Dori Abendschein

Essilor of America
Dallas, Texas

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Her ability to grow Essilor’s footprint in the U.S., advance the company’s mission and lead with purpose in the local community is helping shape the direction of Essilor and is creating a lasting impact on the optical industry.”

For Dori Abendschein, being a leader means constantly learning and evolving. She has brought that mindset to her role as CFO of Essilor of America, where her ability to develop innovative solutions and balance shareholder, employee and customer value have helped drive Essilor’s growth.

Abendschein brings a wealth of experience to her job, having previously worked in the energy, telecom and transportation sectors. She regards this as one of her strengths: “It has been amazing to use the power of my previous network to bring new ideas and network connections to this industry.”

While managing the financial outcomes of a major company is obviously a massive undertaking, Abendschein said, “My most important role is to help enable the Mission of Eradicating Poor Vision in a Generation.“ Her passion for this mission led her to spearhead an incentive program called LIFT, which allows employees to contribute their time and abilities to the Essilor Vision Foundation. The LIFT program resulted in a measurable increase in engagement with Essilor’s mission, and it is now being expanded to include all Essilor USA employees.

SHE SAYS… “Reach out to people who are two to three steps ahead of you in their career. Ask for their support and help. It is not necessary that you take all the advice you are given, but it is imperative that you have multiple viewpoints so you may weigh your decision. Then, make the decision and move on.”

Michele Andrews, OD

Victor, New York

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “In just three years, Dr. Andrews has completely transformed CooperVision’s approach to connecting with eyecare professionals, associations, optometry schools, and the government, which has brought the company even closer to optometry.”

Michele Andrews, OD, knows the precise moment that launched her career in vision care. “I was a sophomore in college majoring in communications when I could not see the board clearly in biology class. That is when I had my first eye exam, and when I realized I had found my calling.” That calling led her to Illinois College of Optometry, a residency in Advanced Care with the VA, and a career that has encompassed private practice and leadership roles in retail and managed care.

At CooperVision, Dr. Andrews is an advocate for the optical industry and the patients it serves. She was personally involved in the recent launch of the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety, and she represents the interests of the profession and patients to Congress, the Federal Trade Commission and state governments. She stays grounded in the needs of her colleagues by representing CooperVision at professional events, “which allows me to stay tuned-in to practitioner needs and concerns in our changing industry, and to engage in meaningful conversations with eyecare practitioners from all around the country.”

SHE SAYS… “Explore and engage in topics and projects that interest you, even if you don’t have all the answers or aren’t sure how those projects may fit into your broader career plan. We perform best when we pursue our passions. Invest your time in learning how to ask great questions, and the answers will come.”

Olivia “Dibby” Bartlett

Todd Rogers USA
Andover, Massachusetts

Opticians Association of America
Lakeland, Tennessee

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Her passion, drive and heart have helped catapult Todd Rogers Eyewear onto the national stage. As an educator and leader of the Opticians Association of America, she embodies what a strong woman with a passion for her trade and a voice that she’s willing to use, can accomplish.”

Dibby Bartlett graduated Clark University in Worcester, Mass. with a liberal arts degree and her student loans beckoned. She began as a receptionist in an optometry practice, soon realizing as her job there evolved, that an opticianry license was a must. Bartlett worked in various managerial and opticianry roles over the years in the Boston area and later moved into eyewear sales in the region, first with REM Eyewear and subsequently with Safilo USA.

At Todd Rogers, she works with Todd and Leigh Berberian in a collaborative way, but focuses on hiring and managing sales, stock and inventory management and customer relations. “We’re a small independent business, and I take the most pride in building a strong foundation on which our future can stand and support the growth that is ahead of us.”

She is a director and past president of Opticians Association of Massachusetts, where she’s received the President’s Award and the Optician of the Year and also the State Leader of the Year from the Opticians Association of America. Today, she is an OAA director and currently first vice president of that national group, on a path to its presidency in the year 2020. “There’s a need for a stronger professional brand, a need to educate the consumer, a louder voice and a more organized profession. My daughter’s an optician, too. I want the profession to be great for her and others.” She is Adjunct Faculty at the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology’s Opticianry Program

Mentors? “I had the best parents anyone could have. My father believed in raising strong, independent women and my mother was one. My husband, Bud, has always given me wings to fly, and supported me in everything, wholeheartedly and with gusto.” Blair Wong at Opticians Association of Massachusetts and Shirley Earley, of OAA, have paved a path for me.

