Innovators

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  Crystal R. Besson
General Manager
Global Optics Inc.
Green Bay, Wis.
 
 

Chosen Because... “Her many years of experience in eyecare and her understanding of our industry will help guide our profession to the next generation.”

Besson’s father, Tex Williams, ran the stock room at WOS (Wisconsin Optical Supply), and by age 8 she was washing trays there on Saturday mornings, sorting frames and counting temples and screws. At 12, she began helping him with the billings of Global Optics, a lens distribution business affiliated with WOS.

Nearly 40 years later, she now manages Global, the biggest lens warehouse in the U.S. and the second largest network of independent labs. Preparing to take over her father’s duties, Besson is earning a specialized degree in leadership management and ethics. Biltmore Who’s Who named her Executive of the Year 2009.

Outside of optical, Besson mentors young women so they can make better career choices. As she explains, “Most of these young women don’t necessarily have nice jobs, but they do what is necessary to feed themselves and keep a roof over their heads. What I try to do is inspire them to build their confidence, to strive for that dream they once had before they hit the streets.”

SHE SAYS... “Vision is seeing the opportunity inside the challenge.”

  Paula Donnelly
Vice President, Product Development
Luxottica Retail
Mason, Ohio
 

Chosen Because... “An incredibly well-respected and innovative leader in optical…has a major influence on frame trends and designs”

Paula Donnelly joined Luxottica Retail 24 years ago, after launching her career in optical at a private optometry practice. She has fulfilled a number of roles with Luxottica Retail over that time, most recently spending eight years in product development, the last four as vice president.

Donnelly’s primary responsibility in her current position is “to design and develop product that meets the target customers’ needs” for all of the company’s retail brands in both ophthalmic and sun. She attends most major optical trade shows, visits the parent company’s factory in Italy several times a year, and takes at least one trip to China.

Her greatest challenge? “Keeping our product design on target with trends, considering our lead times, to make sure we’re addressing our customers’ needs at the right time,” Donnelly said. She enjoys creating eyewear styles that will sell thousands of SKUs—“that proves our designs work for everyone,” Donnelly declared.

SHE SAYS... “The optical industry has really embraced women, and provided us with lots of opportunities.”

  Sharon Fields
VP of Marketing
Halpern Eye Associates
Dover, Del.
 

Chosen Because... “Her attitude and enormous commitment to quality in every aspect of our practice, especially when we interface with the patient, makes Fields one of the finest executives in the optical industry today.”

In over 15 years with Halpern Eye Associates, Sharon Fields has been successful in developing marketing plans and strategies to help build the company into an eight-location multimillion-dollar practice, the largest in the state.

Her responsibilities include overseeing the marketing department, advertising in all traditional and electronic media, frame inventory, the call center and business development strategies.

Fields has always been a very active citizen in her community. Currently, she is a board member of the Middletown Chamber of Commerce, president of the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce marketing department.

She was awarded the 2008 President’s Award from the Middletown Chamber and in 2002 named Volunteer of the Month from the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce.

A graduate of Marymount University of Arlington Va., Fields previously worked for PNC Bank in Delaware and Petrie Corporation, which owns several large retail clothing stores, based out of New York.

Fields said that her lifelong dream has always been to run her own business and in 2002 she became a co-owner of a large health food store, Good News Natural Foods in Dover, which has grown to a full service health foods operation. In her free time, Fields enjoys spending time with her husband, Ray, their two sons, Tim and Christopher, and Yorkshire terrier, Chloe.

SHE SAYS... “My boss, Art Halpern, has been very inspirational to me. My philosophy has always been to lead by example, value your employees and mentor your staff.”

  Debbie Fink
Director of Product Development
Marchon Eyewear
Melville, N.Y.

Chosen Because... “Her extensive product knowledge coupled with her creativity and sense of design has resulted in highly successful sales for the Marchon brands.”

“I fell into the industry by accident,” acknowledged Debbie Fink of Marchon. “I stayed because I thought it was a great place to use my creative sense and packaging engineer background.”

It seems though that it was a fortuitous “accident” for Fink, who joined Marchon in 2007 from DOC, where she had been nominated for VM’s Most Influential Women honors in 2003. “I truly do not consider this a job. I am very fortunate to get paid to do something I love and am passionate about. My job gives me the opportunity to express myself and be creative—creating product that will end up changing someone’s look or image.”

But Fink feels the industry is at a major crossroad. “Large designer brands dominate the market, but with these economic times, people are open-minded to designer looks without the name or price tag. This is opening the doors for more competition among everyone.” That’s a good thing for Fink who has implemented more fashion inspired pieces into the Marchon core brands to create designer looks at moderate prices.

SHE SAYS... “Don’t just think outside the box, live outside the box. Take those experiences and use them for your personal and professional development.”


  Jodi Groh
Director of Marketing
Nanofilm
Valley View, Ohio
 

Chosen Because... “Throughout her career, Jodi has promoted category differentiation by developing innovative package and display designs that transform lens care from a functional afterthought into an attractive cosmetic category.”

In the optical market for 14 years with Nanofilm, Jodi Groh has worked her way up through the company from marketing and sales assistant, to accessories coordinator, from marketing manager to the marketing director. As the director of marketing for the past seven years, Groh has been responsible for the development of products and programs that grow the business both for Nanofilm and for their customers.

Considered a lens care expert in the industry, Groh writes articles and develops training methods for the industry. “I’m a big believer in education with all my customers, from the ECP to the large retailers,” said Groh.

In the past, lens care products were typically viewed as a giveaway product with no emphasis placed on the product benefits. Groh has played a key role in changing that mindset through her education programs.

