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7 eyecare pros who found their calling at a young age.

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What did you want to be when you grew up? A firefighter? A ballerina? A magician? It’s probably safe to say that the majority of us didn’t dream of a career in optical when we were children.

But the lucky few? They knew. From family legacies to doctors who made a real impression, we’ve rounded up just a few eyecare professionals who remember the exact moment they knew this is what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. It just goes to show: You could be influencing the lives of your young patients for the long-term beyond the gift of sight. Perhaps you’ll leave them with the gift of purpose.

Eye Guys for Generations

Zachary Moscot, Moscot Eyewear, New York, NY

Zachary Moscot of Moscot Eyewear “Since I was a boy, I knew I wanted to be a part of the club — our family business — but I didn’t want to be an optician or a doctor. I wanted to participate in a way that was true to myself and my interests. The Moscot generations before me were ‘eyes guys.’ First generation Hyman was an optician, as were second generation Sol and third generation Joel. My father and fourth generation, Harvey, is an optometrist. In high school, I was interested in art, design, fashion and technology, and spent a lot of time in the art studio. Growing up a Moscot, I wanted to help evolve the brand and story but it was entering college when I had my ‘Aha!’ moment. I realized I could do something I was passionate about, didn’t directly deal with eyeballs and still placed me at the center of our family business. I spent my college years in the studio pursuing a degree in design with a focus on eyewear. Today, I am the brand’s chief eyewear designer and oversee all creative designs for the company, as well as help develop strategy and goals, alongside my father.

 

A Carrot, Not a Stick

Texas Smith, OD, Dr. Texas L. Smith & Assoc., Citrus Heights, CA

Texas Smith, OD “I’ve had a high cylinder Rx (3 dptr. cyl) since kindergarten. Over the years my family optometrist (who went to high school with my parents) was asking how I was doing in high school. I told him that I was doing well in math and science, and he suggested that I look into optometry. That’s when I decided to become an OD. The rest is history. I have been in practice since 1965 and when examining a middle school or high school patient who shows interest in my work, I give them info on becoming an OD plus a packet of carrot seeds in case they don’t wear their Rx.”

Making Dad Proud

Jessica Prather, Eyes on Camp Bowie, Fort Worth, TX

Jessica Prather of Eyes on Camp Bowie “My dad was an optician who ran his own shop and the plan was for me to take over for one day. He got ill and ended up having to close his shop. He passed away when I was 15, and I knew after that I wanted to follow in his footsteps and make him proud. I started working in a small local lab the next summer (the owner was friends with my dad) and then moved to the retail side of the industry a few years after I graduated high school. Eighteen years later, I am the lead optician and optical manager. I love what I get to do every day and I think my dad would be proud of what I have accomplished!”

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Just Like Magic

Ann Marie Gallagher, OD, Professional Vision of Ellicott City, Ellicott City, MD

Anne Marie Gallagher of Professional Vision of Ellicott City “I knew that I wanted to be an optometrist when I had my first eye examination at age 11. I remember being fascinated by the phoria testing. It seemed like magic! It was also very clear that my doctor, Benjamin Hendin, OD, absolutely loved what he was doing. What could be better? I have worked in this practice for 20 years and just acquired it.”

A Little Bit of Everything

Kathy Maren, Combs EyeCare & EyeWear, Western Springs, IL

Kathy Maren of Combs EyeCare & EyeWear “I had started working as a receptionist for an optometrist at 16 while still in high school. He had a practice in a nearby town and started a second, which is where I worked. Back then, the doctor did everything. There were no pre-testers or opticians, but being a doctor ahead of his time, he thought that if he trained me in frame selections and pre-testing, he could see two patients an hour instead of just one. In the beginning, I was answering phones, pre-testing, doing contact lens insertion and removal training and frame selections with patients after he finished their exam. When we got busier, I hired a new receptionist and continued as both his tech and optician. He went on to start an associate degree program for ophthalmic technicians at the local community college and I helped teach adjustments, Rx transpositions, etc. I continued to work for Dr. Jordon Beller (pictured above) for seven years until I had my children and went back to work for him when they got older. I worked with him until his retirement in 2002. I stayed there until 2013, when I moved to the practice where I currently work. I still love and enjoy my career choice. He taught me a passion for what I do. I can’t ever imagine doing anything else.”
 