SHE SAYS… “Don’t let fear get in your way, I did not begin my leadership journey until I was 50, mostly due to fear. I finally learned to do things anyway and it changed my life.”

Beth Bush

Wisconsin Vision Inc./Eye Boutique Inc.
New Berlin, Wisconsin

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Beth has led the company through numerous integrations [and] she has a very important voice in our company. The vendors she works with as a frame buyer trust and appreciate her opinion on the direction that a collection needs to go to address our patient base.”

Beth Bush began her career in the optical business when she was hired 22 years ago at Wisconsin Vision Inc. (WVI). She believes her prior experience in operations, loss prevention and training (which she gained at an apparel company) led to her selection for the position over others who had optical experience.

“When I started with Wisconsin Vision, there were 16 stores,” said Bush, who is ABO certified and a member of the Optical Women’s Association. “At that time, I was responsible for store operations, but my responsibilities quickly changed to loss prevention, human resources and training/development. There were no procedures in place for basic things like remakes, returns, or the proper way to order frames, and other things. I really had a great opportunity to make changes and show what I could do.”

In 2009, when WVI acquired the six-store Eye Boutique, she was promoted to regional director of operations and assigned responsibility for two regions at WVI, and two district managers. “While running Eye Boutique, I was able to make some simple changes that gave us better margins with insurance reimbursements, along with other changes that helped grow the bottom line,” she said.

As a result of that success, she was promoted to director of store operations in 2011, and also became the frame buyer.

SHE SAYS… “I believe the more knowledgeable people are, the more confident they are. Learn all aspects of the job, not just the area you work in.”

Elizabeth Carlyle

Vision Source
Kingwood, Texas

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Elizabeth manages some 3,300 contracts with Vision Source members and more than 200 contracts with 3rd party vendors. She is an expert in the franchise laws of all 50 states and handles intellectual property, risk management and employment legal matters for the network.”

Elizabeth Carlyle came to Vision Source after 20 years of civil law practice, most recently as the General Council of the Second Baptist Church, a 70,000-member megachurch in Houston, Texas. Her transition to the optical industry has offered her a new set of challenges. “Since I was not afraid to learn something new, I was presented with an incredible opportunity at Vision Source. Along the way, there have been late nights and early mornings, continued education after a long day at the office, and seemingly brilliant ideas that did not actually work.”

At Vision Source, Elizabeth is responsible for all legal affairs of a professional network of 4,600 doctors that treat 16 million patients per year. She manages the organization’s complex legal transactions and vendor contracts and leads a team that initiates 1,000 franchise documents every year. She has made staff development a priority, initiating a mentoring program that encourages collaboration and professional growth. Her own professional growth continues—in June she was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

SHE SAYS… “I have found if you value people, give those you lead a little guidance and a lot of autonomy, focus the limelight on others instead of yourself, foster professional growth by helping others reach a little farther, and do all of the above while maintaining a sense of humor, work becomes personally fulfilling and fun.”

Jennifer Coppel

Tura Inc.
New York, New York

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She leads by example. There is no feat she believes cannot be accomplished. Jennifer expresses the importance of involvement and curiosity and is understanding of individuals’ strengths, playing to them to maximize her team.”

Jennifer Coppel believes her journey to the optical industry has been “varied and untraditional.” She began her career with her own business, Eden Hardware, where she designed, manufactured and sold decorative door and cabinet hardware. Shortly after Sept. 11, Coppel moved to New York City where she worked for several home and fashion companies before landing a job in 2009 leading the product team at ClearVision Optical.

In 2012, she joined Tura Inc. as vice president of brand management. “At Tura, we do not simply sell pretty eyewear; we build brands through a cohesive story, one that aligns seamlessly through product and marketing. My job is to oversee this alignment from a 360 perspective,” she said.

Coppel has led the company in winning six EyeVote awards as well as successfully launching five new brands with a sixth launching in 2019. Her personal philosophy in leadership was best summed up in an OWA Tuesday Talk that she gave last year which focused on the 12 guiding principles she relies on to lead her team. They included concepts such as developing balanced thinkers, being flexible, staying curious and always expressing gratitude and appreciation.

SHE SAYS… “It is a dynamic position that is constantly evolving with the changes in business, and I am very grateful that I come to work every day excited, motivated and inspired.”

