Sandi Berendes

Marketing Director
Groetken Family Eye Care
Le Mars, Iowa

Chosen Because...“Sandi is a beautiful, gentle, kind spirit, always willing to go out of her way to make someone’s day. She is unique in so many ways—beyond just marketing, she is an innovator of how we all should treat people.”

Sandi Berendes has only worked in optical for 10 years but in that time, she has accomplished more than most would in a career three times that long. As marketing director for Groetken Family Eye Care in Le Mars, Iowa, Berendes does everything from planning annual eyewear shows to appearing on local radio stations on behalf of the practice. “I have a passion for eyewear and sunwear in my heart and I share it with everyone around me,” she said.

While there is no secret to her accomplishment (hard work and dedication), Berendes is self taught where marketing is concerned. By taking online courses and reading optical trades, Berendes worked to soak up all the knowledge she could in order “to pass on the information to everyone around me, to make us a better team for the practice.”

Berendes thanks Elizabeth Groetken, OD, 20/20 editor-in-chief James Spina and her family, of whom she said: “I would not be who I am without them and their constant support by
my side.”

SHE SAYS…“I set a goal back when I first started in optometry. I remember looking at VM and 20/20 [magazines] and saying to Dr. Groetken, ‘We’re going to get there one day.’ So I can’t tell you how much this honor means to me.”

Leslie Muller

Vice President of Design
Marchon Eyewear
New York, N.Y.

Chosen Because...“Muller is the head of design at Marchon’s N.Y. showroom, where she continuously designs frames that include technological advancements and fashion forward appeal.”

When Muller started in the eyewear industry 18 years ago, there were very few eyewear designers in the U.S., let alone women designers. “It was an exciting and formative time for me. I saw the potential for building a new discipline here. As I gained experience, I gave back to the industrial design community. Over the years, through lectures and Marchon’s Design Internship program, we’ve touched, trained and hired quite a few female designers.”

Muller started her career in the art gallery world and thanks to her own female mentor, Ivy Ross, VP of design at Bausch + Lomb in Denver at the time, was hired as a design manager at B+L. After a stint in design at Luxottica, Muller joined Marchon in 2003, where she established the New York Design Studio and now leads design teams for the Michael Kors, Calvin Klein Collection, Calvin Klein Jeans, Nike and Diane von Furstenberg brands.

“It is a privilege and honor to have the ability to work with the best designers in the world right here in New York,” concluded Muller. “But all designers need trust and support and I’ve been lucky to have that from our president and CEO, Claudio Gottardi, and my boss and mentor, Mark Ginsberg.”

SHE SAYS…“The optical industry is such a rich and diverse field that has plenty of room for women that are interested. It’s also an industry that has a lot of momentum, which allows for interesting career exploration and development.”

Liz Segre

Editorial Director
All About Vision
Access Media Group LLC
San Diego, Calif.

Chosen Because...“She is a founder of, a pioneer in providing online consumer education about eye care and eye health. Segre sets the tone and is the editorial conscience of the site, demanding that the content meets her uncompromising standards for quality and objectivity.”

Segre has overall responsibility for the editorial content and webmastering for Her many duties include writing and editing articles, constantly updating the site’s content, and making sure it is optimized for search engines. A self-professed newshound with a technical orientation, Segre likes her job because she enjoys reading newspapers and keeping current on a variety of subjects.

Segre entered the optical industry about 20 years ago when she became managing editor for Eyecare Business magazine. “That was my first exposure to the optical field,” she recalled. “At first, I wasn’t sure I’d like it—previously I had worked at a boating magazine, and I thought the subject might be dry in comparison. I was so wrong! The sometimes complicated combination of retail, fashion, technology, and health makes this a very interesting arena for a journalist.”

SHE SAYS…“Be nice to others, and they will be nice to you. For example, when we receive email comments from people, positive or negative, we always try to respond with respect. After all, they did take time out of their day to write to us. Actually, almost everyone I’ve met in optical is wonderful, which seems unusual in business.”

Samantha Toth

Innereactive Media
Ada, Mich.

Chosen Because...“Samantha is an innovator in the industry with her ideas and the products she has brought to market. Her lectures have helped optometrists and opticians become more effective in running their own businesses and better serving their patients.”

As Samantha Toth puts it, she grew up in “optical diapers.” Her grandfather, father and uncle are/were all optometrists. Her mother is a sales director for a frame company and her sister is an optician. It’s almost like she didn’t have a choice. But of course she did, by becoming a dispensing optician for eight years before pursuing a marketing career.

As the founder and president of Innereactive Media, Toth has built her business by helping optical professionals grow their business through effective communication, strategic marketing and training. “I’ve had the opportunity to work on innovative marketing projects side-by-side with some great industry mentors. I am forever grateful, for without them, I would not be who I am today!” said Toth.

As an innovator, Toth created a hands-on photochromic workshop for Transitions Optical, a new marketing campaign launch for Trivex material lenses, Hoya free-form focus groups for ECPs, and the Jump Start eyecare professional training series for Global Optics, to name a few.

SHE SAYS…“Success doesn’t happen by accident and requires both hard work and calculated risk. Focusing on mistakes of the past won’t help you move forward and grow. I’m constantly challenged, but also supported by my mother and two sisters who continue to make me a better person and business professional.”

Connie Vavricek

Director, Industry Outreach
VSP Vision Care
Rancho Cordova, Calif.

Chosen Because...“Under Connie’s leadership, since the inception of the VSP Mobile Eyes program, over 800 VSP doctors have volunteered their time and the clinics have participated in 350 events, helping more than 50,000 people to see better.”

Even when disaster strikes, positive outcomes are still possible. Just ask Connie Vavricek, who heads up VSP Vision Care’s charity care and industry outreach programs. “One year into my time at VSP, hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast. The executive leadership quickly pulled together a team to help those affected. I was part of that team and since that moment, I’ve found my calling.”

Vavricek, along with her team of 13 staffers, manages outreach programs, including sponsorships and continuing education for VSP network doctors. “I’m very proud to have played a part in developing the VSP Mobile Eyes program, our mobile clinics program which now includes three 45-foot mobile eyecare clinics that, in partnership with our network doctors, travel the U.S. providing comprehensive eye exams and glasses for the underserved.”

Vavricek believes that while there are many careers within the VSP organization, ultimately everyone is a part of the same mission—helping people see better. “My inspiration comes from watching people grow and witnessing their ideas turn into programs that in turn help other people grow. It’s cyclical!”

SHE SAYS…“No matter the task or project, do the very best you can. If it’s a small task, make sure you do it to the best of your ability. People notice when something is quality, and you will be given bigger and better opportunities if the quality is noticed.”