Rising Stars



  Teresa Bryant
Sales Manager
Indiana Ophthalmics
Indianapolis, Ind.

Chosen Because... “Teresa began working in the lab doing dyeing and stocking, eventually becoming a salesperson calling on accounts. Two years ago, she became the sales manager and in January of this year, took over the responsibility of replacing the lab’s computer system. After this assignment, Teresa intimately knows the operations of the company and is well prepared to fulfill any position within Indiana Ophthalmics.”

It would be an understatement to call Teresa Bryant a people person. “I enjoy working with people. I love the satisfaction of personal relationships with my accounts. What makes my job rewarding is when I get that call on a Saturday morning thanking me for making their life easier,” said Bryant.

Starting out in the customer service department at Indiana Ophthalmics in 1990, Bryant began making sales calls servicing accounts five years later. Besides calling on accounts, she was responsible for accounts receivables and monthly statements. Today, she is the sales manager for the Indianapolis-based wholesale laboratory and just finished installing a new computer system and software package for the company including all the data entry—customer information, manufacturers, lenses and frames—plus setting up the accounting side of the system.

“The most important part of my job is making sure each account feels like they are number one,” said Bryant. “My accounts know they can call on me anytime.”

SHE SAYS... “Today, you see more women as lab owners and in management positions in the industry. Women have proven themselves in these positions, but whatever position you have now, do it as well as you possibly can.”

  Christine Camsuzou
General Manager Optical Materials
PPG Industries
Monroeville, Pa.

Chosen Because... “Christine has transformed PPG Optical Materials into a major, diversified participant and resource in the optical industry.”

As a child, a misdiagnosed eye condition led a doctor to predict that Camsuzou would soon lose her vision. Although the condition proved to be merely a mild case of astigmatism, the shock of being told from one day to another that she could be blind as well as the following shock of witnessing wild discrepancies in diagnostic procedures were “a learning moment” for her.

So it’s no surprise that as head of PPG’s Optical Materials Group, she is committed to improving the level of competency and knowledge in the eyecare profession through education. She has accelerated a strategy to influence PPG’s partners at all levels of the value chain, either through meetings or education.

Throughout her 23 years at PPG, Camsuzou has held a succession of management positions in finance, strategic planning, mergers and acquisitions, corporate quality. Her international postings have included Paris, the U.K., Mexico, Torrance and, most recently, Pittsburgh. A native of France, she not only speaks French but English, Spanish and Italian as well.

SHE SAYS... “Fashion has a strong influence in patient decisions in terms of eyewear, often more than they realize. Educating the eyecare professional so he or she can educate the patient about the lens is the challenge as well as the opportunity.”

Erin Durham
Director of Frame Merchandising
National Vision, Inc.
Lawrenceville, Ga.

Chosen Because... “She has a great eye for fashion and style and is very adept at managing vendors. In a short time, she has improved efficiency and profitability.”

“I wanted to try my hand at something totally different from the department store apparel industry, which is my background, and get involved in something where I could use my love of fashion in a creative way,” said Erin Durham when asked about why she joined National Vision two years ago.

But switching her category focus wasn’t without its challenges for Durham. “The initial challenge was to learn the product and the suppliers; and at the same time all about National Vision and its place in the industry; all the while applying my fashion sense to the product selection. It has been a very rewarding challenge.”

But she isn’t content to rest on her laurels now, as a rapidly growing business—the company just added 63 new stores with the acquisition of Eyeglass World in Florida—there is still much to achieve at the more than 500 location strong National Vision chain.

“I think as my experience increases I would like to become involved in other creative areas of the company,” concluded Durham

SHE SAYS... “As long as you love what you do and do it well, you will be successful, whatever the industry.”

Jennilyn Dutson
Director of Store Operations
Standard Optical
Salt Lake City, Utah

Chosen Because... “She offers quantitative analysis in a retail environment combined with extraordinary, charismatic leadership skills.”

