Hello, I’m Tanya Gill, O.D. I started this column because I wanted to share my journey from optometrist to entrepreneur. When you’re in school, you learn how to be a doctor, but not necessarily how to run a business.
By definition alone, an entrepreneur is “a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater-than-normal financial risks in order to do so.”
Do you wake up in the middle of the night wondering if the frame warmer was left on? Ever think to yourself how much money you’d actually make if you just didn’t have any bills to pay?
Well, this is entrepreneurship. It’s the best thing in the entire world, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. In this six-part series I want to share what makes this journey worthwhile—and how I continue to create my dream practice every day.
In part 2, I talked about building a lifestyle brand. Whether it’s décor, merchandising or marketing – a lifestyle brand needs creativity. The spark. The idea. The pizazz. The thing that separates those that work harder from those that work smarter.
So where is this creative genius that is going to help me work smarter? And where is she hiding?
I believe that everyone has a creative genius inside of them. If you have eyes, you have a creative genius. If you are opinionated (and most doctors are), you have a creative genius. Let’s be frank here. I’m not the smartest person in the world, but I can be resourceful. Here I will highlight 4 of my best borrowed ideas and how I made them come alive in my optometry practice. And the outcome was – drumroll – surprisingly, genius.
Living right by San Francisco and Napa Valley, you can’t help but become a food snob. Having said that, the restaurant scene has us spoiled here. Not only is the food 5 stars, but so are the interiors. About 3 years ago I walked into a restaurant called Bar Agricole. I fell in love with how they incorporated wood walls, concrete counters and metal patio chairs to create that comfortable, from-the-earth feel. It was one of the most memorable meals of my life.
When it came time to remodel, I hired that same exact vendor to make our concrete counters and I found those exact patio chairs on Overstock.com. I created that comfortable feeling at my practice. Because, why re-invent the wheel.
THE COSMETICS COMPANY
With 6.9 million followers on Instagram, Sephora is doing something right. When it comes to knowing what women want, Sephora has landed and completely taken over Venus. A couple years ago I purchased from their online store. In addition to my lipstick and eyeliner, I got this really cool card. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a selfie card. The card said thank you and asked if I would hashtag Sephora and post a selfie with my brand new makeup on. It was marketing genius.
Today, we no longer have business cards at Oakland Vision Center. We have selfie cards. They are 2”x2” cards that ask for a glasses selfie and a follow/like on our social media pages. It has been the #1 way we have grown our Instagram following.
THE GIFT STORE
The gift store industry knows how to merchandise. One of my favorite local gift shops, Atomic Blossom is always on point. They know how to showcase plain objects so they feel special. For instance, they merchandised heart shaped wooden magic wands for girls in a cookie jar. And because it was displayed to me as a treat, I couldn’t resist buying one.
At my practice, we pay very close attention to how we merchandise our frames and services. In the optical dispensary we dropped all frame company displays and decorated our shelves with objects of interest such as ceramic hands, bobbleheads and our very own We Love Eyes signage. In the exam room we swept away all counter clutter and organized them into antique milk glass containers. We’ve had this antique milk glass display photographed by patients on many occasions. So much fun.
At this very same gift store, I got one of my best ideas ever. As I was making my purchase, I noticed that the cashier was stamping my shopping bag with their logo. They used a large old school stamper and an extra large ink pad. Voila! The result was an uber cool, hand stamped shopping bag with a ton of character.
We now hand stamp our We Love Eyes tagline on all of our kraft shopping bags with a custom stamper from rubberstamps.com. The look is on point and it’s such a great feeling when you see your shopping bag being up-cycled as a lunch bag. Winning.
THE FASHION DESIGNER
Years ago, Marc Jacobs launched a line of camouflage handbags for Louis Vuitton. I never forgot it. The military inspired camouflage print in the background with floating LV logos in the foreground. I loved the urban look.
I never thought I’d be making eyeglass cases out of camouflage print, but fast forward to 4 months ago. I just so happened to find the perfect camouflage printed eyeglass case at LBIeyewear.com and I knew immediately. We added our tagline on the inside, and the result was perfect for our practice. Downtown Oakland urban chic.
Bringing creativity to work smarter has been challenging but it’s also been a ton of fun. I keep my eyes open. My opinionated brain thinking. And we are always in business.
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-a$$ 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.
Images appear courtesy of Pinterest, Sephora, Atomic Blossom and Marc Jacobs/LV.
This article appears in Eyecare Business Magazine, June 2016