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DIFFERENTIATE… OR DIE. In this era of insane competition for vision care, it’s as simple as that. But standing apart isn’t as daunting a task as it may seem. It all starts with you. Whether you work in a Main Street storefront or a strip mall, whether you’re affiliated with a chain or you’re fiercely independent, you can make your business one of a kind. We asked the INVISION Brain Squad what they’re doing to set their businesses apart. We looked at dozens of eyecare pros’ social media feeds, as well as past issues of INVISION. We found a whole lot of inspiration to share with you here. Always remember: These ideas are just starting points. By putting your own unique personality (and that of your team members) into play — and we do mean play! — you’ll instantly make your eyecare business more memorable.


Every day is a good day at European Optical in Laguna Beach, CA, where Astrid Chitamun (above, left) started working alongside her father, master optician Udo Stoeckmann, as a teen. Today, she continues the family business with the help of Elizabeth Mendizibal and Colleen Hannegan, and they all clearly know how to have a good time.


Dr. Andy Howard of La Follette Eye Clinic in LaFollette, TN, has a robust blog with posts on everything from vision to overall health to the rare planetary alignment that happened this winter. This is no boilerplate blog: Howard wrote one post while sitting in a hospital waiting for a friend who was having triplebypass heart surgery, using the opportunity to talk about how personal health habits can make or break our future. Each post gets extra mileage on the practice’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds.


At least once a year, think about doing something grand like Urban Optiks in San Diego, where the 2015 America’s Finest finalist throws a Raise Your Glasses gala at a swanky lounge.


The name Medford Optical doesn’t immediately help people know the specialty of Dana Cohen’s Massachusetts shop, but its URL — — makes it clear, as does the “We Love Kids” sign in his front window. (Cohen also snagged the Massachusetts toll-free number, 1-800-OPTICIAN). In Florida, Daniel Amyx owns both Hillmoor Optical and Treasure Coast Optical. “We wanted to tie them together with a single website, which would also save us time and money as well,” he says. Amyx and his wife, Lara, occasionally drive to Key West to recharge their batteries, both personally and professionally. It was during one of those trips, margaritas in hand, that they came up with the perfect URL: Let that be a lesson to you. Get away for a weekend more often.



Gosgosha Optique in Los Angeles, CA, had a pop-up shop with a neighboring plant shop just before Christmas last year. Says owner Julia Gogosha, it was part of ongoing crosspromotions “to feature people who are knowledgable in their own fields that complement our own.”


This too-often-neglected website page is actually the perfect online showcase for sharing your staff’s personality. For example, we love how at optixgallery. com, each staff member of McCulley Optix Gallery shares a favorite frozen yogurt flavor and toppings — yes, even in Fargo, even in winter! — as well as how they like to spend a rainy day. At eyeshopoptical. com, Dr. Cynthia Sayers confesses her love for 1980s rocker Bryan Adams.


It’s one of the first decisions you make when you go into business, or when you re-brand, and it’s one of the best ways to capture your personality and target market. Some of our favorites include Eye Candy (we know of at least three indie shops in the U.S. with this name, including those in Delafield, WI; McMurray, PA; and Westlake, OH); Glasses Menagerie in Minneapolis, MN; Silver Lining Opticians in New York, NY; and Goo Goo Goggles in Victoria, BC, Canada.


If you’ve been in business more than a few decades, your shop’s history is one worth sharing: in displays on your walls, on your social media feeds and on your website. A great example of this: the website for Jackson Davenport Vision Center in Charleston, SC, where a multimedia “Our History” page recounts highlights like having the first African American optician in South Carolina on staff and surviving Hurricane Hugo in 1989.


A friendly animal is one way to make people feel welcome at your business. At Eye Impact in Houston, TX, Chloe, a dog rescued by Dr. Gary Nguyen, serves as an ambassador to the neighborhood, where everyone seems to have at least one dog. If it’s not feasible to have a dog, consider a fish tank like they have at Eye-C-You Optometry in Riverside, CA.


What is the single best way to make a better impression on would-be patients and customers? Hire a professional photographer to get great photos of your business and your staff. If a photo shoot isn’t in the budget, maybe you can barter an eye exam, frames and lens package to your favorite local newspaper photographer. (Trust us. Talented but modestly paid photojournalists would love a deal like that.)



Clients of Ulla Eyewear in Madison, WI, get showered with thanks, including a custom-made card featuring caricatures of the staff and a box of handmade confections from Infusion Chocolates, a neighbor in the Hilldale Shopping Center. At Eye Candy in Delafield, WI, people get M&Ms imprinted with the business’s name.


Modern Eye of Philadelphia, PA, has mastered the art of window displays that make passers-by do a double take, often featuring the business’ signature eyeball people. Last spring, the window of Modern Eye’s University City shop featured three putti frolicking amid flowers. At Christmas, Santa and Mrs. Claus were the star attractions. (See a video at


In Portland, OR, an art curator stops by each month to put new paintings on Optik PDX’s walls in time for second Thursday art walks. At Oakland Vision Optometry in Oakland, CA, Dr. Tanya Gill curates everything from display backdrops to works by local artists.


This is Seth Godin’s term for something that makes your business remarkable. He came up with it after his family went on vacation in France and saw “hundreds of storybook cows grazing in lovely pastures right next to the road. For dozens of kilometers, we all gazed out the window, marveling at the beauty. Then, within a few minutes, we started ignoring the cows.” This article is full of purple cows, but if you’d like to read more from Godin on how to identify yours, see



Eye Candy Optical in Westlake, OH, makes every customer a rock star with portraits taken in front of a green screen, then posted on the shop’s Facebook feed with the motto, “Be who you want to be at Eye Candy Optical.”


Elle Tatum of Elle’s Island Spectacle has a French fling going at her Bainbridge Island, WA, shop. The Parisian vintage vibe includes a red chandelier and an over-the-top bejeweled tutu atop a three-tiered marble table.


