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    Q&A: Diana Canto-Sims, OD, Owner, Buena Vista Optical, Wink and Save

    Designing frames, moving to Idaho, and going retro

    Where did you grow up?

    I was born in Chicago to immigrant parents from Mexico and Puerto Rico. My parents owned a Mexican bakery in Chicago, and they got burnt out My father had properties [in Puerto Rico] and we moved there. I graduated from optometry school in 1998, and the year after I stopped by the school and saw this gorgeous man doing his residency—that’s where I met my husband. He’s from Idaho. When he finished his residency, he left to live in Idaho and invited me over. He was working for a group practice, and we noticed a lot of Spanish-speaking people there who were underserved. He had signed a non-compete clause with a 100-mile radius, so we packed our bags and moved to Chicago. That was in 2001.

    What’s something your colleagues don’t know about you?

    My passion for fashion. That’s why I was so excited about designing eyewear.

    How did you get involved in frame design?

    Latinos have wider faces, higher cheekbones, and flatter noses—I noticed that every single frame did not fit right, feel right, or look right. Many frames are very European-style designed, and it was getting frustrating. I spoke to manufacturers at Vision Expo. I used Google Translate, and it wasn’t very good at all. One time I wanted to carve a heart on the end of the temple of the eyewear, and Google translated that as, “Can you carve your heart out and take it to the temple.” [Laughs] So, they looked at me like I had two heads! Little by little I created connections, and I found a wonderful mom-and-pop manufacturer. They sent me samples of acetate, plastics, and metals, and I started designing. People come from Indiana and Wisconsin just to try on the styles because they fit well. The people we cater to are looking for a value line, and it’s worked beautifully for us.

    Previous Q&A: Lori Grover, OD, PhD, FAAO, senior vice president for health policy at King-Devick Technologies, Inc.

    How does being a serial “woman-prenuer”  fit into optometry?

    When we moved to Chicago, we already knew we wanted to open our own practice, and we knew we wanted to do it for mid to lower income. I decided it was nice to buy properties and I would tell my husband I like to buy properties instead of shoes. [Laughs] In 2000, we started buying real estate to rent, and we saw that it was pretty profitable. So, I opened a property management company. I totally delegated that. I rent to my brick and mortar, which is Buena Vista Optical. Our property management is called Bella Vista Realty, and we started the Wink and Save company, my frame company. I also consult for small businesses. I’ve made so many mistakes that I know what not to do. [Laughs]. I have the experience.

    How can ODs better brand and market their services?

    When we first started, we did really well; 10 months later we saw that there was a “ginormous” demand for us in the neighborhood and we were overbooked for two to three months. So, we opened seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and we just burned out. The money was great, but it wasn’t healthy for our family or for our business. So, we decided to laser focus on who our ideal patients were. You should know who you want to service and who are your ideal patients because when you’re trying to service everyone, you’re servicing no one.

    If you had to do it all over again, what would you change?

    When we first started, we would just hire a body. We learned the hard way because we had a chain of theft—you need to hire people who have your core values. We have 13 core values, and we make sure that the people we hire are congruent with those before they get their first interview. It’s a lot of work, but it is worth it because my turnaround for crew is minimal—I have people who have been with me since I first started 12 years ago.


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