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Life in the Dark Lane with Dr. Viola Kanevsky. We Love Eyes interviews a kick-ass female entrepreneur, Part 1

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Meet Dr. Viola Kanevsky, fabulous optometrist to children and adults behaving like children in NYC. We interrupted her busy day and asked her a few questions about what it’s like to be an entrepreneur and a regular rock star to so many children. And when I say rock star, I mean capital ROCK STAR. When I have a question about pediatric cases, she’s the one I want to call. She’s brilliant, performs daily miracles on babies and loves The Simpsons.

WLE: As an entrepreneur, differentiating yourself from the competition is key.  What have you done to differentiate yourself?

Dr. K: I have always approached my work with fervor and passion. Early on, I knew that I loved to work with kids. Most people find kids daunting at best and annoying at worst. For me, it’s always been child’s play. Literally. Give me a child, I’ll play. It’s that simple. I can have endless patience for my little patients’ antics. Parents are another story…

WLE: Somebody once told me that being an entrepreneur is like getting punched in the face daily. Would love to hear your comments about this statement.

Dr. K: I suppose my love of Punch and Judy early on in my life prepared me for my career. I do get kicked a fair amount. My patients make me happy. My staff is a joy. I love the nitty gritty of owning my own practice, from writing paychecks to choosing carpeting. The best part is, if someone treats me like a punching bag, I don’t have to take it. I can just quote my entrepreneur idol, Apu, “Mr. Simpson, please pay for your purchases and GET OUT! and come again soon!”

Of course, as my husband will readily corroborate, these comments only exist in my head.

WLE: Give me 3 words that describe yourself as an entrepreneur. Can you elaborate on them a little?

Dr. K:

Fiercely independent 

Obdurately loyal 

Scrupulously ethical 

Do adjectives qualify as elaboration?

WLE: In today’s world of decreased reimbursements and rising operating costs – care to share any ideas on how you make up that financial gap?

Dr. K: Two years into owning my own practice, I made the decision to drop all vision plans. A year after that, we dropped all insurance. We remain in network only with Medicare and that only because I don’t have the heart to dismiss my elderly patients. We continue to see patients on an out of network basis, helping them file claims or taking assignment in special cases where there is a demonstrated need.  I work with my husband, an optician. Without him, and the help of my family, both emotionally and financially, I would never have made it through the first ten months, let alone ten years.

I’m not particularly adept at cutting costs. Rather, I prefer to work with suppliers who provide exceptional service and top end materials. I expect the same level of service from my reps that I extend to my patients and I am willing to pay for it. I cannot and have no wish to “match the competition.” Perhaps because I think my staff has no competition.  Going forward, I will move into a space that I own rather than lease and likely add associates or sublet space to specialists within my practice. We will continue to provide excellent eyecare and exceptional eyewear from a professional rather than retail location.

WLE: If you had $5,000 to spend on your business, where would you spend it and why?

Dr. K: In NYC, $5000 would probably buy my staff, family and friends, a small dinner party at a nice restaurant. Come to think of it, I’d stage a grand opening kick-off party at Tavern on the Green, across the street from my new office. If that doesn’t cover it, I’d donate it to my favorite kids organization, Interschool Orchestras of NY. Why? Because without my family, friends and my staff, my practice would not exist and without music and children, well..why would ANYONE want to exist without music and children?

You can find Dr. Viola Kanevsky at 527 Columbus Avenue New York, NY 10024, although she is getting ready to move to a new, bigger and better location!

For more Kick-Ass Female Entrepreneurs, check back next month for our ongoing series. 

Tanya N. Gill, O.D., is the owner of Oakland Vision Center Optometry in Oakland, CA. Dr. Gill is obsessed with ocular surface disease, kick-ass female entrepreneurship, never saying never, eating vegetables daily, and brightly colored sneaker pumps. She lives in Oakland with her husband and is the founder of We Love Eyes, a company that makes natural cleansing products for the eyes. 

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  • Written by Tanya Gill

    Dr. Gill is also a member of the Ocular Surface Society of Optometry. In addition to her Doctor of Optometry, Dr. Gill also has a BA in Integrative Biology and a BS in Vision Science, both from UC Berkeley. Go Bears!
    In 2015, Dr. Gill developed and founded We Love Eyes, which is a green cosmetics company that produces eyelid and eyelash cleansing products that are natural, non-toxic, and vegan.

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