This is the latest entry in a series from Report on Small Business called Who Owns That. We've asked readers to identify their favourite small businesses from across Canada, and we track down the owners so they can tell us their stories. Their answers are edited.
Introducing Dr. Angela Peddle and Dr. Vishakha Thakrar, optometrists and co-owners of Vaughan Family Vision Care.
1. Let's start with the basics. Can you briefly describe your business, including when it was founded, what it does, and whether you have more than one location?
We have an optometry clinic that offers contact and scleral lens management of diseased corneas, dry eye management, pediatric exams and vision therapy (optometric vision rehabilitation). We provide comprehensive ocular examinations for patients of all ages. We also carry a wide range of frames and sunglasses in our boutique optical.
2. What inspired you to be entrepreneurs and to branch out on your own?
Angela: My inspiration was seeing how optometric vision therapy thrived in the U.S., where I trained, and how there were virtually no options for rehabilitation in Ontario. Many parents with children with special needs, learning-related vision problems, eye turns, lazy eyes have been told in Ontario that there was nothing to be done short of surgery, or nowhere that offers this type of therapy. This was a gap that needed to be filled, desperately.
Vishakha: My inspiration was similar to Angela's in that there are only a few optometric clinics in Ontario that offer specialty contact and scleral lens therapy of patients with diseased corneas. The majority of my practice involves the management of patients who have corneal damage or severe dry eye with custom made contact lenses. These lenses provide vision to patients who may otherwise be deemed legally blind. I recently fit a lady who had considered herself blind for the past two years. After she was fit in a custom contact lens, her vision is now 20/20.
We wanted to bring our two specialties together to form a clinic that our peers and colleagues can refer to. We also welcome normal patients for comprehensive eye exams as well, but we felt that in this market, it was necessary to differentiate ourselves.
3. Who are your typical customers, and how do they find you?
With our specialties, Angela's ideal patient is a child with vision-related learning difficulties, special needs, or those patients with lazy eyes or eye turns. She also has special interest in neuro-optometric rehabilitation of patients with mild traumatic brain injuries. Our lower level is a therapy room where we provide optometric vision therapy – akin to physiotherapy for the eyes. Majority of referrals come from occupational therapists and other optometrists.
Vishakha's ideal patient is one who has dry eye or corneal eye disease and requires specialty scleral lenses or contact lenses. Vishakha has extensive training in this area. Majority of referrals come from ophthalmologists, specifically corneal specialists, and other optometrists.
Patients also find us through our website when they are looking for specialized care.
4. What are each of your roles in the business? Do you have any employees?
While we are optometrists and are responsible for patient care, we are also the owners of Vaughan Family Vision Care. We are therefore responsible for administrative duties, managing staff, marketing, and financial duties. We have shared staff whose responsibilities include reception, purchasing and selling frames, ordering contact lenses and administrative duties. Angela also has employed 2 vision therapists in her vision therapy room.
5. You've been identified by one of our readers as a standout business. What do you consider the key element of your success?
There a few key elements, we believe, that have helped us become successful. In order to strive in the optometric business, we wanted to offer something new and needed in the market. Fortunately, we have both completed non-mandatory residencies after completing our doctorates, which gave us extensive training in our respective areas and filled a needed gap in the market. Secondly, we wanted our office to have a boutique feeling, with a high fashion optical to give our patients not only quality eye care, but also high quality glasses and service.
We are passionate about what we do. By rehabilitating vision, either through vision therapy or contact lens fitting, we are able to make a difference in patients' lives. This was of primary importance for both of us.
Do you have a favourite small business you'd like to learn more about? Make suggestions and join the conversation on the Globe's Small Business LinkedIn group , use the comments field, or email us at email@example.com. You can follow the series on our Pinterest page .