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Everyday You're Hustling

Some talented ECPs share their side gigs.




ALL WORK AND no play makes ECPs … well you get it. But there are hobbies and then there are those who hustle. We know we have a lot of talented readers out there who do more than provide excellent eyecare.

So, we asked you what sort of non-optical jobs you pursue and thought we’d share some of our favorites. Mad respect for those of you who have the energy after a long day in the trenches to do even more. I want to take a nap just thinking about it. 


ECPs Tell Us Their Side GigsJeff Grosekemper

What’s your side gig?
I sell antiques and collectables on eBay and Etsy. My wife, Beckie, and I just moved and everything is in boxes right now, so I closed my Etsy shop but will re-open this fall with lots of antique and collectable eyewear under a new shop name — JefnBec — same as my license plate. My eBay name is ATTABOYLUTHER21, but no items are for sale currently.

What amount of time/resources do you devote to it?
We enjoy collecting American Indian art — pottery, rugs and baskets. We hit all the swap meets, garage sales and estate sales for the good stuff. So far, I’ve been to antique stores, flea markets, and garage sales in over 10 different states and counting.


Why do you do it?
I got hooked when I was 7 years old and found my first arrowhead. I started looking for more in the local mountains, and at the same time my cousins got me started on collecting baseball cards and comic books. When I was 22, I opened an antique store with a friend and started an Indian artifact auction business to help pay for the shop. I used to have one of the largest Disneyana collections in town but when eBay started, I sold my private collection and made over five figures in two months. I was hooked. Currently, we collect artwork from Native American and Mexican Indians. You can tell the difference between pieces an artist puts his soul into and a tourist piece. We collect soul.

What has been your most memorable acquisition?
My most memorable find was a lamp with a step-up switch from the old pay phones that when you dial the rotary dial it turns the lamp on and off. It’s encased in see-thru glass so you can see the switch in action. It was $40 at a garage sale, appraised at $2K-$3K at an antique show. I still own it; it’s a great conversation piece.

What have you learned that you can apply to your optical job?
It’s the quest to go out and find treasures wherever I can. Buying and selling these treasures are the same as in the optical world. I put passion into buying frames and into decorating a person’s face with a beautiful piece of wearable art. You’re going to look great before leaving my office.


ECPs Tell Us Their Side GigsAaron Baker

What’s your side gig?
I own a small graphic design business. I started dabbling in graphic design about 15-20 years ago. I started my first home business in the field in 2001 in Little Rock, AR.


What amount of time/resources do you devote to it?
Most of my business comes via word-of-mouth, with a sprinkle or two from Google searches. My business was named 501 Graphic Design, in reference to Little Rock’s area code. Most of my clientele still comes from central Arkansas, but since I am now in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and want to expand my business, I will probably be renaming it soon.

What has been your most memorable assignment?
My favorite assignment was a logo that I did for a now-defunct business. The owner purchased a billboard, and I was unaware until I saw my work while going down the highway. It was huge! I almost cried tears of joy … until I noticed a design flaw.

Why do you do it?
I have always needed some sort of creative outlet. Not only does graphic design serve that purpose, but it makes me a little cash on the side as well.

What have you learned that you can apply to your optical job?
To be honest, I’ve had a number of employers take advantage of having a graphic designer in-house. I’ve designed websites, logos, and printed collateral for various employers, including my present practice.


ECPs Tell Us Their Side GigsHarris Decker


What’s your side gig?
I’ve just become an Uber-driving optician actually … I’ve been doing it for three months. 

What amount of time/resources do you devote to it?
Resources are pretty minimal. The hardest part is keeping my car clean enough. I’m not one to give out waters and such but I’m always interested in what people have to say. Becoming a driver was shockingly easy. While it depends on your city and state, my area simply requires you to have a driver’s license. You sign up and go.  

Why do you do it?
I do it 100 percent for the experience. I like meeting new people and it’s just an enjoyable way to learn about the lives of random people. I used to be a big blogger and one of my favorite things was tweeting crazy conversations I overheard on trains (#overheardonthetrain). This is just an extension of that. The money stinks but it’s all about doing different things and exploring new areas of my county. 

