Innovators

By



Kirsten Anderson

Senior Director, eCommerce Sales & Strategy
Luxottica Wholesale N.A.
New York, New York

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Kirsten has played a strategic role in growing Luxottica’s wholesale business online. She has developed deep partnerships with customers and, as part of the larger team, pushed to invest in the consumer experience and the digital marketing approach for customers. Her role requires a delicate balance, which she is well suited to.”





Kirsten Anderson brings a unique mix of skill sets to her role at Luxottica Wholesale. She is an engineer by training, but moved into management consulting after college and spent eight years at Accenture (with about half of this time working in retail and consumer goods businesses). She joined Luxottica in 2015 in an internal strategy role and, in 2016, transitioned to director of e-commerce.

Currently, Anderson manages P&L reporting for all pure-play e-commerce wholesale accounts, leads the online strategy and execution across North America wholesale (pure-play, clicks and mortar and ominichannel), including distribution policies, MAP policy (minimum advertised price) and segmentation strategy. She also oversees shared services to support online merchandising for wholesale accounts and research related to online consumer behavior and shopping trends for Luxottica brands.

SHE SAYS… “When you take on big challenges, you will sometimes come up short—but keep doing your best and never throw in the towel. The idea of failing is scary, but I have learned from experience that strong leadership will value your willingness to take risks and resilience to push through setbacks.”


Elena Z. Biffi, OD, MSc, FAAO

Associate Professor
New England College of Optometry Primary Care Department
Attending Optometrist
South Boston Community Health Center/NECO Center for Eye Care

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Dr. Elena Biffi is an innovator. She developed an App called OCTaVIA. This App is extremely helpful for the optometry or ophthalmology student, residents as well as practitioners in the interpretation optic nerve head and macular OCT’s.”





A first-generation immigrant to the U.S., Dr. Biffi said she “always knew” she wanted to become a teacher in the field of clinical eyecare. “I devoted all my energy since immigrating to the U.S. at age 17 toward become a doctor of optometry,” she said—and it paid off. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Massachusetts, then earned her Doctor of Optometry and Master in Visual Sciences degrees from the New England College of Optometry (NECO) in 2010. She began practicing after completing an ocular diseases residency with SUNY College of Optometry, and today she divides her time between clinical care and her teaching and research responsibilities at NECO.

Hoping to share her expertise in OCT imaging, Dr. Biffi has developed a first-of-its kind OCT Visual Atlas app, which she calls OCTaVIA. The app is an annotated atlas of retinal disorders with corresponding OCT findings, as well as links to literature for diagnosis and management of these conditions. Dr. Biffi designed the app to be easy to use at all levels of training, and she also conducted a study that demonstrated higher satisfaction rates and better test performances among students who used the OCTaVIA app.

SHE SAYS… “I am a big believer in looking outside the box, and I am convinced that women have an incredible potential to come up with new and innovative solutions to advance vision care further and further every day.”


Addie Bogart

Western U.S. Sales Rep
Feb31st, nine eyewear and Article One; CEO, The After Party

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Addie is an independent eyewear evangelist and keystone of West Coast optical.”





Addie Bogart began her career as an optician in Southern California, spending over 20 years there and in Washington State. She then became a frame rep, returning to California to work for Ogi Eyewear for three years. Following that, she stepped into her current position as a multi-line rep for Feb31st, nine eyewear, and Article One, with a 12-state territory.

In her other role as CEO of The After Party eyewear show, Bogart feels her greatest accomplishment is growing the event while staying true to its original purpose: providing a relaxed environment with direct, immediate solutions—independent frame lines and continuing education—to ECPs seeking something different from the competition down the street or online. Following overwhelming interest from buyers, frame lines and reps to expand, Addie and her business partners have produced five successful events to date that promote independent eyewear, labs and lenses throughout the West Coast. Among her mentors, Bogart credits her brother Shaun and Dr. James Rachford, and highlights Melodie Annis for “pushing me out from behind the dispensing desk” to pursue becoming a rep. She also acknowledges Lou Fullagar, founder of the Luxury Eyewear Forum, and its resources, without which she said “I simply would not be where I am in my career.”