Dutson is new to the optical industry, joining Standard Optical last year after a career in the banking industry. She manages Standard’s 18 retail offices, a laser center and a medical eyecare facility, and has implemented new cost controls and leadership supervision to the stores across the state.

During her time at Wells Fargo, where she started as a teller, she progressed to banker posts, into business and investment banking and then into management when she was tapped to join Standard.

All store merchandising and store operations, including corporate trainers and a business development person, now work with Dutson who has been building new processes for accountability and regular communications with all managers and their teams. She also travels to stores regularly.

“My standards are fierce, and my whole objective is to teach all of the managers how to be successful running an optical store by managing sales and managing their employees well.

“I’m very grateful to my mentors in management at Wells Fargo and I’d like to cite Stephen and Aaron Schubach and the team here for their attention and support in helping me learn a new industry. Our work is exciting and rewarding.”

SHE SAYS... “Be strong and know who you are.”

Allison Fanger
Manager of Office Operations
Midland Optical
St. Louis, Mo

Chosen Because... “Allison oversees five departments and 61 employees and has exceptionally strong leadership, communications and interpersonal relationship skills.”

Although only in her mid-twenties Allison Fanger has called Midland Optical home for the past 11 years, starting with her part-time stints while still in high school to her current position as manager of office operations.

Through the years, Fanger has worked in almost every department including accounting, customer service, data entry, stockroom, surfacing, mailroom and delivery. Today, she oversees all those departments, in addition to her payroll and human resources duties.

Fanger admitted her greatest challenge is making sure Midland hires the right people and pre-screens applicants by weighing their technical skills with their ability to work with the rest of the Midland “team.”

She feels she makes a difference because the supervisors in each department know that they can come to her, not just to get a problem resolved, but to actually get in and help out. But the number one reason Fanger loves her job is the family atmosphere at Midland. “Everyone here really cares about each other, which I think is unusual to find in a company of 200 employees.”

SHE SAYS... “What inspires me to be better is my boss, Matt Iovaldi. Seeing how hard he works, how much he cares for each of his employees and his overall enthusiasm for the optical industry inspires me to learn more, do more and work harder.”

Heather Figueroa
General Manager
West Coast Lens
Yorba Linda, Calif.

Chosen Because... “Heather’s function at West Coast Lens is part technician, part therapist. She has been able to focus her energies on improving everyone under her…teaching her team that strength is not built from one’s successes, but learning from failure.”

Heather Figueroa heads up the team of employees at West Cost Lens and lets her desire to succeed and break new ground lead the way. She started in the business 11 years ago at Texas State Optical in Wichita Falls and in 2006, moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., to work for The Optical Shop of Aspen. She has both her ABO and NCLE certifications, as well as her Arizona State Dispensing Opticians license. Her technical, medical and team leading skills all converged in 2008 when she won Employee of the Year award from West Cost Lens, the same year she joined the company.

Currently, Figueroa oversees everything in the lab, including customer service and employee training and education.

In response to the downturn in the economy, Figueroa has led the charge to restructure and retool their production process and finishing capabilities. “Whereas we always processed our own lenses which were in a frame, now we are offering just finished lenses as well.” Her take on the economy: “you can look at how it hurt us or you can see where it can take us.”

SHE SAYS... “My inspiration comes from my desire to succeed and for the people around me to succeed as well. My father always told me it didn’t matter what I did as long as I did it to the best of my ability.”

Kelly Kerksick, OD
Director of Professional Services
Vision Source LP
Houston, Texas

Chosen Because... “She is an exceptional role model for new graduates... one of the brightest optometric and business minds in the profession.”

Kerksick was fascinated by her first eye exam. The small-town native was the first on either side of her family to get a degree, attending the University of Missouri and Southern College of Optometry in Memphis. As a student, she worked with practitioner Joseph Ellis, OD, whose rural practice, philosophy and advice was inspirational to Kerksick. She chose to take over a small practice in Columbia, Ill., with a population of 9,000, located about 25 minutes outside of St. Louis, in Illinois.

