the main thing is trying to find people you can tell pay attention to detail, because that’s very hard to train somebody to do — to be aware of everything they’re doing, and not make silly mistakes.”
During the hiring process, Vo gave applicants math tests and evaluated their correspondence for grammar and communication style. As far as training them,she focused on one thing at a time. “My first employee was here when I was setting everything up,” she says, “so I collaborated with her. She’s a pretty experienced optician.Then we had to retrain my second. She came from [a chain], so we had to change her ways a little bit.”
In addition to choosing her team with care, Vo chooses her frames with care. “I choose all the frames that come in because I love glasses,” she says.
Although Look + See has been open since 2014, Vo says it will be some time before she can confidently say that she’s out of startup mode. “That won’t end until I’ve hired another doctor and I’m killing it with passive income while I just hang out telling my patients I’m working hard,” she jokes. But then she gets serious. “I have so many ideas.” She plans to hire a technician, open another exam room to see more patients, and set up an in-house finishing lab, which is in the works. “I have so many things I still need to do.”
5 Cool Things About Look + See Vision Care1. KEYS TO SUCCESS: As an undergrad, Vo majored in piano. “I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll play piano all the time,’ but I also took all these extra science classes,” she says. During that time, she worked for a number of ODs. “My goal was to go to optometry school,” she says, “This the a perfect job for me.”
2. PERSONAL TOUCH: Offering their patients direct, personal attention is a priority for Vo and her team. Whenever possible, all three of them will each choose a few pairs of glasses for a patient to try. “The patients feel like they’re the center of attention,” Vo says. “and it’s a fun game of ‘Whose Glasses Are They Going to Choose?’” she jokes.
3. WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Look + See brought a fresh look and welcome addition to its Austin neighborhood. “This was, apparently, an old print shop,” Vo reports. She’s been told the space was “just really ugly and smelly.”
4. SMALL-TOWN FEEL: Vo is originally from Houston and appreciates the relatively small size of her current city. “Austin has the community feel that I appreciate,” she says. “You’re not going to find any chain stores or restaurants on my street.”
5. GIVING THANKS: When patients leave appointments at Look + See, they receive a thank you card for a free coffee. “We love supporting Once Over Coffee, the coffee shop next door,” she says excitedly, “except for when their patrons park in our parking lot.”
What the Judges Say
COLLEEN GALANTI: Kudos to Dr. Vo for going after her dream and making it a success. Her shop is sensational with that amazing lighting, cozy reception area and unique frame boards.
MARC FRANCHI AND JASON STANLEY: They obviously thought of everything when they created the space, even down to the music. We like that they give coupons for neighboring businesses to their patients, and they have a great social media presence.
MICHAEL KARLSRUD: You can feel the vibe looking a the photos. Everything in this store is an extension of it’s owner. The marketing is simple, fresh and not complicated, nor is the layout or experience one would expect. Very authentic and incorporates a total retail experience.