SHE SAYS… “I urge opticians who want to become reps not to be daunted by perceptions of income instability or because they lack experience. As evidenced by my cousin Crystal’s recent hiring as a rep for an independent line, following a 10-day trial-by-fire business road trip. It’s not easy, but with self-discipline, drive and good support at home, you can do it.”


Trudi Charest

Co-Founder
Marketing4ECPs
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Female or not, Trudi is the most influential person I know in our industry, highlighting her 30+ year reputation as a respected innovator, problem solver, thought-leader, trainer and all-around networker.”





As co-founder of Marketing4ECPs, a digital marketing agency focused in eyecare that services all of North America, Trudi Charest thrives on helping clients from all industry sectors grow their businesses through the power of digital marketing. There, she is responsible for business strategy and development, as well as partner acquisitions and proposals. Charest is also the creator of EyeInnovate, the first dedicated marketing and growth conference in the industry.

Having grown up in the industry, Charest’s experience—from optician, to manager, to corporate trainer for a large optical chain—combines keenly with her ability to identify service gaps and create opportunities to fill them with innovative products. After over a decade in retail, she joined Bausch + Lomb in Vision Care sales and won Rookie of the Year and Rep of the Year awards.

She spent time in clinical consulting with Optos before starting her own business, then joined the EyeRecommend buying group as VP of Marketing, Training & Events, launching Marketing4ECPs in 2015. Charest is a sought-after international speaker, and her other successful ventures include an online job site and training portal for ECPs.

A key mentor was Marina Vittelli, her first supervisor at Shoppers Optical, who inspired her to lead by example. Within her own team, Charest “gives people the reins,” providing tools, training, and feedback to enable stretch performance. She is a member of the OWA, where she values the myriad networking opportunities.

SHE SAYS… I advise women developing careers in optical to “Do more. The most successful women in this industry didn’t step into it, they worked for it.”


Theresa Colonna, OD
  
Associate Optometrist and Lead Trainer of Optometric Technicians
Westminster Eyecare Associates
Providence, Rhode Island





CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Dr. Colonna played a critical part in building the staff training program (at Westminster Eyecare Associates) over the years, as well as implementing their online virtual staff training program. She was featured twice in the WO Voices podcast series from Women In Optometry in January 2019 for her work on the staff training program, which has taken their practice to the highest level possible.”

As lead trainer of optometric technicians at Westminster Eyecare Associates, Dr. Colonna knows what it means to take the initiative. The role came about, Dr. Colonna said, because “I saw a need at our practice for a more detailed and standardized training program. I worked with the owners, managers, doctors and technicians to help develop a virtual training program that has increased efficiency and quality of staff training.” Under her guidance, Westminster Eyecare Associates has developed a robust and cohesive training program.

When it comes to training, Dr. Colonna emphasizes both leading by example and taking a compassionate and understanding approach to her training. She said, “It is essential to educate and teach not just how to perform the techniques, but make sure they understand the why behind it, Positive reinforcement is always helpful. People don’t respond well when you only tell them what they are doing wrong. Lead with the things they do right, then emphasize that there are always ways we can all improve.”

SHE SAYS… “It think it’s important to lead by example. You can’t expect others to perform to their highest ability if you aren’t.”


Coco Dotson and Breezy Dotson

Founders
Coco and Breezy Eyewear
New York, New York





CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Coco and Breezy devote their time to inspiring and empowering individuals while developing their brand image through their eyewear company, DJ events, modeling and serving as ambassadors and spokeswomen, promoting eye health and wellness along with their frames.”

Coco Dotson and Breezy Dotson may have been selected as two of 2019’s Most Influential Women in Optical, but their reach goes far beyond our industry. The twin sisters manage multiple ventures as in-demand deejays, models, and brand ambassadors, in addition to founding the line of ophthalmic frames and sunwear that bears their names, which they run along with their co-founder Duane Baker. They put their unique stamp on each, with over 100K Instagram followers eagerly engaging with their inspirational, pro-women messaging.