Dr. Ted McElroy of Vision Source-Tifton in Tifton, GA, tells how he once bought “infotainment” software for the exam room to help patients pass the time while they waited for him. But he couldn’t get around to loading it and finally just put in a thumb drive of family pictures. Patients immediately started asking, “Are those your kids?” or “Where did you go on that trip where the mountains are?” or “I see you’ve been to Disney. When did you go last?” Adds McElroy, “I knew the infotainment software was not getting a renewal. I now have guests who regularly ask about my family when I see them in our small town, and they tell whoever is around them about the pictures they saw on my computer while in the exam room. My good friend and idol, Dr. April Jasper of West Palm Peach, FL, says you will always get more connection to people you take care of if they see who you are outside the office than what you can do for them while you’re in your office. She puts pictures of her family everywhere and gets the same results.”


Dr. Tanya Gill of Oakland Vision Center Optometry in Oakland, CA, says the shop’s motto, We Love Eyes, “is not just a cute phrase to sell glasses” or win the 2015 America’s Finest Optical Retailers competition. It’s a bold declaration of intent — not to mention great branding — that appears everywhere from the business’s front window to the inner temples of the shop’s private-label frames to a line of natural eyecare products the entrepreneurial Gill launched in 2015. Oh yes, it’s a hashtag on more than 1,800 Instagram posts, too.


OK, not everyone can pull this one off, but there’s a sandy floor at Optical Oasis in Jupiter, FL. In fact, the whole place looks like the beach-town optical shop it is, with a waterfall, a tiki hut to house the sunglasses and more. “I wanted my shop to be memorable and unique,” says owner Julie Uram. “It’s cozy and casual. My mom and I did feng shui in the shop, and I bless it regularly. Only good chi at Optical Oasis.”


Who is that blue man climbing out the window of Blink Eye Care and Eye Wear in Charlotte, NC? “That is Mr. Big, our practice mascot,” says Dr. Charlene Henderson, who found a similar character for a store in Serbia while researching designs for the business’s cold opening in 2009. She contacted the designer and found a local sign maker to manufacture the characters. “We like to think we have an optical that steps outside of the box, just like Mr. Big,” Henderson says. “He is bright, fun and marches to his own beat.” The character also pops up everywhere from Blink’s website to displays throughout the shop.


A lab is a lab is a lab — unless you’re in one of the nation’s largest shopping malls and you put a window into your lab so everyone walking by can see just how finely tuned Rx eyewear actually gets made. That’s what they’ve done at Vitra Eyewear in Costa Mesa, CA. Read more about this new shop in our Best of the Best story on page 72.


Facebook remains the top dog among social media sites, and it’s an increasingly important way people search for businesses, too. Some eyecare businesses even use Facebook as their main home online, bypassing a website for a public Facebook page, like that of Park Slope Eye (, which forwards to Facebook. There, people can book an exam, learn about Ortho-K, or even see listings for upcoming local events via shared posts from neighborhood news site Park Slope Stoop.


Maybe you walk or ride your bike to work. Maybe you’ve created a line of Earth-friendly eyewear, like Optik PDX did with five OH three, made of wood from the old stadium bleachers at Lewis and Clark College. Whatever you’re doing to make every day Earth Day, let people know about it.


“When I started working here, every time I logged onto the practice email account, Google would harass me to choose a photo for the account,” says Leslie Boyd, practice manager of Village Eye Care Optometry in Raleigh, NC. She finally relented and made the photo a high fashion model with some really cool frames. But Dr. Chris Bateman didn’t like it and said he didn’t want people to think he was a woman, so Boyd changed the pic to a male model with cool frames on. “Dr. Bateman said that was misleading and he didn’t want the patients to be disappointed when they found out he didn’t really look like that. He told me to change it to ‘George Clooney or something,’ so people would know it obviously wasn’t him,” Boyd recalls. So next, Boyd picked a Groucho Marxstyle glasses and nose. It took the doctor a while to notice, “and I had completely forgotten about it when one day I heard him yelling from his office, ‘Leslie! That is not George Clooney!’ He told me to change it back, but here we are a year and a half later and it’s still up there.” And email recipients smile every time they see it.


At Eyes on Fremont in Seattle, WA, winner of the 2014 America’s Finest competition, they have all sorts of unusual and fun giveaways you don’t see at the typical optical shop, from free pins dispensed from a bubble gum-style vending machine to stickers , beer koozies and snapback caps, all bearing the shop’s “Fight Evil” motto.


“I am a hobby photographer, so I decorated the office with my own photographs,” says Dr. Selina McGee of Precision Vision in Edmond and Midwest City, OK. “I am a Master Gardener and love fresh flowers, so we have a fresh delivery every Monday from a local florist (who is our patient, too) to start our week off brightly. I like farmhouse, eclectic, shabby chic decor so there are no frame boards in our office, only white bright floating shelves.”


Erker’s Fine Eyewear’s flagship location in downtown St. Louis has red awnings you can see from way down the street. Artsee Eyewear in Manhattan’s Battery Park City has streetside windows that draw passers-by into the store’s chic interior.


Says Julie Uram of Optical Oasis in Jupiter, FL, “I advertise on my hometown radio station. It’s not a big station, so the cost is not like a big station.” Customers come in all the time to tell Uram they heard her ad, “which I do the voiceover for. It’s really fun. And at the end of my ad, the song Midnight at the Oasis plays, which fits perfect because my shop is called Optical Oasis.”


Aim for a mix of savory and sweet, like they do at Lynn Valley Optometry in North Vancouver, BC. Fresh fruit and bottled water (or an eco-friendly water cooler) help people make healthy choices, too. But don’t forget: Everyone needs a little indulgence once in a while. So every Friday is “Dessert Friday” at EyeShop Optical Center in Ohio. “No store-bought treats here. Home-baked goods by the doc herself,” says Dr. Cynthia Sayers. And at Specs Around Town in Bloomington, IL, trays of truffles greeted customers for a pre-Valentine’s Tour de Chocolat fashion, music and art event.


With a sofa from Restoration Hardware, midcentury-look leather chairs from Crate & Barrel and a one-ofa- kind rug from the Dallas Design District, Glass Optical in Dallas, TX, exudes a lounge-like vibe. Forget the waiting room; it’s time to give your patients and customers a place to relax and socialize. (The shop hosted its grand opening party with a neighbor, Spinster Records.)


At EyeBar in Houston, TX, Dr. Sheena Garner offers complimentary makeup sessions with every eye exam, along with eyebrow waxing, lash and brow extensions, and other pampering pluses. (See our America’s Finest feature on page 74.)


