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The Green Team

This Minneapolis-area practice has made the most of its location’s thriving family demographic, packing a fine selection of eyewear and personal but high-tech care into less than 1,600 square feet.

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Wink Family Eye Care, Chanhassen, MN

OWNER: Sarah K. Ebeling, OD; URL:winkfamilyeyecare.com; FOUNDED: 2014; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: Bob Shaffer at The Foundation Architects; EMPLOYEES: 3 full-time, 2 part-time; AREA: 1,600 sq. ft.; TOP BRANDS: Ørgreen, Masunaga, Dior, Etnia Barcelona, MODO; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/winkfamilyeyecare; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/winkfamilyeyecare; INSTAGRAM: twitter.com/winkfamilyeye; BUILDOUT COST: $150,000


Wink Family Eye Care owner Dr. Sarah K. Ebeling

Owner Dr. Sarah K. Ebeling

AFTER SPENDING A few years at her “dream job” in a private practice, Dr. Sarah K. Ebeling grew frustrated by the hour-long commute. Exhausted by the challenge of finding a work/life balance with a toddler and new baby, she was carrying around some major “mom guilt.” What’s more, she saw a growing need for family eyecare in her own expanding community of Chanhassen, MN. So she took the plunge and struck out on her own.

Wink Family Eye Care opened its doors in December 2014. So appreciative of her former bosses was Ebeling that she never announced to her patients that she was leaving. It turns out she didn’t need to: “They were my number one supporters and told my patients that I had opened Wink and where they could find me.”

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More than five years later, Wink is now thriving, with a four-person team and thousands of patients on its books.

Ebeling describes Chanhassen — located about a 20-minute drive southwest of downtown Minneapolis — as a suburban community with a small town feel. “Most of the town is young families like us, and more are coming. We have a projected population growth of 20,000 in Chanhassen and the immediate surrounding towns in the next 10 years.” Ebeling estimates Wink is around 50 percent pediatric, depending on the month.

The interiors at Wink are fresh, clean, modern and designed to be inviting for all ages with bright colors pleasing to children, but not so “pediatric-focused” that their parents aren’t comfortable, too. The apple-green featured throughout was chosen by Ebeling based on a lesson on “visually pleasing” color wavelengths she was taught in optometry school. “555nm is the easiest color for our eyes to see and there are pops of it everywhere in the office, from the pop-art mural in the optical to the paper towel dispensers in the contact lens room.” A natural wood floor offsets the cool white and aqua accents to create balance.

The total square footage is less than 1,600 sq. ft, so when possible, multi-purpose adaptations were made. When designing the space, Ebeling thought of every step patients would take through the office and tried to design around an ideal flow, with just a small area of hallway that a patient will have to walk through twice in a routine contact lens exam. To other ECPs working with limited space, her advice is to dedicate as much floor and wall space as you can to the optical, “because you will grow… I built out a second exam lane but didn’t equip it until our third year in practice.”

Wink sunglasses

Wink logo sunglasses are given to every child who gets dilated.

Ebeling used to do all of the frame buying, but has handed nearly all rep meetings over to her lead optician, Bridget. “She’s much better at frame selection than I am,” says Ebeling. “We try to buy frames that are representative of the collection,” she says. “Though Etnia has beautiful black and brown frames in traditional silhouettes, we’re going to select more of their colorful or Art Deco shapes.” All collections are posted online with links to the manufacturers’ sites, which Ebeling says helps people who appreciate unique eyewear find Wink. “We also have quite a few patients who look online before they come in and already have an idea what they want… We can style patients in the office but special order their ideal color directly from the manufacturer.” Wink also does a lot of drop-ship from the vendors directly to the labs, which helps with inventory management.

The practice keeps its social media current with frequent posts for fun, education, or to showcase its newest frames. They’ve experimented with various approaches, including hashtag campaigns, using Glam Optometrist’s monthly subscription and hiring younger, tech-savvy optometry students to run their accounts, but Ebeling admits it’s a work in progress.

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On the medical side, Ebeling strives for a mix of the personal and the high-tech, using a computerized refractive system, Optos digital imaging, and the iCare tonometer for those patients who despise the “puff” and drops. With over half of her patients under the age of 18, she says, each touch-point in the office is adaptable to each patient’s needs and size, “whether they are a 3 year old or a 6’6” hockey coach. We treat each patient as the friend and neighbor that they are.”

PHOTO GALLERY (10 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About Wink Family Eye Care

1. SUNS SWEETENER. Every child who’s dilated gets a pair of Wink-logo sunglasses.

2. EYE-GRABBER. In the center of the optical is a pop art mural featuring Wink’s signature apple green, comprising dots that spell ‘Wink.’ LED spotlights make it visible when people drive by the office at night

3. TEACHABLE MOMENT. Every year Dr. Ebeling visits local schools to teach kids about the importance of eyecare. She takes a bunch of daily disposables with her for the kids to play with.

4. CL DROPS. Wink is a drop-off site for B+L’s contact lens blister pack recycling program through Terra Cycle.

5. GONE GREEN. From online exam booking and CL ordering to texted appointment reminders and recalls, as well as digital faxing and the Weave text-to-pay option, Wink is mostly paperless. Ebeling says this reduces accounts receivable and creates another “wow” opportunity.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

  • Great logo, clean marketing materials and excellent use of that eye-popping green. Very “shop-able” store layout. Nathan Troxell, Think About Your Eyes, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Wink Family Eye Care’s use of green creates a clever storytelling moment and theme throughout its brand and retail presence. Stirling Barrett, KREWE, New Orleans, LA
  • The interior is so fun, and the print materials have a glossy, high-end appeal. A fresh and welcome vibe! Leigh and Todd Rogers Berberian, Todd Rogers Eyewear,
    Andover, MA
  • Their easily navigated website showcases their office environment beautifully and all the relevant info is nicely laid out. The Wink-logo sunglasses for kids is a great marketing tool as well as a way to get kids to forget they are dilated. I also commend her efforts in going green. Beverly Suliteanu, Westgroupe, Ville St-Laurent, Québec, Canada

 

TESTING TIMES

Asked how Wink was coping with the COVID-19 outbreak, Ebeling told us: “It’s awful. I’m fortunate to have an awesome team who has wanted to work through this. We’ve taken advantage of this extra time and have reorganized the office, cleaned closets, focused on training, spot-painted walls. As of now, I only have one employee in the office four hours a day to take phone calls, Weave messages, emails and contact lens orders.” The practice has implemented telemedicine, which Ebeling says has been well received and appreciated. The team misses each other, so they’ve implemented weekly Zoom happy hours. “I worry about all the small businesses throughout the country. It’s scary how much tragedy COVID-19 has caused. It will be exciting to see the innovations and changes that happen in our industry as a result of all of this,” she says.

After years covering some of the farther flung corners of the world of business journalism, Heath has more recently focused on covering the efforts of independent eyecare professionals to negotiate a fast-changing industry landscape. Contact him at [email protected]

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