Home-Schooled

Astrid Chitamun, European Optical, Laguna Beach, CA

Astrid Chitamun of European Optical “My dad would bring home eyewear from his optical shop when I was 8 years old and teach me how to warm the frame over the stovetop to properly straighten them. At 14, I was running his second store, a sunglass shop in the next town, selling high-end sunglasses over the less expensive brands, convincing clients that best quality would always outlast inferior quality. He’d pick me up at the end of the day, and when I told him how much I sold, he would be so excited that his daughter was not only a great saleswoman but was learning the family business. When I was 24, I decided to study for my optical degree and work full time with my dad. Twenty-two years later, I’m now the owner of the family optical business in the same location since 1974.”

Pretty Cool Landing

Joseph Smay, OD, Family Eye Care, Pittsburgh, PA

Dr. Joseph Smay of Family Eye Care “When I was a kid, I had dreams of going to the U.S. Air Force Academy and becoming a fighter pilot. When I was diagnosed as myopic at age 8, that dream disappeared since you had to have 20/20 uncorrected vision. I went to my local optometrist and thought, “This is pretty cool too!” I knew by age 10 or so that I wanted to be an OD. In fact, I did a whole presentation on the profession using an overhead projector in eighth grade!”

Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at editor@invisionmag.com.

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Here’s How Eyecare Pros Are Spending Their Advertising Budgets

The pie is getting sliced ever more finely.

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IN INVISION’S FIRST annual Big Survey, we asked more than 500 ECPs which medium accounts for the biggest chunk of their ad and marketing spending. Print is still on top, but the marketing budget pie is getting sliced ever more finely — and nearly 1 in 5 ECPs claim to be passing on the plate all together.

Which gets the largest portion of your marketing budget?

Print
13%
Community events (including sponsorships)
12%
Direct mail
10%
Other social media marketing
8%
Paid search (PPC, Google Ads, etc.)
7%
Facebook
7%
Email marketing
7%
Radio
5%
SEO
5%
Television
2%
Billboards
2%
Other
3%
Don’t advertise
19%

 

Looking at the above results, it’s seems likely the 19 percent of ECPs who said they don’t advertise are relying on word of mouth to sustain their business. Still, it appears to pay to be more active: 25 percent of the ECPs who told the Big Survey the last two years had been their worst ever also don’t advertise. That compares to just 14 percent of those who said those years had been their best ever. Also worth considering: In a separate question, we asked ECPs to name the most significant thing they were doing to drive sales five years ago that they’ve stopped doing. The top answer? You guessed it—advertising in traditional media. Check out the survey to see how your spending fits in to this complex picture.

The 2019 Big Survey was conducted from August to October and attracted responses from more than 500 American ECPs. Look out for the full results in the November/December issue of INVISION.

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Best of Eyecare

The Big Survey 2019 – The Basics

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THE BIG SURVEY 2019

Who is the American ECP? How does he or she do business? What are the main challenges they face? Our inaugural Big Survey set out to find the answers and 505 owners and managers of American vision businesses answered our call. Here are the results.

The Basics

We find it’s always best to start at the beginning … the basic stuff that makes up so much of your business’ identity. The Who, What, How and Where are all here; we’ll get into the fun stuff — like how much and what’s selling ­— later on.