Medford Optical in Massachusetts drives new business its way with a Honda Element colorfully shrink-wrapped to spotlight the shop’s focus on children. And because owner Dana Cohen is usually in his shop fitting glasses all day, the vehicle actually belongs to an art therapist friend who spends his work hours driving to and from appointments all over town.


At Lynn Valley Optometry in North Vancouver, BC, light citrus aromas from an essential oils nebulizer have replaced a scent machine. Your customers with allergies will thank you for going natural.


Make yourself an inescapable presence in your community. “I do a lot of outside activities away from the business to keep our name out there,” says Kathy Maren of Combs EyeCare and EyeWear in Western Springs, IL. You’ll see her everywhere from the local Lions Club (always a great choice for ECPs, with its sight-saving programs) to volunteering at a women’s shelter, staying active in the local business association and serving on the board of a nonprofit.


Santa Fe Optical (below) had fun with Vinylize, the eyewear made from recycled records. We also love what super-creative optician Tamara Walker does with the displays at Eyepolis in Homestead, PA, using everything from family photos to antique fair finds to showcase the shop’s offbeat frames.


In St. Paul, MN, Northwest Opticians shares its prime downtown corner location with a branch of the locally popular Dunn Bros. Coffee chain. People can grab their favorite coffee beverage, then browse the frame offerings seven days a week.


Alissa Fields of Eye Spy Optical in Chicago, IL, owns an Airstream trailer. Of course, its name is Iris. Better yet, the trailer has its own hashtag for Instagram, #iristheairstream.


Andes Optical is located several miles from the center of action in Knoxville, TN, so owner Faith Andes McDaniel decided to outfit a red Mini Cooper as a mobile eyewear showroom. Will Taylor of Eye 2 Eye Contact in Detroit, MI, also works out of his vehicle, noting, “I go to clients’ homes, place of business and coffee shops to meet up with them.”


Patients at the Union, NJ, office of Dr. Dawn Arnold are always asking office manager Tuli Santiago what music they’re hearing. It’s actually DJ Tuli, who builds sets based on the people who are on the schedule that day. “They are super happy when I just email them the link to a set and they can enjoy it at home,” she adds.


The popular social media site is a great way to show your business’s personality. With its photocentric and largely ad-free layout, people enjoy scrolling through their Instagram feeds, and it’s an excellent place to highlight everything from happy customers with their glasses to the amazing hors d’oeuvres you’ve just put out for your trunk show.


Every Tuesday is Tiara Tuesday at Eyepolis in Homestead, PA. The tradition began since the shop is usually slower that day, when Dr. Viki Christopoulos is often in surgery. “It lightens everything up,” says Michelle Singer, who started the tradition — and who will show you her tiara on a day other than Tuesday, too, if you ask nicely.


Every December, Jeff Grosekemper at Casa de Oro Eyecare in Spring Valley, CA, brings out Santa and his team of Hush Puppies. Grosekemper explains that in the late 1990s, Kenmark was looking for the best store display for Christmas, so Kenmark rep Mark Argusa and his wife, Robin, made the sleigh team and Grosekemper featured it at the office where he worked at the time. “Every year, I bring out the team and the patients love it and bring family members by just to see the team,” Grosekemper says, adding that the 2015 display had special meaning since Argusa had passed away last year. “I’ve been offered money for the pups but won’t give them up. They’re one of a kind.”


“We like to do events with our patients,” says Tuli Santiago at Dr. Dawn Arnold’s office. Last year, a team of 10 people signed up for a mud run. A country line-dancing event was another hit.


On an everyday basis, you want to offer a selection of beverages to show customers you care, whether it’s water, herbal tea or — perhaps for a happy hour on the evening you stay open — a glass of wine. Special events call for an extra-special beverage, like the “Eye Can See Clearly Now Cosmo” custom cocktail that Urban Optiks offered at its Raise Your Glasses fundraising gala in San Diego, CA, or the beer from a local German-style brewery that they had on draft for the 10th anniversary Oktoberfest celebration at Look + See Eye Care in Minneapolis, MN.


Scott Ginsberg, aka The Nametag Guy, suggests asking a specific question as part of the message — for example, “What’s your favorite pizza topping?” It encourages people to leave a response, and it definitely sets you apart.


At Whitaker Eye Works in Wayne, PA, they have in-store guitar lessons and a regular 4 o’clock dance party with funky music. “Stacey and I — and sometimes customers — boogie,” says Steve Whitaker. “Never forget to boogie.”


With its tie-dye swirls, the cleaning cloth at Eyes & Optics in Las Vegas perfectly captures the shop’s rock ’n’ roll vibe, while doing double duty as a handy eyewear accessory and a reminder to clients of where they got their groovy glasses.


At Wood Vision Clinic in Parkersburg and Iowa Falls, IA, they’re always on the alert for great interactive campaigns. In February, for example, they held a “So you think you can color?” contest to capitalize on the adult coloring craze. Here’s the beauty part: People had to come in to the office to pick up their coloring sheet.


If you’ve got ’em, flaunt ’em. Whether it’s a local “Best of” honor or placing in INVISION’s annual America’s Finest Optical Retailers contest, don’t keep your honors to yourself. LaFollette Eye Clinic in Tennessee had a big America’s Finest logo made for its front door. Art of Optiks in Wayzata, MN, celebrates its 2015 America’s Finest showing on a beautifully designed website. And Sonoma Eyeworks in Santa Rosa, CA, has an entire web page full of the local and national recognition it has seen.


Optik PDX in Portland, OR, regularly gets fresh flower deliveries from Emerald Petals, a nearby eco-florist on Mississippi Avenue.

Julie Fanselow was the original editor-in-chief of INVISION magazine and now contributes to the publication.




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Walman Optical Presents—Industry Myths Busted! It’s up to every ECP to explain that “premium” doesn’t mean expensive—it means “customized to your needs.”

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Get ‘Em Young



Transforming the medical side of your practice is obviously not a step to be taken lightly, particularly if you’re looking at expanding your treatment of children. The challenges are many, but the rewards can be great, personally and financially. To help those of you thinking of boosting your optometric offerings for kids but wanting to know what that could entail, we assembled an impressive panel of experts in pediatric eyecare, and its related specialties, for a rundown of the main areas you should be looking at. If children are the future, and the future is now, what are you waiting for?


