RANCHO MISSION VIEJO, Calif.—Opening a practice cold wasn’t the initial plan of Michelle Ahumada, OD—actually, it was the bank’s idea. The rest, she said, “was history.” Dr. Ahumada graduated from the Southern California College of Optometry (SCCO), now the Southern California School of Optometry at Marshall B. Ketchum University, in 2001, and, about a year later, bought a house and started a family. Now a mother of three, Dr. Ahumada told Vision Monday, “I never stopped working, but I did cut back to part-time.” Throughout the years, she worked in a variety of practices—most recently at Costco—and eventually decided she wanted the ability to be her own boss. She explained, “I first looked at buying a practice, but that did not work out. I had already applied for the loan, and the bank suggested I look into opening cold. When they did, I remembered about a brand new shopping center; I got in touch with the leasing company and the rest was history.”
Michelle Ahumada, OD, owns What a
Spectacle Optometry in Rancho Mission
What a Spectacle Optometry in Rancho Mission Viejo, California, an independent practice where, she says, “I get to make all the decisions.” In fact, everything about What a Spectacle is founded on independence—Dr. Ahumada carries all independent frame lines, with only one exception. She told Vision Monday, “I think as an independent you have much more freedom. I don’t want to be told how to run my practice. I don’t want to work weekends…so I don’t. I get to make all the decisions. “
Selling independent brands is just one of the things Dr. Ahumada loves about running her own practice. She enjoys the fact that patients often walk in and say they’ve never heard of the frame lines she carries, and says patients like that, too. But there’s more to what she does than selling frames—she excels in patient experience as well. Dr. Ahumada said, “We also hope to stand out with our excellent service. I send hand written thank you notes to all of my patients. I tell them if you have any issues, you can text the office and it goes to my phone even on the weekends. I have an auto-phoropter, a Topcon Maestro, and just purchased the Neurolens. Often patients come in and are in awe of our technology.”
At first, Dr. Ahumada wanted to buy a practice, but the bank suggested she open cold.
Like many independents, Dr. Ahumada, who grew up in nearby San Juan Capistrano, prioritizes connecting with her patients outside the exam room as well as inside. This past summer she sponsored a summer reading program at two local elementary schools, and plans to do it again this year with a few more. She volunteers at the local schools when she gets the chance—two of her three children attend the local high school just two miles away—and she make a point to say hello to her patients when she sees them out and about in town. Extending these relationships outside the office helps independents like Dr. Ahumada stand out—and shows the level of attention and care that independents are able to provide.
Dr. Ahumada said she enjoys the fact that patients often walk in and say they’ve never heard of the frame lines she carries, and says patients like that, too.
Dr. Ahumada is present online, too, with both Facebook and a beautifully curated Instagram account. She says the account is “just starting to gain momentum,” although she already has well over 500 followers. At first, she told Vision Monday, it was “mostly industry people and other ODs” following her, but she’s noticing her patients and community members beginning to follow more and more as well. Her goal with social media? “To keep increasing my following with members of the community. I think once that number rises my Instagram will be much more powerful. Regardless, I try to keep it up posting daily—you never know who will see a post and come in.”
Dr. Ahumada’s practice offers a large-scale example of the same idea: you don’t know what will happen if you open cold, even if it wasn’t your original plan. It’s all about deciding what’s best for yourself and your situation, of course, but, Dr. Ahumada said, “It’s never too late to take the plunge! I opened cold almost 18 years out of school, I won’t say it’s been easy, but I’m loving it!”