Angela McCoy

Vienna, Virginia

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She works tirelessly to ensure her employees have the very best direction and training. Angela sets the bar high for women in the industry and is admirable in character as well as business.”

Angela McCoy’s start in optical was as a general manager for N.C.’s Eye Care Associates in 2002. As her responsibilities grew, she was recognized as an “Innovator” among VM’s 2014 Most Influential Women. That same year, ECA partnered with MyEyeDr. (MED). She helped lead the integration of the two groups as director of business ops while moving her family to Vienna, Va. McCoy was promoted to MED chief administrative officer this year.

She oversees back-office functions like the MED communication centers, supply chain, business solutions and managed vision care ops, enhancing and innovating the patient experience through connected systems and digital tools.

McCoy is a member of the Optical Women’s Association. She credits many mentors on her path: “Dr. Steve Bolick always pushed me into new roles before I was ready. MED’s Sue Downes, who consistently does the hard thing first, always has my best interest at heart. Janet Pickett, my mom, was the CIO at Manpower; she taught me that I could be anything if I worked hard enough. Dr. Artis Beatty, our chief medical officer; our partnership has lasted more than 16 years in optical. And Mark McCoy—my plus one. I cannot imagine life without him.”

SHE SAYS… “Know your strengths and use them to your advantage. No one is you and that is your super power. Have humility. But get out of your comfort zone. Great things never came from comfort zones. When you get tired, work harder. Many people don’t realize how close they are to success when they give up.”

Jenny Terrell Feenstra, OD, FAAO

Texas Optometric Association

Rosenburg School of Optometry,
University of the Incarnate Word
San Antonio, Texas

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She is awesome in her ability to juggle all the roles she has: a wonderful educator, state association president and new mother.”

Dr. Jenny Terrell Feenstra’s inspiration comes from the people closest to her. “The earliest influences leading me here were my family, particularly my mother. She has led by example in giving back to the things in which you believe. My husband and partner in life, Nathan Feenstra, is unwavering in his support. He and our kids are my biggest cheerleaders and they’re the ones I hope to make proud.”

“Giving back” is the central theme of her career. After graduating from the University of Houston College of Optometry, she worked for a short time in a private practice before moving to an OD/MD referral center, facilitating integrated eyecare. She joined the faculty of the Rosenberg School of Optometry at University of the Incarnate Word in 2013. In her clinical faculty role, she supervises and educates fourth-year optometry students at the Community Eye Clinic in Fort Worth, which serves a largely uninsured patient population.

Dr. Terrell Feenstra also gives back to the profession of optometry. She has been associated with the Texas Optometric Association since her first year as a student at UHCO. In her role as president, she presides over meetings, empanels committees and appoints committee chairs, and certifies all official acts. In 2014, she was a joint recipient of UHCO’s Volunteer of the Year award.

SHE SAYS… “As women, it’s important to be our own advocates. As humans, it’s important to be respectful and kind to our fellow humans… and not take ourselves too seriously.”

Shannon Waigand

DaVinci Equity Group
Afton, Iowa

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Shannon has built our lab and is responsible for its success in a very short time. She has used her skills to recruit new customers and manage production in the lab, all while maintaining a positive attitude that is [her] trademark.”

Shannon Waigand has P/L responsibility for all operational and sales activities in the Caliber Optical Lab, including leading customer service and wholesale sales initiatives and directing production activities. She has been in optical for over 28 years, having started directly out of high school as “an extremely un-trained optician” with an optical retailer. “Within three months, I was managing three of their locations,” she said. Next, she took on the role of managing a private practice and, subsequently, relocated to Iowa and began working in a small optical lab.

“This job evolved into a sales job, the first salesperson, and then grew into an entire organization that I led as the vice president of sales and marketing, which included six salespeople and a customer service team of eight,” she added. “Within three years, we were listed as a VM Top Lab with $12 million per year in sales.”

Waigand noted that, with the encouragement of her husband, she became one of the original owners and founders of DaVinci Equity Group. Today, DaVinci has seven optical locations and the full-service Caliber lab business. It was ranked at No. 39 in VM’s 2017 Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers report.

SHE SAYS… “It wasn’t until 25 years into my career that I believed in myself enough that [I recognized] a woman could do this, too. Learn something from everyone you encounter. Create genuine connections. Our industry is very referral based and it is the relationships that can make or break you.”