Dr. Dominick M. Maino, professor, Illinois College of Optometry/Illinois Eye Institute, associate, Lyons Family Eye Care, Chicago, Il; and Dr. Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD, Bright Eyes Family Vision Care, Tampa, FL

College of Optometrists in Vision Development (; Optometric Extension Program Foundation (, Binocular Vision, Perception, & Pediatric Optometry (BVPPO) Section of the American Academy of Optometry; Optometric Extension Program (OEP) Foundation

Dr. Don Teig

Dr. Maino:Not necessarily needed but a residency in pediatrics/binocular vision would make you stand out from the crowd. A Fellowship in COVD would do the same thing.

Dr. Bonilla-Warford:Generally, yes, additional training is beneficial outside of typical optometry training. A one-year optometric residency in pediatric vision care is an excellent way to become specialized. Beyond that OEP offer courses that cover the clinical care of infants and children as well as the practice management of the specialty.

Dr. Maino: Yes, but most ODs have much of what they need already.

Dr. Bonilla-Warford: The retinoscope is standard equipment, but many optometrists are not comfortable with it. Practice! Also, the pediatric-sized trial for refraction and probing refractive error without a phoroptor. A digital randomized visual acuity chart with movies for fixation and pediatric option acuity symbols. The Lang stereo test is a simple tool for assessing stereopsis without polarized glasses. Prism bars and loose prisms for binocular testing. And toys, finger puppets for entertaining little ones. They make a little booster for exam chairs that are perfect for kids who are independent enough to not sit on a parent’s lap but are still small.

Matt Oerding

Dr. Maino: Not unless you are doing developmental vision/vision perception testing and in office VT.

Dr. Bonilla-Warford: Not necessary. It is common to have one exam room that does have a few extra items for kids, but it can be used for adults as well, so it doesn’t really require extra space.

Dr. Maino: Definitely. You need to get the word out about your expertise in this area. Use social media.

Dr. Bonilla-Warford: Very smart [if you do]. Add children’s specialty services with info and descriptions on your webpage so patients can find and learn about them. Informative displays about children’s vision are an inexpensive and easy way to raise awareness. Networking with referral services is very effective.

Dr. Maino: Yes. You often need to not only do a comprehensive examination but also a sensorimotor assessment and other testing as well. Frequent follow up appointments are often necessary.

Dr. Bonilla-Warford: For typical children’s primary care, the reimbursement is somewhat lower because they often do not need glasses or contacts. However, specialty services such as myopia control and vision therapy are significantly more because they are often higher-end self-pay services.

Dr. Dominick M. Maino

Dr. Maino: When I work with my optometry students, I always tell them that a smile is the best piece of equipment you could have. You must be genuine. You should keep up on the current research in this area and be ready to take that extra step. You are not just working with a pair of eyeballs, but also with the child and the whole family. It is fun, challenging and fiscally rewarding.

Dr. Bonilla-Warford: Working with children is so fun. It is very rewarding to see them grow and develop and to know that you are helping them reach their goals, whether it is in school, sports, or overcoming symptoms. However, it can be challenging. You have to be honest with them in a way that they can understand. Children will not hesitate to tell you “I don’t like you! I am never coming here again!” If staff sets the tone so the child can feel that you are on their side, you will be amazed how much clinical information you can get from them at very young ages. Knowing when to stop or change a particular test or activity is essential. Most importantly, have fun! And get good at retinoscopy.


Matt Oerding, co-founder/CEO, Treehouse Eyes, Bethesda, MD and Tysons, VA

“The International Myopia Institute provides evidence-based treatment guidelines for this specialty; American Academy of Orthokeratology and Myopia Control (

No. Any optometrist can technically perform pediatric myopia management. However, specific CE/education is required to become proficient at the various treatments proven effective. These are currently orthokeratology lenses, multifocal soft contact lenses and atropine.

Dr. Charlene Henderson

Yes. A practice must have a good topographer as a highly accurate map of the cornea is critical to success. Additionally, a device to measure axial length is highly recommended.

No. This can be done within an existing exam lane or space.

Yes. Currently pediatric myopia management is not covered by vision plans, so it is a private pay procedure. Due to lack of parental awareness of the risks of progressive myopia and the availability of treatments, marketing is critical to generate interest. At a minimum marketing to existing primary care patients via email, newsletter and in-office marketing is required. To gain new patients for pediatric myopia management, social media, PPC and PR are all proven techniques.

Yes. Because this is a private pay procedure and children are likely to be in treatment for several years, the revenue per patient is significantly higher than a typical optometry patient. Fees vary widely, but typical is $2,000-3,000 for the first year of treatment.

Dr. Pauline Buck

Pediatric myopia management can be an incredibly fulfilling specialty when done correctly, as you are helping a child see better today and reducing their long-term risk of serious eye diseases associated with progressive myopia. Offering these services can generate significant patient/family loyalty to the practice, as treatment typically lasts several years and successful patients are proven to be great referral sources to others in the community.”


Dr. Pauline Buck, Behavioral and Developmental Optometrists, Miami, FL

The College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD); Neuro-optometric Rehabilitative Association (NORA); Optometric Extension Program (OEP); College of Syntonic Optometry (CSO).

Post-graduate training is very much needed. A new graduate from optometry school has the basics to begin a vision therapy program. Yet a successful vision therapy doctor will stand on the shoulders of their predecessors by learning what has already been learned. COVD and OEP provide training. OEP has regional seminars. COVD has state study groups and their annual meeting. Mentors are provided to assist when there are questions.

Yes and no. Bernell is a great resource of vision therapy equipment. There are many computer-based programs as well. However, I know many experienced doctors who have used something as simple as a stick and a straw to illicit a change in their patient’s visual system. This ability comes back to the training. When you really understand the system, you can make changes using just about anything.

Dr. Nathan Bonilla-Warford

Again, yes and no. Yes — the functional vision evaluation is done in the exam room using the phoropter and equipment that is standard to the profession. No — I have an entire room, ‘the play room,’ dedicated to the testing of physical performance. How do the eyes affect a person’s ability to perform an everyday task? I also have another room for the testing of classroom skills, which contains a desk, slant board, and a lot of paperwork.

