Innovators

By



Abby Ayoub

CEO, FOUNDER
Optical Academy
Clifton, New Jersey

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Abby is doing it alone and we are amazed at how far she’s gone because of her passion to serve. She mentors us daily, has created a profit share program and many incentives for us to grow individually within the company. She cares about every aspect and turns no one away if they cannot afford our services.


Abby Ayoub fell in love with the optical industry at a young age and has never left. She crossed paths with a 15-year-old girl named Kelly who had a tumor that blasted her retina, went into her brain and pushed her eye all the way left. Kelly annually failed her school’s vision test and wasn’t able to see an optometrist. That’s when Ayoub founded Optical Academy—which provides onsite exams and eyewear at school sites, work sites, and other communities.

When she served on the Council for VCA, 18 years ago, data showed that, “over 70 percent of children who fail a vision screening never get seen.” Because that remains unchanged today, Ayoub works to address the problem with the way eyecare is delivered, especially to underserved children.

SHE SAYS… “I have a mission and purpose that is stronger than the bottom line. I am an entrepreneur and not afraid of failure. I love to create, do things differently and have a passion for people. I excel by fueling that nut daily and hope I can be the largest player in the optical industry too.”


Debby Feinberg, OD

FOUNDER
NeuroVisual Medicine
OWNER
Vision Specialists
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Through her cutting edge research and patient care over the last 20 years, Dr. Debby Feinberg has developed the new optometric field of NeuroVisual Medicine.”

Debby Feinberg, OD, has devoted a majority of her career to neurovisual optometry, a type of practice geared toward diagnosis and treatment of neurological conditions through eyecare. As such, her biggest inspiration has been her patients. “My patients who suffer the invisible symptoms of dizziness, anxiety, nausea, headache, neck pain, light sensitivity and imbalance with walking inspire me to never give up on the mission of moving this work forward,” she said.

As a neurovisual specialist, Feinberg said she has treated more than 8,000 patients, resulting in an 80 percent reduction in symptoms by prescribing microprism lenses. She has gained notoriety in media including publication in Brain Injury, a peer-reviewed, monthly medical journal (February 2016), as well as in a TEDx talk she delivered in Detroit in 2015.

Seeing herself and her colleagues as a “team of healers,” Feinberg believes optometrists are in a unique position to change the way people think about the eyeglass industry, and the scope and reach of optometry.

SHE SAYS… “As with any profession, men and women may have different perspectives, but as the role of women in optometry becomes more prominent, I believe that they will have a bigger ‘voice at the table’ and ascertain that the needs of our patients, as viewed from the female perspective, will be met.”


Kelly Freitas

SENIOR DIRECTOR, DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT AND CUSTOMER INSIGHTS
VSP Global
Rancho Cordova, California

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Kelly has created systems and processes required to unify and run marketing automation and customer relationship management systems. She’s implemented and socialized testing methodologies on all elements of the digital marketing mix to improve conversion rates and optimize campaign results.”

A 15-year veteran at VSP, Kelly Freitas is the catalyst that has propelled VSP Global’s transformation in marketing, technology and automation. Three years ago, she spearheaded the company’s Customer Experience Management Center of Excellence, which delivers welcome messages to members, educates them on their benefits and helps them understand the importance of having regular eye exams.

She supervises approximately 30 people divided into two teams. One is a digital engagement team that focuses on the digital marketing customer experience for VSP members, including websites and email campaigns; systems and processes required to run an effective and efficient marketing organization, including marketing automation and customer relationship management systems. The other is a customer insights team that provides research, analysis and recommendations for product and marketing opportunities for VSP Global companies.

“The number of women in leadership roles has definitely grown since I entered the optical industry 15 years ago, observed Freitas, who got her start in marketing while working at the Sacramento Bee. “I’m inspired by the business savvy, creativity and innovation I see at VSP Global and in the industry overall.”

SHE SAYS… “From enhancing the eyecare experience for consumers to delivering innovations to how eye-care and eyewear are delivered, women will continue to influence change in the industry.”


Linda Hardy, LDO-GA, NCLC, ABOC, CPOT, COA

OFFICE MANAGER
Eyexam of Peachtree City
Peachtree City, Georgia

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Linda helps train all optometric techs. She pushes them to become educated in the tasks they perform. She loves all parts of this field.”

