Diana Canto-Sims, OD

Co-Founder, Buena Vista Optical
Chicago, Illinois

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She founded a company that creates eyewear designed specifically for Latinas and she leads a diversity inspired optometric practice.”

Recognizing that many fashion frames did not properly fit her Latina customers, Diana Canto-Sims followed her entrepreneurial instincts and created La Vida Eyewear, positioned as “the only eyewear in the world designed for Latinos by a Latina.”

Designing eyewear that does not compromise fit for fashion is one of her most rewarding accomplishments, said Canto-Sims, whose designs offer fit that is both functional and fashionable.

Canto-Sims was first inspired to help other people see clearly at the age of 10, when her myopia was corrected. As an optometrist and business owner, she listened to her patients as they struggled with the same eyewear frustrations, and the idea of developing eyeglasses for Latinas was born.

Canto-Sims is a strong advocate of the importance of vision to learning. “Our greatest challenge is dealing with the stigma of wearing glasses in the Latino community. If a child cannot see, he or she cannot learn. Educating parents about the importance of vision and learning is essential in our practice.”

Canto-Sims is on the Transitions Optical Diversity advisory board and is a Transitions change agent, sharing multicultural experiences to help patients exceed their visual expectations and to protect eyes from harmful UV rays and blue light.

SHE SAYS… “My mission is to populate the world with beautiful people wearing gorgeous eyewear that actually fits.”

Julie Collins

Fort Worth, Texas

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Julie Collins is a customer and digital-first leader, responsible for catapulting Alcon into a new frontier for their business. She’s a visionary. She sees business challenges and seizes them as opportunities.”

Julie Collins serves on the executive team of Alcon, a subsidiary of Novartis, as the global head of eCommerce, leading this across its Surgical and Vision Care Divisions.

Collins brought 25+ years of experience in strategic planning, global and digital marketing and technology platforms to Alcon. She’s brought together cross-functional teams in the development and launch of revenue-generating digital platforms, such as eCommerce, CRM, B2B, mobile and global web ecosystems. Currently, Collins is spearheading the launch of myalcon Store, the first cloud- based eCommerce system in all of Alcon and Novartis.

She said, “In my career, I’ve always liked to build and share things—I was on the team at IBM that launched the personal computer, I’ve launched a myriad of new products across categories, and built early editions of websites before we even knew what websites could do.

“I got involved in optical when I was approached about a role at CIBA Vision to build new marketing capabilities for contact lenses and lens care. I met the teams, used the products and was hooked. I think that spending your career thinking about how to help people see better is a great life.

SHE SAYS… “My philosophy is ‘Launch, Learn and Pivot.’ Digital is moving so quickly, with so many new and powerful ideas coming to market. The essence is to get smart and compelling ideas up and going, and then build on them over time. Embrace the ride. In our new digital universe, there is very little roadmap.”

Jane George

Frames Data Inc., Jobson Optical Group
New York, New York

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “As an industry veteran who has worked with Frames Data from multiple perspectives over her career, she is well positioned to manage and develop the Frames Data product line as it moves along the continuum from print to cloud based products for retailers that increase meaningful patient dialogue, patient experience and retail sales.”

Jane George likes to think that she didn’t find optical but it found her, some 29 years ago. Fresh out of college, she connected with a recruiter who was looking to fill an entry level marketing job for “Starline Optical” in New Jersey. She remembers, “I got the job and was hooked! Starline of course soon became Safilo. Interestingly, my very first project as marketing coordinator was to manage Safilo’s listings in Frames Data. Funny how life comes full circle.”

Following her start at Safilo, George moved to the lens side of things with Diamonex Lenses, and on then to Frames Data as a regional sales manager. She left the industry for eight years only to return “home” to Frames Data as a project manager in 2015.

Today, her primary responsibilities include expanding industry partnerships and third-party integrations, developing a closer relationship with subscribers to better enhance user experience, and developing cloud-based tools for retailers that provide measurable practice benefits.

George considers herself to be “creative, tenacious and goal oriented—I love to see a good plan come together.” All good qualities which came in handy for her most recent project—the launch of a Frames Data product specifically for Canada complete with Canadian product lines and pricing.

SHE SAYS… “Growing up, my mom and my aunt were my family unit. They were supportive, open minded, and truly loving individuals who made sure I was exposed to friends and business associates who became role models and mentors for me. They let me know it was okay to have confidence and goals. It continues to be my foundation.”

Alysia Gradney

Vision Source
Kingwood, Texas

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Alysia created a social media training platform and social media team to educate Vision Source members on best practices. Through the execution of data-driven initiatives, Alysia grew Vision Source brand visibility by 50.23 percent in 2016.”

Alysia Gradney recalls struggling academically through middle school. “The moment I put on my first pair of glasses is a memory I will never forget. The world was much clearer, brighter, and accessible. I am inspired by this memory and my ability to help create similar moments for women, men and children.”

With 12 years of professional marketing and project management experience, Gradney describes herself as “equal parts left and right brain, I love to color and do math. Through marketing, I use my love of math to collect and analyze data to color marketing initiatives and strategies. I turn data into digestible and usable content to further brand development and achieve overall business objectives.”