Coco and Breezy started their company after high school, handcrafting DIY frames and self-educating through trial and error about eyewear design and production. After selling only in fashion retailers for seven years, they partnered with Eastern States Eyewear in late 2017 to grow their presence in optical retail locations.

Their responsibilities range from in-house eyewear design (ideation, sketching, CAD drawing) to factory sourcing, managing production and ready-to-market. The sisters are committed to marketing that builds inclusivity and spurs engagement, emphasizing that their eyewear designs are unisex—“product for a person, not a gender”—and brings greater diversity to optical POP.

They consider the ability of their collateral materials to start conversations and build community a major accomplishment. Coco and Breezy were also one of the first influencers to partner with Transitions Light Intelligent lenses to introduce the brand to Millennials, authentically incorporating the brand into their personal style and highlighting the intersection of vision protection and correction while co-promoting their own frames with Transitions lenses.

They identify Sharifa Murdock, co-founder of the Liberty Fairs Trade Shows company, as a key figure in the early part of their journey who gave them their first trade show booth and encouraged them to take the leap into retail in 2012. Their philosophy: “It is important to support each other, especially in a male-dominated industry. Reach out to other women in the field and share stories and advice. Women in tech circles have been a significant source of support for us.”

As disruptors in the evolving optical industry, they pride themselves on creating their own rules, and use social media to connect with and share advice with followers seeking guidance on starting their own businesses, including aspiring eyewear designers.

THEY SAY… “Building a community with authenticity, transparency, diversity and inclusion is central to our role as leaders. We believe it is important to be great listeners and solicit feedback. We try to give everyone the stage to share their ideas; we pump up our team every day, and focus on positivity.”


Julia Gogosha

Founder/Owner
Gogosha Optique
Echo Park, Los Angeles, California

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Julia continues to support peers, former employees, and other designers as she takes risks, allowing herself failures as well as successes.”





Julia Gogosha wears many hats: marketing, client and vendor relations, product collaboration and capsule design, commercial, celebrity and editorial frame styling, bookkeeping, inventory management, buying, fitting, product education, teaching selling techniques, and leading a team. She considers her biggest accomplishment “building something bigger than myself”—watching opticians flourish, giving clients memorable experiences, fostering team connections—and being able to step away, knowing her business is in capable hands.

Gogosha’s prior optical career spans opticianry, buying, and representing luxury frame lines. Her expertise was cultivated working with hundreds of stores, managing inventory, conveying brand stories, honing sales skills and strengthening product knowledge across the country. She noted that Los Angeles was a difficult market for creative eyewear at the time, so in 2008, she decided to open a shop celebrating the collections she loved and was willing to take a risk on introducing.

“Leading is new for me,” she said. “It’s paramount to keep goals and expectations clear. Nurturing curiosity, recognizing growth, correcting mistakes quietly, praising loudly, follow-up and follow-through” are her daily leadership practices. Of her growth, Julia said, “I’ve worked with many industry legends. It’s a trip to look to my mentors and know they see me as their peer.”

SHE SAYS… “Do what scares you. Champion who and what you believe in. Tenacity, consistency, conviction, grace, collaboration, focus and progress are daily practices that made me, and can apply to anyone regardless of gender. I don’t consider myself a successful woman, but a successful person. My strength is in doing things from my own perspective: not trying to level up to a man, but to excel as a woman.”


Jacqueline (Jackie) Janiec

Director of Marketing
Zyloware
Port Chester, New York

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Jacqueline aligns our brands with social influencers and creates custom social media posts for retail to draw in customers. Her creativity is endless. She is a motivator, leader and inspirational.”





While she excels in many aspects of her job as director of marketing for Zyloware, Jackie Janiec’s proudest innovation, she said, is the creation of National Eyewear Day. This initiative, she explained, was created to spread awareness of proper eyecare and eye health and to celebrate “helping people see a beautiful day, every day.”