“Our customers have learned that lens care is a profitable category not to be overlooked. It’s also a branding tool. As we say at Nanofilm, lens care is not an accessory, it’s a necessity,” said Groh.

SHE SAYS... “Throughout my career at Nanofilm, I’ve had the opportunity to take on a wide range of responsibilities, create programs and branding messages, develop product lines, and work hand-in-hand with customers. I’ve learned so much about all aspects of what we do. There’s never a dull moment for me and I welcome the challenges.”

  Paula Hornbeck
Owner
Eye Candy,
Delafield, Wis.
 

Chosen Because... ”Her leadership within the retail eyecare market influences and projects a positive image for our profession.”

After working for others in several types of optical locations around the country as an optician, Hornbeck took a big leap after her 50th birthday—she enrolled in a business entrepreneurship course and worked on developing an unfulfilled dream, creating her own optical shop. Choosing Delafield, an upscale, small community west of Milwaukee, she opened her Eye Candy boutique in the middle of a snowstorm, had a solid first day and has experienced double-digit growth ever since.

“I wanted to sell lines and products that others weren’t selling, and wanted to create a fun environment and customer experience for purchasing eyewear. We focus on exciting displays, fun colors and also put a strong emphasis on sports eyewear. Our store and our Web site communicate energy and a contemporary approach and we are so gratified by the response.”

Hornbeck also credits colleague and employee Dena Zylka, who has been with her from the start, the support of industry friends like Joe Cherry, her local sales reps and husband Tracy Hornbeck, for inspiring and helping her to succeed.

SHE SAYS... ”You have to believe in yourself. Find your passion, work hard and you can make it happen.”

  Mary O’Hara
Marketing Specialist,
Professional Communications
Transitions Optical, Inc.
Pinellas Park, Fla.
 

Chosen Because... “Mary O’Hara has been integral to shaping and furthering Transition’s healthy sight message and communicating the multitude of programs the company offers to support industry professionals.”

As a marketing specialist for Transitions Optical, Mary O’Hara could easily be described as a ‘great communicator.’ Her main responsibilities consist of keeping the trade press updated on the latest news, programs and tools available from Transitions.

However, another message close to her heart is that of Transitions Healthy Sight for Life Fund. As the Regional Giving Liaison for the U.S. and Canada, O’Hara oversees the selection and management of charities supported by the fund that champion healthy sight and educate about the need for eye health awareness.

“I see myself first and foremost as a communicator. I’m always looking for new ways to reach out to consumers so they start thinking more about their vision and take the initiative to get an eye exam and talk to their eyecare professional about protective lens options that fit their lifestyles.” Her favorite thing about working for Transitions? “The corporate culture of Transitions allows us to try new ideas and let’s us be our best.”

SHE SAYS... “We’re all influential women in optical. I feel fortunate to work with incredible people who are so committed to the overall good of our industry. We help and inspire each other every day.”

  Audrey J. Pavia
Vice President of Marketing
Tura L.P.
Great Neck, N.Y.
 

Chosen Because... “She is the driving force behind all of Tura’s creative endeavors and is a major reason for Tura’s continued success.”

“What’s not to love about my job?” said Audrey Pavia, but when pressed, she can pinpoint the one thing she likes best about her job. “The people I work with represent more than colleagues—they provide daily inspiration. I am fortunate enough to have a nurturing boss, John Weir, who has recognized my strengths, and has helped to develop me into a well-rounded professional. Being surrounded by these people makes each working day simply enjoyable.”

As a 23-year veteran of the industry it wouldn’t be surprising if this enjoyment stems from the knowledge that she has accomplished all the professional goals she set out for herself. But that is not the case; in fact Pavia may have set a goal for herself that she will never actually be able to complete. “It’s the one thing that keeps me going—that there are always constant challenges to improve marketing efforts and develop new creative programs. I look forward to meeting these challenges as they continue to arise.”

SHE SAYS... “At the end of the day, it’s about reaching for the stars and not giving up until the goal is achieved—and having fun while getting there.”

  Eden Wexler
Director of Public Relations
Sáfilo USA/Solstice Marketing Concepts
Parsippany, N.J.
 

Chosen Because... “Her PR initiatives have benefited the industry by increasing awareness of eyewear as an accessory, promoting the importance of sunglasses for preserving eye health and creating new venues for reporting on eyewear news. She brings a tremendous commitment and strong work ethic to her job.”

From film festivals, TV appearances, interactions with movie studios and fashion editors, Wexler is constantly on the move in her role directing public relations activities for 35 Sáfilo Group brands in the U.S. and for the company’s 150+ Solstice and Sunsights sunglass boutiques. Wexler and her team oversee media activities at special events like the Grammy’s, Golden Globes and Fashion Week and extensive TV and film product placement on behalf of both companies. She liaises regularly with licensors’ PR departments and those at Sáfilo Group and is herself a highly visible spokesperson for the brands and eyewear fashion trends.

Wexler’s career included a broad range of accomplishments in the fashion and beauty fields before arriving at Sáfilo in 1999, where she structured the company’s first in-house PR department and embarked on her energetic path to forge a place for eyewear and sunwear in the media world. Wexler “thinks about eyewear 24/7—in today’s media, it’s constant. We work with our sales force. The executive team and Robin Ettinger are so supportive of our efforts.”

SHE SAYS... ”PR is sales, strategy, writing, creativity and so many things combined. I pinch myself daily when I think of the things I’ve been able to do. It’s exciting when PR sets us apart, and helps sell the eyewear in and sell it through.”