Over the past two decades, Linda Hardy has never stopped learning. Since getting her start as an ophthalmic technician at a private practice in 1996, she began a career at Newnan Family Eye Care, where, in addition to her role as clinical coordinator, she pursued many certifications, earning her ABO, NCLE, Licensed Dispensing Optician in the state of Georgia, ParaOptometric Technician and Certified Ophthalmic Assistant. Currently, she is studying for her Advanced ABO, and hopes to become a master optician, she said.

After 16 years at Newnan, Hardy has recently accepted a new position as office manager of Eyexam of Peachtree City, in May 2016. In her new role, she is adjusting to being less “hands-on” and allowing her staff to take the reins.

“I am the first to jump in and try to help a patient, run a test, or do repairs—but I know I should allow others with less experience to do more. I want to not only train new employees, but train them effectively,” Hardy said.

Outside the office, Hardy is a contributing editor for the Optician’s Handbook and Review of Optometric Business. She also enjoys teaching continuing education, and recently accepted the SECO ParaOptometric of the Year for 2016.

SHE SAYS… “Start taking certification and licensing tests early. There are so many women in this field that have worked for several years but have never taken the steps to become certified. It is worth investing in your education and career.”



Iris Johnson


ART DIRECTOR
20/20 Magazine, Jobson Optical Group
New York City

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Iris is the premier art director of the #1 publication in optical. As art director, she sets the tone, the look, the feel and the future of what it takes to be eyewear as the ultimate accessory.”

Iris Johnson’s entry into optical was purely by chance, although with the name Iris, she likes to think it was fate. “When I began working at 20/20, I was surprised to learn that there was a monthly magazine devoted to eyewear. Now I’m constantly looking at what people on the street are wearing and what the latest trends are.”

Johnson’s first publishing job was as art assistant with Nickelodeon Magazine. She has been at Jobson Publishing since 2000, first as a designer for U.S. Pharmacist, and then in 2003, as a designer for 20/20 Magazine. In 2006, she became art director of 20/20 Magazine and today she is responsible for the design and look of 20/20 and its supplements, including KidzBiz and SunVision, which she has been art directing for the past 10 years now.

“I produce a monthly fashion photoshoot for the magazine, assign all the still life shooting, design the layouts, and handle the less glamorous, more bureaucratic responsibilities of running an art department.”

SHE SAYS… “I am lucky that my editor-in-chief James Spina, who has championed me from the time I arrived at 20/20 Magazine, understands the importance that design and photography have on a magazine’s visual impact. Working with him and the editorial staff is truly a collaborative effort.”


Amanda K. Lee, OD

VICE PRESIDENT AND COO
Vision Source At Seaside Eye Associates
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She is a Vision Source administrator and leader in her region. A consultant and speaker, people are influenced by her opinions.”

Amanda Lee, OD, has always been interested in pursuing a career that allowed her to explore her love for science and medicine. During a junior high school career day she chose to listen to a nurse, mortician and an optometrist. “When the time came, I applied to both optometry school and medical school but ultimately chose optometry because of my interest in the eye and the visual system.”

Since then, her philosophy about the optical business is that it’s constantly evolving and “there are many moving parts, some of which may come together or come apart at any given moment. This creates an excitement in me since it is always different.”

Along with this excitement, Lee is an ardent supporter of the charity, Optometry Giving Sight and has been since she first learned about them.

With her many memberships and involvement, Lee considers being honored as one of VM’s Most Influential Women in Optical a great accomplishment. “To be referred by one of my colleagues in our industry is an honor that I do not take lightly.”

SHE SAYS… “Keep your mind open to new people and possibilities in our industry. Look at every person who walks into your office as someone who has the potential to share knowledge with you.”


Jana Noble

MEMBERSHIP COORDINATOR/GEOSPATIAL ANALYST
Vision Source Member Support Center
Kingwood, Texas

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She is a key member of the team helping ODs determine the best spot to open a new location. She also works with over 40 health care systems building tools to help their patients connect with their nearest Vision Source member optometrist.”

Jana Noble came to Vision Source in 2014 to work with the geospatial analytics program and support the organization’s members and network development team. A veteran of the banking industry who specialized in lending and commercial real estate, Noble also worked at an ad agency where she gained a deeper understanding of consumer behavior.

At Vision Source, she designs geospatial and consumer insight analysis reports using data provided by makers of GPS systems. The reports are used by Vision Source members who want to learn how to market effectively to the people who drive by their practice every day. She also conducts one-on-one consultations to assist members in finding the perfect place to open a new location or move their current location.