Each year on June 6, the birthday of company founder Joseph Shyer, Zyloware promotes new tips, tools and philanthropic initiatives to spotlight the importance of vision care, said Janiec. “This year, we hosted an event at Zyloware’s corporate office and helped over 66 underserved members of our local community receive a free eye exam and glasses.”

Janiec’s optical career began 19 years ago when her goal to work in fashion led her to Landis eyewear. Joining Zyloware in 2006, she moved from administration to creative services to marketing, where she leads a team handling public relations, social media and vendor/customer relationships. “I have had amazing opportunities in my career that I attribute to my can-do attitude and I know that outlook will lead me to more fulfilling experiences in the future.”

SHE SAYS… “As a Brené Brown fan, I embrace her words of wisdom: “A leader is someone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.”


Maria Sampalis, OD

Corporate Optometry
Sampalis Eye Care
Cranston, Rhode Island

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Maria has a large presence on social media with 25k followers on Facebook, 20k on LinkedIn and 5k on Instagram. She contributes to many magazines and conferences and has two websites to help ODs. Maria has changed things in the industry for corporate optometry.”





As the founder of Corporate Optometry, a group that has grown to 25,000 members in the optical community, Dr. Maria Sampalis has provided a platform that has offered ODs solutions in corporate optometry. Sampalis has been a trendsetter in the optical industry—she developed the websites corporateoptometry.com and corporateoptometrycareers.com. Her newest venture, CODA-Corporate OD Alliance (corporateods.com) is a nationwide group organization focused on empowering the corporate OD.

There was a great need for these websites and Facebook groups in the industry and Sampalis has been a go-to resource for many young ODs who wanted to start their own businesses. She believes “Optometry is optometry wherever you decide to practice.”

In 2016, Sampalis was named Rhode Island’s Young OD of the Year. She is a member of the Rhode Island Board of Health, and the Massachusetts executive board of optometry. Sampalis is also an optometry board member for Healthy Eyes Advantage, and is the editor for Pentavision Magazine Corporate Optometry Today.

“I have had great support over the years from my husband and family. I would not have been able to accomplish as much as I have without them,” she said.

SHE SAYS… “Just because something hasn’t been done or has been difficult than others don’t limit yourself. You are able to do what you want to do. Ignore the noise and aim for the stars. Remember, you control your own destiny.”


Leilani Sonoda

Principal Scientist, Global Sphere and Light Management Platform
Research & Development
Johnson & Johnson Vision
Jacksonville, Florida

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Acuvue Oasys with Transitions would not exist without her technical expertise, leadership and dedication.”





Sonoda is a scientist focused on light management contact lenses. She has been one of the constants on the project to develop Acuvue Oasys with Transitions for more than 10 years. As technical lead and project manager for light management technologies she has partnered with Transitions Optical’s R&D team and led her team at Johnson and Johnson Vision through the innovation and regulatory processes to allow this product to see the light of day.

“I worked closely with Transitions to overcome two significant challenges: optimize the photochromic material for a contact lens and internally develop manufacturing requirements needed for a new state-of-the-art manufacturing line to produce the product at scale,” she explained.

Sonoda’s career path started with a one-year internship with Johnson & Johnson Vision (previously known as Vistakon) in 2003 working on intellectual property and early development of photochromic curing technology. She graduated in 2004 with a BS in chemistry from the University of North Florida and received the American Chemical Society Award.

After working at the Mayo Clinic for three years, she took a new position at Johnson & Johnson Vision R&D with a focus on photochromic technology, new raw material characterization, and contact lens formulation development. Sonoda received the Johnson & Johnson Vision Vice President of Research & Development Award in 2014.

SHE SAYS… “My personal philosophy is to lead people by establishing trust among everyone on the team, leading by example, encouraging collaboration in overcoming challenges, and acknowledging each one’s efforts as it plays into the progress of the team and the organization.”