Yes. ‘If you build it, they will come’ doesn’t work. I have gone out in the community and lectured about vision therapy. I have spoken to therapists, doctors, teachers, parents and other professionals about the visual system and how it can affect performance. Those individuals eventually become referral sources. I am constantly practicing my elevator [pitch] of what I do.

Yes. Most optometrists will see a patient once a year for their annual or several times throughout the year for care of ocular disease. When a patient is doing vision therapy I see them for their annual, their progress evaluations every 10 weeks, and weekly for the therapy sessions.

Vision therapy is understanding the nuances of the development of the visual system, how it can change behavior, and how it can alter a person’s performance. It can benefit children and adults with brain injury, children with difficulties in the classroom, individuals with autism and down syndrome. When all other professionals have told a person that there is nothing else to do for their condition and they come to me for a glimmer of hope, I offer the potential for change. When their symptoms decrease and their performance improves, those are the moments of my greatest job satisfaction and I am thankful that I have a ‘tool box’ large enough to have made that possible.


Dr. Don Teig, founder/CEO, “The A Team” High Performance Vision Associates, Hollywood, FL; and Dr. Charlene Henderson, Blink Eyecare and Eyewear, Charlotte, NC

Dr. Teig: This niche or specialty has always been referred to as “sports vision” but more recently as ‘visual neuro-cognitive training’ given the attention to the impact concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has had on sports. I also often refer to it as ‘high performance vision.’ I am the founder and executive director of ‘The A Team’, High Performance Vision Associates (, there is also ISVA (International Sports Vision Association,

Dr. Henderson: High Performance Vision Associates and the AOA.

Dr. Teig: Yes. I provide a 16-hour course with certification ( I also travel to provide this training. ISVA is working in conjunction with me to develop a certification program.

Dr. Henderson: It is necessary to understand the sports you are working with and how vision plays a role in success. Sports vision training by people who have pioneered the concept is invaluable. We went to Don Teig’s Sports Vision training weekend, and Fred Edmunds Xtreme Sight sports Vision training weekend. They are both excellent. We also did several Sports Vision AOA courses and read all the books out there.

Dr. Teig: Yes. The A.M.P. System (Achieving Maximum Potential), an immersive virtual reality technology; Senaptec, a digital testing and training instrument; NeuroTracker, a multi-object awareness trainer; FitLight motion and light sensors; and Quick Board, an eye to foot training tool.

Dr. Henderson: Yes. When we built our new building, we added lots of exciting equipment like Vision Coach, Fit Light, Senaptec, and the Bassin anticipation timer among others. We still use traditional VT equipment like Marsden balls and flippers and balance boards. The athletes like the bells and whistles of the digital devices.

Dr. Teig: Yes. At the very least a room that is 10′ x 12′ is a must.

Dr. Henderson: Yes, for testing space. You need room to swing or jump or dribble a basketball, for example.

Dr. Teig: Yes, by all means! Internal marketing with videos, pamphlets, etc., in your office and external marketing through social media, TV, radio and print.

Dr. Henderson: Yes. Internally tell all your sports-minded patients. All our patients walk by our sports vision room. You should reach out to teams and clubs and let them know what you do.

Dr. Teig: Yes! A typical Sports Vision patient can generate revenues of up to $3,000 each if they complete an eye exam, a Sports Vision Workup, a Sports Vision Training program of 12 weeks minimum; specialty contact lenses or sports eyewear and goggles.

Dr. Henderson: Yes. Sports vision training is an additional service not covered by insurance. So, it is up to you to set the fees you think are fair for your time for the evaluation and then training sessions.

Dr. Teig: Having been a pioneer in this field for almost 40 years, I can confidently say that sports vision is both emotionally and financially rewarding beyond belief. However, it doesn’t happen overnight and requires continual hard work. That being said, if you love sports like I do, it’s well worth the ride.

Dr. Henderson: It can be really rewarding if you have a passion for sports and working with highly competitive people. The niche does require training, equipment, space and active marketing. So, it will not just fall in your lap. But it is a great way to help people achieve their goals and use our skills as vision experts.

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New Owners Weigh In On the Hardest Part of Their Business — Starting It




They say that starting is the hardest part. If that is true, then these ECPs—whom we asked to share their businesses’ origin stories while they are basically still happening—should have it pretty easy from here on out, right?

Kidding aside, if you’re curious about what happens in that space between idea and execution, we’ve got the perspectives of four new business owners who implemented different models and priorities as they got off the ground. From business plans to securing financing, from what they’d do differently to advice for others looking to branch out on their own, read on for all the fascinating details.


Julia Laval and Anissa Laval
Cutting Edge Optics, Berkeley, CA
Opened: November 2018

We are a mother/daughter optician duo and opened Cutting Edge Optics in November 2018 located in the charming Elmwood community on one of Berkeley’s busiest streets, College Ave.

Julia also owns Montclair Optical in Oakland. Montclair Optical boasts a long history; it has been in business for 42 years and passed down through several generations of opticians in our family for the last 35. Montclair Village has its own lab and Julia has been the technician in charge of cutting all lenses for the last few years.

I have been an optician for the last nine years. I learned my skills from my mother; observing the techniques needed to succeed in the business. If not for having seen first-hand how to correctly understand lenses, prescriptions and frames, my climb into the business would have been much steeper. I’ve worked under enough doctors to understand how not to run a business, enough that I knew I was ready for this adventure.

We opened Cutting Edge Optics because of our passion for opticianry. We are bringing true optical knowledge, new techniques, and unique, fresh brands to Berkeley. As two opticians with genuine love for this profession, excellent service comes naturally to us. We take our time, offering personal attention to every customer, and supplying a broad yet original selection of glasses to guarantee the perfect fit, customized in every way: from color and lens shape, to the glasses-buying experience itself.  

The shop was previously owned by an optician who was ready to move on. The decor was entirely white. Our aesthetic is based on a New York studio loft. When we took over, we painted and put up a gorgeous plant wall as the focal point. It pulls in the green, sustainable and eco-friendly aspect of the neighborhood, fitting these values into our urban aesthetic. The large windows create an airy, inviting feeling. We play music from all over the world, including Africa and Central and South America. We even mix in a little French rap.