She spoke at the Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Institute, talking to students about optometry and practice choices, and for Bausch & Lomb, where she noted Michael Pier, OD encouraged her further. Addressing the Vision Source national meeting, she asked what could be done to engage the younger generation to embrace private practice. Now as director of professional services, Kerksick builds relationships with the schools and colleges of optometry. She is a charter member of the Women of Vision organization and has served as a clinical examiner for the National Board of Optometry.

She continues to speak around the country on various topics for Allergan, Alcon, Cooper, Ciba, Vistakon, EMR Logic, MaximEye and others and is a proponent of the technology-savvy practice.

SHE SAYS... “The Vision Source team has been truly supportive....commercial practice is not your annuity, you don’t own it. You have to dig deeper for private practice, but you can do it.”

Kristen McCabe
Director and Curator of Product
Ilori, a division of Luxottica Retail
Mason, Ohio

Chosen Because... “She has an unprecedented ability to forecast sunglass trends and identify product to meet these trends that is unique, fashionable and appropriate for the luxury consumer.”

Kristen McCabe’s entire career has been about the pursuit of merging two worlds — art and business. This pursuit was born in childhood thanks to her father, a corporate lawyer, who fostered her business, analytical and practical side, while her mother, an interior decorator, nurtured the creative, visual side.

At Luxottica Retail, McCabe, director and curator of product for Ilori, found a position that makes that pursuit obtainable. “People are looking for unique, expressive eyewear that shows their personal style but eyewear had a very technical aspect to it,” said McCabe. “It combined my background of buying, brand building and trend identification and completely satisfies my left and right brain.”

But her current career has birthed a whole new pursuit as well. “We’ve built the Ilori brand from the ground up and delivered on the vision with only a nine-person team, there will be 25 boutiques by the end of 2009, but the next step is global and international growth for Ilori,” concluded McCabe.

SHE SAYS... “Do not underestimate what you bring to the table, especially from other fields and experiences. Forget the traditional obstacles, have fun and take care of each other along the way.”

Tesha Peel
Advertising Manager
Clarkson Eyecare
Ellisville, Mo

Chosen Because... “Tesha has written, produced and directed a completely new media campaign highlighting the 30th anniversary of the practice and is director of the not-for-profit Clarkson Eyecare Foundation.”

Peel has been in and out of optometrists’ offices her whole life due to several complications with her sight but it was her love of writing that led her to work in the optical field without becoming an optometrist herself.

Peel began working for Clarkson Eyecare writing manuals but eventually took over responsibilities for all advertising and public relations for the growing practice, which now boasts 42 locations. “I really enjoy what I do—the constant changes in the economy challenges me to find new advertising ideas and promotions.”

She wears a very different yet equally important hat as director of The Clarkson Eyecare Foundation. Currently, the foundation has seven programs including three free vision clinics, a food pantry and direct access community outreach program, as well as World Vision mission trips, EyeGeneration, InfantSEE, and Season for Sight used glasses drives. “When I put a pair of glasses on a foundation patient and see their eyes light up because it is the first time they have ever seen clearly—it is truly amazing.”

SHE SAYS... “The president and chief office executive of Clarkson, Bill Jehling, is my mentor. He has been running a successful family owned/operated business for 30 years. I believe I am being mentored by the best and the company’s success proves that.”

Cathy Rauscher
Associate Brand Manager,
Global Marketing
Transitions Optical, Inc.
Pinellas Park, Fla

Chosen Because... “Guiding our agencies and our marketing team, Cathy helped to build the Transitions SOLFX brand identity, playing an extensive role in conducting research. We are certain that with her stellar background, enthusiasm, and quest for excellence, Cathy will continue to be a rising star in the Transitions organization.”

Starting 10 years ago with PPG Industries as a mechanical engineer, Cathy Rauscher transferred to Transitions Optical as a production engineer, contributing to the organization through process development and engineering. When she had the opportunity to work in the North American marketing department she quickly developed a passion for marketing. She is now an associate global brand manager working on global education programs including programs for the Healthy Sight Institute.