Who was your most memorable passenger?
My most memorable rider was a little more R-rated than I can share. Let’s just say I picked someone up after they ended a long-term relationship and most of their belongings went in my trunk. Thankfully, I haven’t had any safety concerns as I tend to drive in areas I’m familiar with. 

What have you learned that you can apply to your optical job?
I’ve learned there is still a perception from some about where and how glasses are made. As an independent optician, I’m always happy to explain Luxottica does not represent the entire industry.


ECPs Tell Us Their Side GigsAmanda Averell

What’s your side gig?
I started doing stand-up comedy in August 2014. I’d wanted to do it forever and, after attending some open mics as an audience member, I got on stage at an open mic and haven’t stopped since. It was just the realization of, “You’ve wanted to do this forever; if you hate it, at least you tried.” I started doing improv in October 2014. I now perform all over Pittsburgh and have been in comedy festivals doing both stand up and improv.

What amount of time/resources do you devote to it?
I’m out every weeknight going to between 1-3 open mics. Most shows for both improv and stand-up are on weekends. With improv, I practice with my house team, Game Shark, for two hours a week and take classes and workshops when time allows. Currently, the team I’m coaching meets every other week for a two-hour practice. In the fall, I’ll be teaching improv to 55-plus individuals once a week. During the summer, I taught a week-long improv intensive for kids ages 8-14. I have a sketch team as well but we meet more infrequently than I’d like. We’ve had two killer shows this year. I’m also a house manager and intern manager at Arcade Comedy Theater, Pittsburgh’s only not-for-profit comedy theater. Needless to say, I’m pretty non-stop, especially with being a full time keyholder optician as well.

What has been your most memorable moment?
Getting booked for my first show. I was only doing comedy for three months so it was a big surprise. Still one of my favorite shows to date.

Why do you do it?
I love comedy, always have, always will. I’ve always wanted to do it and now I get to live my dream.

Is there anything you’ve learned that you’ve been able to apply to your optical job?
Comedy is all about detail and word choice. Knowing these things makes it so much easier to talk to my customers in a way they understand and want to be spoken to. In improv, there’s a concept called “Yes, and…” and it essentially means agreeing with your scene partner and adding something useful to the scene. In my office, it’s easy to agree with a customer and then add the little extra detail. For example: “Yes, I love that frame on you and it seems to match your personal style.”


ECPs Tell Us Their Side GigsBetty Aretz

What’s your side gig?
I am an independent Mary Kay consultant. It will be three years this September.

What amount of time/resources do you devote to it?
My marketing is mostly social media, and travel time varies for me. If I am on my way to my full-time job, I can stop on the way home and deliver products or do skincare pampering, and I claim that as travel time. I wish I could devote more time but my eyecare job is not as flexible. I spend about 5-10 hours a week.

Why do you do it?
I started because I fell in love with the product. I do it because it puts me in a happy place and customers love being put first and pampered. It’s girlfriend time, you’re your own boss and the company rewards you for doing your job. The customers are wonderful and appreciate customer service. Everyone is unique.

What have you learned that you can apply to your optical job?
I’ve learned that the Mary Kay business cannot be compared to optical at all. You don’t have insurance controlling you or dictating you. But I do offer my best customer service wherever I go and always remember: Everyone can have a bad day, but smile and treat people how you would like to be treated.


ECPs Tell Us Their Side GigsJules Kohler

What’s your side gig? I volunteer as a clown for nonprofits. I’ve been doing it for 15 years. I face paint and make balloon animals. Of course, my clown name is Iris!

What amount of time/resources do you devote to it? Very little; it’s mostly word of mouth.

What has been your most memorable clown encounter?  There was a little boy that burst into tears; I backed away — possibly a fear of clowns! As I entertained the rest of the event, the mom and son approached me again. He was crying out of excitement! He asked that I paint his face. Every year, four years now, he seeks me out to give me a hug.

Why do you do it? I love people. So many times, with optometry, we are (still fun but) serious and poised.  This lets me be wild, wacky, and just have fun!

What have you learned that you can apply to your optical job? I’ve learned how to capture little children’s attention, as well as communicate without talking (Iris doesn’t talk, she sqeaks!) This helps with communicating a comfortable, safe environment, when patients may be getting bad news or may just be on edge.



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