This store has an extensive business plan. After more than 30 years of success in Montclair, it was natural to apply those guidelines to Cutting Edge. We are very serious about the buying process and making sure we don’t overspend on frames. Optical businesses fail in one category: how big their eyes get when a rep walks in verses how much they have in their bank account. It should never be a race to rush patients in the door just to cover your costs month to month.

Julia knew from experience what was needed to financially support the business and get it off the ground, and Anissa knew how to deploy social media and advertising to generate a buzz before the doors even opened. Before Day 1 our Instagram had over 700 followers and we gave hour to hour updates and sneak peeks. Business has been busy from the first day.

We constantly push ourselves to keep our patients informed about what we’re doing next. Social media gives us a platform to align brands with specific people. Every brand introduction and major event is published online. Photographer Dione Green (@Dione.Green), who took our photos, is key. We also advertise a lot with the Elmwood community newsletters.

Business, especially starting cold, can be a waiting game. When you revamp an established business, you’re going to deal with customers who are accustomed to the old way, the old prices, and the old frame selection; these loyal customers can take a while to warm up to changes. One of the most important lessons we’ve learned is not swaying to please everyone.

Annisa (l) and Julia Laval have brought true optical knowledge, new techniques and unique, fresh brands to Berkeley, CA, with Cutting Edge.

In terms of advice, make a detailed guideline to how you want to financially run your business and stick to it. Our way is to make a frame board. Our frame board details how many frames can fit into a section and how much money we are willing to spend on that section. You may think more is better but picking the right frames for customers is smarter than having as many as possible. Listen to your gut, not the rep! For example, if I’m buying 60 pieces of Garrett Leight, I need to ask myself how much I’m spending and how far they will get me before I have to repurchase. Then I need to consider what happens if 35 percent of those frames don’t move. I cannot purchase Caroline Abram just for its beauty, I have to consider who is going to buy these frames and is it worth having the same frame in three colors.

Also, have a social media advisor. Social media is the new Yelp. Without a visual aid to generate intrigue for customers, you’re doing your business a disservice and damaging its ability to grow and make profit. Social media is a digital lasso for new customers.


What was the first major milestone you celebrated?
We wanted to open as dramatically as we could. Our doors and windows were covered then we did a large reveal online and on the Elmwood community site. We were met with overwhelming support.
Have you already had to break up with a patient/customer or vendor?
We have had to break up with many vendors and bring in new brands.
Has the business made you cry?
Of course! If a business doesn’t make you cry, you’re not working hard enough.
Would you have done anything differently?
What’s been your most empowering moment?
A customer who had been looking for frames for over three years left with six. She later came back with three friends who all purchased.
How long did it take until you felt like were gonna make it?
Instantly. Business grows if you control money flow. Everything else comes easy.
Do you ever feel like you’ve made a terrible mistake?
Never. You have to be confident in your ability to succeed.
What do you do to help overcome doubt?
We sit in the office every time we feel overwhelmed and say: “There’s no way we are going to fail.”



Erika E. Mabus, OD 
Muncy and Laporte, PA
Opened: September 2018

I established my corporation on July 26, 2018 and officially signed closing documents on Sept. 6, 2018. I purchased it from an optometrist who had been practicing in the same location for the last 20 odd years. It’s 12 miles north of where I grew up and 25 miles south of where I live now. It was well-established, privately-owned, and one of very few independent offices in my area. I believe in private practice optometry and I am excited to officially be practicing in that capacity. 

I’d been contemplating my own practice since graduating from optometry school in 2013, and the timing just felt right. The optometrist had plans to retire soon, so it’s been a nice way for us to transition patients and give me time to pick his brain on the business aspects. 

I spent months going over the financials with an accountant and business advisor, as well as a lawyer with expertise in accounting and business acquisitions. I was surprised at how long it took for lawyers to go back and forth to on the contract’s terms. The retiring doctor and I began the process in April 2018 and finalized it September.

I secured financing through PNC Healthcare Business Banking and have been extremely happy with the help I received before, during, and after the purchase. I contacted a few smaller local banks, but they asked for high down payments or collateral; PNC made it simple and easy. 

I made a business plan, but just as everything in the world evolves, so has my idea of how my practice should run. I am happy with what I have accomplished in the last seven months of ownership, but I am always striving to do better. Currently, I am considering a consultant for more accountability and to keep myself on track, but also to help me achieve my future goal: comfort with the cost of new technology to set my office apart. 

Part of the appeal of private practice in a rural area is that patients feel at home. My team greets every patient by name and in the exam room I always try to make at least one personal connection. I recently saw an older patient I thought may have patronized my grandfather’s business years ago. We reminisced about the time he and his father spent in my grandfather’s hardware store. 

Taking over from an established OD where she grew up was Dr. Mabus’ way to ownership.

The retiring doctor and I put up a photo in the waiting area with a note welcoming me to the practice. I advertised with local high school sports teams and drama club programs and T-shirts. I also contacted the local newspaper for a “spotlight on business” article which brought a lot of business to my new location without any cost to me. 

The day we signed the agreement there was a full book of patients and it’s been that way ever since. Keeping the same staff with the retiring doctor still seeing patients has been a huge help. Patients are getting used to the idea of another doctor and they get one final visit with their previous optometrist. I opened a second location cold in January and I am just now starting to have a full day of patients there after a few weeks of one to five patients a day. 

I am happy with the quality of medical eyecare I provide, but I’d love to incorporate more advanced dry eye treatments. It is one of my personal passions, since I experience it myself. I also hope to become more skilled at specialty contact lens fittings to differentiate myself and complement my dry eye treatments. I thought I would be ready to jump in and purchase more equipment the first year, but now I hope to do so in year two. 

If anyone else is thinking of purchasing or starting their own practice, I would recommend getting an excellent set of advisors: a good lawyer, a competent accountant, and a business advisor. Having people to help is huge. My other advice is to integrate yourself into your community. Patients love to make connections with you, and that’s easier if you go to the same restaurants, know the schools, join the same gym, or shop in the same places.  