1. Need to swing on chandeliers? Head to Missouri: 60 percent of stores have these fixtures.
2. They don’t take kindly to strangers asking questions in South Dakota. It, along with Louisiana and New Mexico, were the only states not to be represented in our survey.
3. Michigan ECPs are some of the hardest working in the industry: 25 percent work more than 50 hours a week.
4. Eyewear trend capital? That might just be New York where 21 percent of ECPs thought of themselves as being primarily in the fashion business (as opposed to health or retail), the highest level in the land.
5. Move over Austin. Connecticut was tops for self-declared weirdness with ECPs there giving themselves an average score of 8.2 out of 10 on our oddball scale.
6. Ohio ECPs have been listening to our sales experts – 44 percent use role-playing in training staff.
7. Florida had the most male owners and managers in our survey at 76 percent. Washington state had the most female owners at 86 percent.
8. Is there something in the water in the Midwest? ECPs in a band of states from Illinois to Ohio to Missouri were the happiest vision professionals (along with their cousins in NJ), with half or more (50-57%) ranking themselves 9 or higher out of 10 for professional satisfaction.
9. North Carolina vision businesses have among the highest turnover rates in the country, with 72 percent saying their staff stay less than 4 years.
10. Californian ECPs were the least likely to own their places of business with 82 percent renting. Must have been those pesky legal limitations…
11. Kansans were most likely to be open on Sunday with one in four stores and practices open on this traditional “rest” day.

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1. How many locations does your business have?

One
74%
Two
13%
Three to five
8%
Six or more
5%

2. Please indicate the type of location that houses your store:

Free-standing building
43%
A strip mall
22%
Business park or office building
16%
Downtown storefront
9%
Lifestyle center
3%
In a hospital/medical wing/health center
3%
The Internet
1%
Mobile practice
1%
A mall
1%
Other
2%

3. Do you own or rent your business property?

Own
39%
Rent
62%
NA (For online and mobile only businesses)
2%
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4. How well are things going in your business this year?

COMMENT: As our heat map shows, there’s very little to be blue about for an ECP right now. Note that white indicates states with statistically invalid responses. Figures in parentheses represent the number of survey responses.

5. How would you describe the market where your store is located?

Large city
15%
Medium-sized city (250,000-1 million people)
24%
Small city (25,000 to 250,000)
29%
Country town (up to 25,000)
13%
Resort area
1%
Other
1%

6. How long has your business been in operation?

COMMENT: Businesses that have been in operation for 11-20 years seem to be this survey’s sweet spot. Not only did they slightly edge out other lengths of time in business, as seen above, but those in business for that long also reported the highest proportion of revenue between $500K-$1.5M (50%).
Wondering what the rest of this group’s demos looked like? Well, 59 percent classified themselves as a private practice with a strong focus on retail, 49 percent were in the South and 39 percent operated out of a freestanding building in a small city or suburb. Forty-five percent of owners in business for that long reported salaries over $100,000 and, best of all, the majority reported their satisfaction with their professional life at an 8 or higher (66%).

7. Which description of your business do you most closely identify with?

Hospital or VA setting
1%
Medical model private practice, no retail
1%
Medical model private practice, small dispensarybuilding
22%
Private practice, strong focus on retail
53%
Corporate optometry location
3%
Eyewear boutique, employed or leased OD
10%
Eyewear boutique, no OD
9%
Mobile optician
1%

8. How big is your (main) location?

Less than 500 sq. ft.
4%
500-999 sq. ft.
10%
1,000-1,499 sq. ft.
24%
1,500-1,999 sq. ft.
17%
2,000-2,499 sq. ft.
15%
2,500-2,999 sq. ft.
11%
3,000-3,999 sq. ft.
8%
4,000-5,000 sq. ft.
6%
More than 5,000 sq. ft.
5%

9. Check the paid services you offer:

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Best of Eyecare

25 ECPs Share Their Elevator Pitches

25 ECPs put who they are and what they do for a living in a sentence or two… or three.

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OK… You’ve slipped into the elevator just as the doors are closing. The woman on your left is wearing poorly fitting frames that are totally wrong for her. The gentleman to your right is squinting as he tries to find the button for his floor. You sense a golden opportunity, but the floors are already ticking by. You’ve got until those doors open again to tell these potential clients what you do and how you can help them. It’s time to dust off your “elevator pitch.” Our Brain Squad members are rarely at a loss for a few well-chosen words, so we asked them their best pitches. Here’s what they had to say to those future customers and patients on the subject of… you.

