If I Owned: Andrea Learned

If Andrea Learned owned an eyecare business

In many ways, the eyecare business I would own already exists. Northwest Vision Clinic is an easy walk from my Seattle house, and I’m happy with the service and selection I get there. I chose it because it had good Yelp reviews that weren’t just about the nice doctor and good selection, but showed that people consider it a good business citizen in the community.

But if my provider disappeared and I opened an eyecare shop, I’d name it Look Up, Ballard. I say “look up” all the time to clients because it’s a way of remembering to take off the blinders and see what’s going on in the community, or broader world, and how all of our work can interconnect for good.

Look Up would have a central location just steps from the library, grocery store and other professional offices, and it would be easy to reach on foot, by bike or via bus. Of course, a location like this might cost more in rent, but it appeals to my interest in supporting walkable or public transportation-rich neighborhoods. Being centrally located would help people get here easily for geographic reasons, but it would put us at the heart of the neighborhood in spirit, as well.

Our employees would include talented people from the community, even if they needed training in the optical world. Living and shopping locally means employees of all the nearby business can come to us and we to them. We’d network with our neighborhood association and the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies to boost homegrown enterprises of all kinds.

I’d give my staff paid time off to volunteer for a community cause, such as outfitting eyeglasses for homeless people. (Maybe we’d close the office and go as a team, with a sign on our door and posts on social media to explain our absence.)

We’d get involved with local events, both for the publicity and to strengthen and celebrate our sense of place. We’d sponsor the local farmer’s market. And we’d use social media to leverage our engagement, from great patient reviews to photos of our team’s involvement in the community.

When we look up and beyond our narrow view as business owners, we make connections that help both our community and our business’s bottom line. That’s a vision of a future we all can support — and one that will also sustain us.

Andrea Learned is co-author of Don’t Think Pink: What Really Makes Women Buy — and How to Increase Your Share of This Crucial Market. With expertise in sustainability and corporate social responsibility, she guides business clients in using social media engagement for thought leadership development. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..