The program has significantly shortened turnaround time on geospatial requests from Vision Source members. “Technology has changed the way we shop and the optical industry is no different,” Noble observed. “We need to stay ahead of the game. Spatial analytics help identify and anticipate changes in the market so we can adapt accordingly.”

SHE SAYS… “Women tend to be the decision makers when it comes to health related purchases. Concentrating our efforts to learn about their spending habits will make it easier to provide them with the products and services they want.”


Karin Sears

VICE PRESIDENT OF PRODUCT
Nouveau Eyewear, a Division of Walman
Carrollton, Texas

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She is brilliant in her thinking and clearly knows how to demonstrate influence through others by her persuasive way of presenting clear ideas. She knows how to mold herself to all situations in order to come up with the best solutions.”

Karin Sears has been in the optical industry for 28 years after entering the field by chance and is a member of the Optical Women’s Association (OWA). Over the course of this time, she has held several unique positions that she credits with opening the door to new relationships and opportunities.

Sears considers the founders of Nouveau, Pat and Evan Aptaker with being excellent mentors who have “led by example and introduced me to the optical industry, which drew me into a true passion for eyewear.”

In her current role, Sears works directly with brand licensors, product manufacturers, optical buyers and account management teams. “This has helped me stay connected and have a broader perspective of our industry.” Along with this, she is responsible for overseeing all product design, development and quality control for all 12 licensed brands and more than 10 private labels.

“Nouveau has a team of brand managers and QC experts that are at the core of our company and culture. They align themselves with our sales and marketing teams to bring the best products and innovation to our customers. I am privileged to lead this talented team.”

SHE SAYS… “I am inspired every day to live in the present, keep a positive attitude, approach every interaction with kindness and integrity and to look for opportunities every day to learn and grow.”


Katheryn Stafford-Hudson

PROJECT MANAGER
Office of Student Health and Wellness
Chicago Public Schools
Princeton Vision Clinic
Chicago, Illinois

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She has been instrumental in conceiving an in-school and mobile vision-based program that provides comprehensive vision exams and eyeglasses to over 46,000 Chicago public school students each year.

Katheryn Stafford-Hudson’s background in community organizing helped her appreciate the needs of the Chicago community, particularly the lack of vision care for many children. While working in the non-profit sector, Stafford-Hudson established partnerships with optical industry organizations such as OneSight and Essilor Vision Foundation.

In 2010, she began working with the Chicago Public Schools, the third largest school district in the U.S. with over 600 schools and approximately 400,000 students, approximately 86 percent of whom live at or below the poverty threshold. At the time, bureaucratic and supply chain issues prevented children from receiving vision care quickly and easily. Students were waiting two to three months for a pair of glasses.

With the help of wholesale lab Classic Optical, which switched reimbursements from Medicaid to managed care, worked with vendors to simplify product selection and created an open bidding process, Stafford-Hudson was able to shorten turnaround time to a few weeks. Since then, the vision program has seen unprecedented growth.

SHE SAYS… “I believe children should have access to quality eye exams and eyeglasses. It is a right not a privilege. Since vision problems in children lead to poor academic performance, self-confidence and quality of life, it is my purpose to remove barriers and provide access to vision services for all Chicago children.”



Vicky Tyburski


MANAGER, SHIPPING DEPARTMENT
Classic Optical Laboratories
Youngstown, Ohio

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She led a major project to re-engineer Classic Optical’s shipping operations. She listened to her team and engaged them in the process, incorporating their feedback along the way.”

Vicky Tyburski entered the optical field by chance. She was in need of a job and a friend referred her to Classic Optical. Thirty-one years later, she has worked in customer service, as an expediter, then as frame department manager, and now she is the manager of the shipping department, her first lab team management position.

Earlier this year, Tyburski led a manufacturing project to re-engineer Classic Optical’s shipping operations. Under her guidance, the shipping department continued to operate and moved in excess of 20,000 pairs of eyeglasses a week at the same time it implemented the project.

“I am living proof that you can join a team at an entry level and with hard work, determination and professional guidance, you can work your way up to a management position, if that is your goal,” she said.

As a leader, Tyburski acknowledges the importance of understanding the skill levels of her team. Striving for too much success, she realizes, causes others to fail. Instead, “it is better to work together, to set goals that are attainable—with a few stretches for good measure.”

SHE SAYS… “I encourage women to set goals and work smart; there is no substitute. Don’t be afraid to change your path. Look for something you like to do and go for it."