Last year, Rauscher became involved in Transitions’ new sunwear business and is responsible for developing the Transitions SOLFX sun lens brand—growing awareness and demand for products that carry the brand through partnerships, marketing and education.

“I truly believe that sight and vision is priceless. Each of us in the optical industry have the ability to impact people’s sight, and the quality of their lives every day—from providing services and products to eyecare and education—it may not be top of mind for everyone,” said Rauscher.

SHE SAYS... “My advice to other women entering the optical industry would be to never be afraid to try something new, even when it is uncomfortable—some of the most uncomfortable choices we make are where we grow and learn the most.”

Jennifer Stewart , OD
Norwalk Eye Care
Norwalk, Conn

Chosen Because... ”An influential role model for women and students in the profession.”

Stewart has kept up the pace of her achievements since her first appearance in Vision Monday as the New England College of Optometry’s outstanding student in the “Next Generation of Leadership: Class of 2007” report.

After graduation and work in New York with two private practices, she joined Norwalk Eye Care almost a year ago. A private practice run by Mark Feder, OD, she is now an associate in what she describes “as the most technologically-advanced practice I’ve ever seen.”

Stewart has been learning more about practice management and still maintains her love for sports vision, a passion of hers in school and one further fostered by her internship with sports vision specialist Donald Teague, OD. Stewart is the youngest member of the Worldwide Performance Vision Council for Vistakon and was named Member of the Month of Women of Vision.

She remains active herself in high-performance activities, and completed her first triathalon this spring and is training for four more as part of the Tri-Fitness group.

SHE SAYS... ”I look forward to continuing to develop a special rapport with my patients.”

Julie Washington
Vice President, Marketing
Pearle Vision
Mason, Ohio

Chosen Because... “Has led the repositioning of the Pearle Vision brand…vast marketing experience from other industries has allowed her to take a more innovative approach.”

After an earlier career in the consumer products arena with Procter & Gamble, Julie Washington joined Luxottica Retail in March 2008 as a marketing director. In her current role as vice president, marketing, for Luxottica’s Pearle Vision chain, a key element of Washington’s responsibilities is to help build a retail brand that meets the consumer’s needs, while encouraging that consumer to choose Pearle over its competition.

“A key challenge is daily readiness and responsiveness to changing retail and economic conditions,” she said. “But at the same time, many things that are working well do not need to change that often.”

Washington works regularly with Pearle Vision’s many stakeholders—its eyecare professionals, franchisees and associates as well as its customers—in making strategic plans for the chain. She and her team spend time out in the stores every quarter to see what’s working and what might be improved, and conduct regular focus groups to get consumer input.

“Good marketing is always being aware of what’s happening with the consumer in real time,” Washington said.

SHE SAYS... “I applaud and celebrate how the optical business has afforded opportunities for women, doing a better job than other industries in embracing and developing women.”

Karen Zappia
Vice President Sales
Live Eyewear
San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Chosen Because... “Karen has gone from bookkeeper/accounts to vice president of sales in 10 short years. She is effective in the corporate contract business and travels worldwide for product selection.”

Karen Zappia started her optical career with Fitovers Eyewear in 1997. When the company was launched, there were only two people, Kieran Hardy and Karen Zappia, and they had to share a computer in an office the size of a small bedroom.

As the company grew, Zappia realized she wanted to move into sales. She learned that selling something you really believed in was very rewarding. In June of 2001, Hardy and Zappia left Fitovers to start Live Eyewear. She began as the company’s sales manager and in May 2008, was promoted to VP of sales, managing Live Eyewear’s domestic and international business, overseeing the entire sales operation.

“At Live Eyewear, we have learned that by putting ourselves in our customers’ shoes, everything else falls into place,” said Zappia. She makes a difference by participating in many associations, events and committees. A member of the OWA since 2003, she joined the board in 2008.

SHE SAYS... “Things will not come to you. If you sit around and wait for things to happen, you’ll find that nothing much happens. You must go out and get what you want.”