What was the first major milestone you celebrated?
I brought in two new independent frame lines that focus on sustainability — TOC lunettes Monkey Glasses and David Green Eyewear
Have you had to break up with a patient/customer or vendor?
Not yet, thankfully. Has the business made you cry? e Not yet! But I have had a few sleepless nights since September
Would you have done anything differently?
I would have set up my website sooner, which is still not complete.
What’s been your most empowering moment?
I still see patients at two other retail locations on evenings and weekends. When I tell them I have two private practices, they tell me that they are excited to see me there next year.   
How long did it take until you felt like you had it under control?
About three months, although there are still times when I feel like I’m lost with the business aspects. 
Do you ever feel like you’ve made a terrible mistake?
Not yet. Even when I am working seven days a week because I know in the end all the hard work will directly benefit me, not someone else.
What do you do to overcome doubt?
I breathe. I meditate. I trust that I am enough. I work hard, so I know that I’ve done everything I can. 



Mitch Peterson and Kelsey Keltgen, OD
SEEK Eyecare / Victoria, MN
Opened: February 2017 (Soft), April 2017 (Grand)

My wife, Dr. Kelsey Keltgen, and I cold-opened our practice in early 2017. We chose a new building in downtown Victoria, MN. We were the first and are still the only practice in Victoria.  

My wife, and high school sweetheart, had been practicing for about six years prior to opening SEEK. She worked as a paid hourly doctor right out of school and filled in at other practices on the side. After that she was a lease-holding doctor at a big box optical. I have a diverse background, from working on my family farm to starting a few successful businesses. I was even a bouncer and drove semi-trucks in college. Our unique backgrounds make us a great team. She is one of the most passionate ODs out there.

We both worked six to seven days a week to pay off our personal debt. So, when we were ready to open our dream store we were financially able to do so. We wanted to open our own practice because no one was doing what we wanted to do: offer a state-of-the-art practice that provided comprehensive exams with an approachable retail space. My wife wanted to be able to take a preventative approach that would be more beneficial to patients.

We did a ton of research. We used our experience to develop a patient experience that picked up where a lot of practices fall short. We had to figure everything out from scratch. None of us knew how or where to purchase frames … What lenses or lab to use.

We developed a very in-depth business plan with multiple options to pivot with if things didn’t pan out. We have adhered to the majority of it. The only major change is that we had to adapt due to how fast we are growing. We are hitting our goals for years four and five in year two.

We secured a build-out loan fairly easily due to our favorable debt-to-income ratio and self-financed the operating side. The most surprising challenge we encountered was that construction was always four months behind schedule due to more than 35 inches of rain the day we broke ground. We had to meet frame reps at a coffee shop.

Insurance credentialing was a huge project that my rock star wife handled. Start working on that the second you can. We are involved in the community, volunteering and sponsoring events. I’ve used unique marketing avenues to get our brand out. Constant logo use and branding is important to my marketing plan. Since we previously leased at a corporate big box practice, the patient base was ours. We posted on social media each step of the build-out.

Business was crazy when we opened. We had so much local support and we both have large families; they were some of our first patients. The support from our friends and family has been amazing.

Over time, we have gotten very precise in how we operate. We have brought in more high-end eyewear than we initially planned. The biggest learning curves have been on the optical side: we’re more particular with our frame purchases; we make sure the product is great and the rep is even better; if they aren’t, we get rid of them.

Our advice is don’t over-extend yourself. If you aren’t financially and mentally prepared to do everything yourself, wait a few years. Write up your dream business model and find the patient base that fits it. Don’t let anyone or anything push you to start cold. You have to be all-in. We have zero regrets and love working as a wife and husband duo.


What was the first major milestone you celebrated?
The night before we turned the OPEN sign on, we sat and had a beer in the front office after a month of 100 hour work weeks.
Have you already had to break up with a patient/customer or vendor?
We are break-up free on the patient side. We have had to let a vendor or two go.
Has the business made you cry?
It has been an emotional rollercoaster but I think the only tears have been tears of joy.
Would you have done anything differently?
e Nope.
What’s been your most empowering moment?
When publications like INVISION contact us to share our story. It reassures us that we must be doing something right.
How long did it take until you felt like you were gonna make it?
Once the first patient came in the door I knew we had created something special.
Do you ever feel like you’ve made a terrible mistake?
e No success comes without mistakes. It is how you move forward and learn from them.
What do you do to help overcome doubt?
We work through everything as a team. If there is any doubt we talk it through between the doctor, Rachel and myself. Keeping each other in check keeps confidence high.



Jason M. Klepfisz, OD
Urban Eyecare, Phoenix, AZ
Opened: August 2017

We opened Urban Eyecare in August of 2017 to bring comprehensive care and independent eyewear and specialty contacts to an underserved area, and also hoping that bringing these services would springboard future growth.

I spent the better part of three years jotting down notes on all the little aspects of private practice and optical that resonated with myself. I wish I could say it was all fun and games, but there was a lot of monotony: Which slit lamp has the best optics? Manual vs. automated phoropter? White-gray flooring or gray-white? Pricing out the optical. The best advice came from those that have gone down this road before, those that are currently practicing, and those looking to hang up their own shingle.

I come from an Indian Health Services background, having completed residency in a rural community. This continued in a geriatric setting for years when I returned to Phoenix before deciding to open my own office. The biggest challenge we faced when opening, and one that changed our overall goal, was getting credentialed on medical insurance panels. We pivoted to focus on our retail experience, seeking harmony between a medically and optically oriented office. What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with the materials and craftsmanship as much as I have.

To make ourselves stand out, we push brand-awareness social media campaigns and provide adjustments and free cleaner to anybody who walks in. We exhibit local artists in our office.

We got the word out through trial and error. We started with our online presence. I also hand delivered letters to about 250 local businesses on a 100-degree spring day. We called local businesses and found ones who allowed us to deliver gift bags to their employees. We took every health fair opportunity available. Every bulletin board, coffee shop and college building we could leave flyers, we did, even handed them out on the street.

Business was great when we opened. The problem was we lost our optician just a few days before opening. I had no previous experience with optical and my staff were untrained in the area. In our first week, we slowly built up a pile of lab orders ready to be placed but nobody to place them. Fortunately, by the end of that week we found a wonderful replacement who has been our rock star ever since!