Hi, My name is Diana Canto Sims. I am an eyeball doctor turned eyewear designer for the diverse and the bold. What do you do? — Diana Sims, Buena Vista Optical, Chicago, IL

We help you create a look that is as unique as you are. — Doreen Erbe, Snyder Eye Group, Ship Bottom, NJ

I create complete custom eyewear by hand in Glenview. This includes the frames as well as the lenses. — Kevin Count, Prentice Lab, Glenview, IL

I am the owner and doctor at an eyecare office focused on pampering our patients.  — Nytarsha Thomas, OD, Visionelle Eyecare, Zionsville, IN

I can easily knock 10 years off your look and I promise people will notice! — Jennifer Leuzzi, Mill Creek Optical, Dansville, NY

We sell unique eyewear from all over the world.” (Then give a few specific examples of exotic materials. However, never oversell or seem pushy. Just plant the seed!!!)”  — Scott Keating, OD, Vision Trends, Dover, OH

You know the eyes are the windows to the soul right? Sometimes the windows cannot see; I help with that. I am an optometrist.” — Selina McGee, OD, Precision Vision, Edmond, OK

I refine one of your five senses. I give you vision and insight into your health, with a twist of style, all while having a good time in the process. — Cynthia Sayers, OD, EyeShop Optical Center, Lewis Center, OH

I explain that I run a practice for an eye doctor and that our goal is to make sure each patient sees well and is educated on the products and materials we wear ourselves. — Amy Pelak, Proview Eyecare Optometry, Corona, CA

I help people love their new eyewear, and owning 31 pairs of glasses and sunwear, I know I can find the right pair for you. — Kathy Maren Comb EyeCare & Eyewear, Western Springs, IL

I talk about the unique things our practice offers like sensory and vision therapy. We carry a variety of frames for the whole family. From durable kids, to the fun and funky for mom and dad. We’re not your average eye doctor.” Heather Nagucki, Brodie Optometry, Perrysburg, OH

I compliment someone on their glasses. I may ask them where they got them and always say something nice about their doctor or optician. I know everyone in town after 50 years in Sacramento. If the patient discusses a bad experience then I drop a business card.”  — Texas L. Smith, OD, Dr. Texas L. Smith & Associates, Citrus Heights, CA

I help people see and look better.  — Jason Stamper Eye Care Pavilion, Davenport, IA

I tell them I try not to look like an optometrist! — Dave Schultz, OD, Urban Optics, San Luis Obispo, CA

When I meet people I always try to tell them I’m like a pharmacist for your eyeglasses. — Bob Schmittou, New Eyes Optical, Wyandotte, MI

I’m an optician. Once the eye doctor is done with you I will help you with any optical needs whether glasses or contacts. Basically, I make you look good! — Scott Felten, Fox Valley Family Eye Care, Little Chute, WI

We get to help people see to their fullest potential. It’s the best job in the world! — Caitlin Bruno, Binyon Vision Center, Bellingham, WA

I’m like a pharmacist. I fill the prescription written by the doctor. But in Michigan, your optician doesn’t have to have a license the way your pharmacist does. That’s why there are so many people walking around in ugly glasses that can’t see.  — Dave Goodrich, Goodrich Optical, Lansing, MI

I bend light for a living. — Jon LaShorne, Kirkpatrick Eye Care, Madison, IN

I frame the windows to your soul with beauty. — Frances Ann Layton, Eye Associates of South Georgia, Valdosta, GA

I have no elevator pitch. I just let people know why I love doing what I do.” — Pablo E. Mercado, Mount Vernon Eyecare, Dunwoody, GA

Nice glasses! I bet they cost you a fortune. I’m an optician. Here’s my card. Next time you’re in the market for a new pair, give me a call and I’ll save you money.” — Mitchell Kaufman, Marine Park Family Vision, Brooklyn, NY

Everyone knows what a pharmacist does … so I equate my career as a licensed optician to that. I take a prescription from a doctor and I interpret that prescription. I advise and educate the patient on how to use the prescription written. I generate a product from that prescription and then dispense that prescription as a piece of medical equipment.”  — William Chancellor, Eye Can See Eyewear, McDonough, GA

We help people see the important things in life.” — John Marvin, Texas State Optical Inc., Houston, TX

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