At Vision Source she leads the development of digital strategies by leveraging multiple media channels, including PPC, SEO, display, distribution, syndication, mobile and social. She also manages all consumer facing digital assets which includes VisionSource.com, all social channels and the management of over 1,900 Vision Source member websites.

Gradney cites her aunt, Sonia ‘Sunny’ Franklin, as a longtime mentor. “She has shown me the power of perseverance and hard work.” And, Gradney suggests, “If you’re interested in growing within the optical industry build a network of supportive women around you.”

SHE SAYS… “In the next few years, I think women will influence change in the delivery of eyecare products and services by finding new ways to engage women ages 25 to 45. I see a future that blends beauty with eyecare while promoting eye health for the whole family.”

Melissa Hunfalvay, PhD

Bethesda, Maryland

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Her expertise solves scientific questions using technology to better understand human behavior.”

Melissa Hunfalvay is the driving force behind all of RightEye’s leading-edge eye-tracking technology products including RightEye Neuro Vision Tests, RightEye Performance Vision, RightEye GeoPref Autism Test and RightEye Vision Training Games.

She is also spearheading the launch of a test designed to identify early signs of Parkinson’s disease. Taken together, Dr. Hunfalvay’s work at RightEye is making health and vision care more accessible, affordable and effective, generating better outcomes, lower costs and improved health.

She is responsible for all new and existing product development efforts at RightEye, and she also leads RightEye’s research branch. In this role, she has created all of RightEye’s products used to examine athletic performance, autism spectrum disorder, vision disorders, neurological disorders and reading disorders. She has also developed therapies and training programs based on eye-tracking assessments.

Hunfalvay, who holds a Master’s in clinical psychology and counseling, and a PhD in kinesiology, is unique in that her background, both as a scientific researcher, and previously, as professional tennis player and coach, enables her to build products based on scientific rigor that are practical and easy to understand by the end user.

Her expertise helps solve scientific questions using technology to better understand human behavior. She has published many works from peer-reviewed science to practical applications to technology articles and book chapters. She has presented at over 50 conferences.

SHE SAYS… “The most important thing for someone starting out in our industry is to respect other people’s talents, realize where your skill set is and be able to collaborate with others.”

Kristen McLaughlin

Silhouette Optical
Green Island, New York

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She works tirelessly to promote the Silhouette brand and to support her sales force and team.”

Kristen McLaughlin entered the optical industry 17 years ago, following jobs in the beauty and retail industries. “It happened by chance,” she recalled. “A friend passed on the opportunity to interview with Silhouette. As soon as I met Arnold Schmied (Silhouette’s president at the time and the son of the company’s founder) and he shared the Silhouette Journal and company philosophy, I was hooked on the thought of working for this incredibly special eyewear manufacturer.”

McLaughlin works with the Silhouette design team in Austria to create eyewear styles that will suit the American market. She is responsible for marketing and communication of the company’s three brands: Silhouette, neubau and adidas, and creates content for its trade and consumer communications.

Additionally, McLaughlin is responsible for U.S. product positioning and communication, developing merchandising plans, and managing the marketing budget and planning.“I am passionate about great product and design,” she said. “I love telling the story to engage others. I find ways to connect the story and product to people, individually. Personalization is of utmost importance. Products with a special story take precedence.”

McLaughlin believes female consumers are more open to new experiences. “We’ll see new experiences delivered with more meaningful touch points in all areas of retail, both in-store and online,” she said.

SHE SAYS… “Eyewear is the most influential accessory one could wear. Choose it wisely. This also stands true for choosing the product you represent. You must believe in your product. This is a signature piece that sends a message about who you are.”

Bridgitte Shen Lee, OD

Vision Optique
Houston, Texas

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Bridgitte is considered one of the leading thought leaders in the $41 billion eyecare industry on ocular health, dry eye, specialty contact lenses and women’s health issues.”

Bridgitte Shen Lee, OD, immigrated to Dallas, Texas from Beijing at age 14. Both of her parents graduated from China’s prestigious Peking Union Medical College (PUMC), which set her on a course to become a health care practitioner. “My upbringing in medical academia helped to shape my own career in helping others with their sight,” she said.

Shen Lee and her business partner, Brad Owens, OD, opened Vision Optique in 1999, one year after they graduated from the University of Houston College of Optometry. “The location we chose is in a highly competitive area in Houston, even more so 18 years later,” she said. “We differentiate ourselves by focusing on patient relationships and educating our patients on the latest innovations”

The focus is on providing personalized care. “Almost two decades of treating patients with kindness and honesty, and giving back to the communities that support us, has helped us to build a strong foundation of loyal friends and patients,” Shen Lee said.

Shen Lee has created one of the strongest personal brands in eyecare by both leveraging her social media presence as a “Dry Eye Specialist” and networking with a variety of patients, colleagues and industry partners.

In addition to Vision Optique, she is the founder of iTravelCE, and serves on the advisory boards of Essilor, Luxottica, Bausch + Lomb and Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, among other companies.

SHE SAYS… “It’s important to have women both owning practices, as well as sitting on industry boards, and in leadership positions in eyecare companies.”