The main lessons we’ve learned are, firstly, to check out eyewear in person before buying. With our limited window to purchase frames while opening, we carried some brands we were less than thrilled with over the course of the year. We shed about half of the brands we started with and are much more careful in our choices now.

Lastly, my advice is to follow your dream! Don’t feel the need to take over somebody else’s problem office because starting cold is too difficult. Create something unique, a place that patients want to go, rather than a place they reluctantly need to go. Create an experience that makes people want to come back.


What was the first major milestone you celebrated?
Adding a fourth doctor day per week. It was wonderful to spend another day in my practice rather than working for somebody else. 
Have you already had to break up with a patient/customer or vendor?
We have unfortunately had to drop a few vendors. The beauty of ownership is we can choose to work with brands that complement us and our mission, to grow together.
Would you have done anything differently?
I would make design changes for our next office. A doctor who owns a large chain once told me that you always like your first office the least, but each one after gets a little better.
How long did it take until you felt like you were gonna make it?
It’s still day by day, even though we are turning a profit. The days with 16 patients make me feel like the king of the world, while slow days make me feel like tomorrow is never going to come. I don’t think I’ll feel like it’s completely under control for a couple more years.
Do you ever feel like you’ve made a terrible mistake?
What do you do to help overcome doubt?
Wake up happy every day and excited to go do my dream job at my dream office!

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Cover Stories

How to Keep Your Inventory Ultra-Fresh With an Aggressive Dog-Dumping Strategy

Noteworthy ways some ECPs have found to move their moldiest inventory.




Woof … You may have loved a particular frame or collection but that was no guarantee your customers would. So, how do you offload the bad picks, the misfires, the ones that silver-tongued sales rep talked you into ordering? … Return to sender? Massive discount? Strip them for parts? Here are some of the more interesting ways your ECP peers dispose of their dogs.


When it comes to clearing out unsold frames, returning them is probably the most common option, but many ECPs fail to factor in the expense. As Annette Prevaux at The Visionary in Allen Park, MI, points out, “There is an expense to return frames and it is passed on to the practice… I am surprised at how little is really taught about frame buying and the cost of returns.”

Most ECPs will be familiar with options such as standing discounts (a “junk drawer”), periodic clearances, value packages and the tried-and-true BOGO (buy one, get one free), or offering a special price without warranty. Remember that offering stock as freebies or incentives tends to work best with lower-cost frames. Jocelyn Mylott at D’Ambrosio Eye Care in Lancaster, MA packages stock lenses with discounted frames to sell them off. “We use these frames to fill the board space for all the vendor back orders as we board manage,” she says. Smart move, as it fills in unsightly holes in your board and gets eyes back on this malingering product.

Accepting insurance creates additional possibilities. MK Vision Center in Forest Hills, NY, uses unsold stock as insurance-covered frames. Explains Kaleena Ma: “We usually try to sell through our unsold inventory by using them as insurance frames for the plans that give allowances for the frame.”

When it comes to using sales and discounts to clear inventory, the Vend retailing blog suggests keeping the following in mind: Try to turn sales into periodic events with a few “bells and whistles” so you’re creating new customers or building loyalty. Always use sales as a way to gather customer information, and remember to mix in a few good sellers as loss leaders.


Where some see dogs, others see gold. Dr. Selina McGee of Precision Vision in Edmond, OK, dares you to “Mark it up — way up. That way everything else looks less expensive and it’s very exclusive. If you sell one, then you cover more of your investment.” (Our hunch is this would work best with luxury frames that aren’t moving.) Doreen Erbe at Snyder Eye Group in Ship Bottom, NJ, urges you to “Make that collection into a really cool display. Everyone will think the frames are new.” This is good advice; re-merchandising can breathe surprising new life into old stock.


Nikki Griffin, owner of EyeStyles Optical and Boutique in Oakdale, MN, offers this memorable advice: “Dogs become the ‘steak-dinner frame.’ If you sell that puppy I will buy you a steak dinner.” Interestingly, food also seems to be the prime motivator for hungry sales staff at EyeShop Optical Center in Lewis Center, OH, where, explains owner Dr. Cynthia Sayers, “If a staff member sells that dud I buy them lunch.”


Your unsold merchandise can be a force for good. Lions Club is renowned for its eyeglass-recycling programs Charitable donations entitle you to a tax write-off. For a detailed “how-to” of donating stock to charity, of “Gifts in Kind,” check out the column Gary C. Smith, president and CEO of the National Association for the Exchange of Industrial Resources, wrote for INVISION in December 2017:


Their proximity to the Mexican border gives Carrera Optical in McQueeney, TX an interesting option: selling unsold frames to opticals in south Texas that see large numbers of patients from Mexico. These customers are looking for a level of quality they believe can only be found in the U.S. Says BJ Chambers, “We sell multiple frames to several shops; sometimes these opticals are on credit hold to the frame manufacturer and cannot purchase directly.”
Some vendors will buy back any competitors’ frames that aren’t selling. Europa will pay you to take back another vendors’ frames, provided you have or set up an account with them. Dr. Zachary Dirks at St. Peter and Belle Plaine Eyecare Centers, Saint Peter, MN, reports: “We have some reps we have good relationships with that will exchange product for theirs.”

And here’s a channel right under your nose you might not have thought about. Julie Uram at Optical Oasis in Jupiter, FL on occasion gives unsold frames to a friend who puts them on eBay. Remember that using online marketplaces can be time consuming, as you’ll likely have to set up pages and jump through some other hoops.


Those in the therapy niche take note: Dr. Pauline Buck at Behavioral and Developmental Optometrists in Miami, FL turns non-sellers into loaners that therapy patients can take home temporarily. “Concussion patients may often benefit from yoked prism base lenses. By … creating glasses in bases up, down, left or right — as well as a few base-in for individuals with convergence insufficiency — I can rent or loan them out.” Patients sign an agreement; if the glasses are not returned, Buck bills them the full price.


Of course, you should always be monitoring inventory, but it’s important not to let your reps slack: “Keeping the frame rep responsible for shipping the top sellers in each frame line is one way to make sure the dogs never get dumped in the office,” counsels Leisa Lauer at Dr. H Michael Shack in Newport Beach, FL.

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