Secret Life Ep. 69 with Lisa McIntyre from The Optical Shoppe

Barb McGrath 0:01Today’s guest has a very clear view of our community and her future as an entrepreneur. Growing up, Lisa was part of a family owned business. Sunday dinners, holidays and after school were spent talking about business. Her family volunteered, often visiting virtually any venue that was hosting an event or a fundraiser. It gave her a really good sense of what it means to give back and be part of something bigger. today. Lisa McIntyre is the owner of the optical shop here in Regina. Welcome, Lisa.
Lisa McIntyre 0:37Great. Thanks, Barb. Thanks very much for being here. So tell me a little bit about how you became the owner of an optical business? Are you an optician? Or tell me how that happened? Well, I’m just about an optician. Now, I wasn’t before. And I wasn’t really familiar with the industry. Through my community work that you mentioned, I was approached by a mutual friend or contact I guess through the globe board, actually, that said, you know, we’ve heard about this business opportunity, we think it would be really good for you, we’d be happy to sort of pair you up with the owner and see if you guys can come to an agreement. And it just seemed like a good opportunity. At the time, I was working at economic development and tourism, Regina, and what I called a fun job. Because coming from a family business where it’s stressed and talking about business all the time, I didn’t have to do that at all, to economic development. So I was at a fun job. And I wasn’t really eager to leave. But it just happened to be the right opportunity. After looking at the numbers and the customer base and sort of everything around it, I thought this is really a good jumping off point for me as a solo entrepreneur.
Barb McGrath 1:44Well, and so that’s really interesting. So you grew up in that family business environment. So obviously, that the business or the entrepreneurial bug really bit you, I saw an interview, or an article where you were quoted as saying, you know, you think you were always meant to be an entrepreneur? What what inside of you helped you make that decision? Like, how did you come to that conclusion?
Lisa McIntyre 2:06Well, I just never worked well with bosses. So I shouldn’t say that I actually did work well with all of my bosses. But I just never felt like that was the place for me. And I tried a number of different careers, I worked at the retirement chamber, I didn’t stint in government, even working for my with my family, I didn’t sort of have sole control of where we wanted to take the business or want to do we are a team, which is great. But I really wanted to have that autonomy. And I’m a very independent person. And I have always been that way. So being entrepreneur just kind of fits the mold. And I like having the vision and being able to use my somewhat small creative side to grow a business, which is picking up more of my analytical side.
Barb McGrath 2:50You know, and so that’s interesting. So tell me about the conversation in with your family, when you said, hey, guess what, I’m gonna leave the family business and start my own. How did that conversation go?
Lisa McIntyre 3:00Well, it didn’t happen exactly like that we’d actually sold our family business the year prior, which is why I was at economic development. And I chose not to stay on with the beer corporation that had taken over. So it was more of a conversation around, we’re selling this 84 year old family business. And you kind of have to deal with that. And there’s a lot to process when you think your great grandfather started this company in the Great Depression. And look where you are now. So obviously, we did really well. But then when I approached my family about this new opportunity, going to talk to my parents about it, we looked at the numbers, and they just sort of thought, if you don’t take the chance when you’re in your 30s, like early 30s, when are you going to take the chance, it only gets harder later in life. So it’s all on my face before I have kids, it’s probably not as big of a deal when I have to support you know, a little mouse.
Barb McGrath 3:52Exactly. No, that’s it. That’s a really good perspective. I didn’t realize that your family had sold their business that must have been, like emotionally a really tough thing, because as you say, 84 years, that’s a long time.
Lisa McIntyre 4:04Yeah, it was really tough. And of course, we had a number of family members in on it and different perspectives and people wanting to retire. So pro sale, some people wanting to take over the business and people not really sure what they wanted to do. So it’s definitely a process. And I approached it more as a grieving process. So like I was, you know, losing a family member.
Lisa McIntyre 4:25So rather than just trying to, like settle with we sold a business, it’s a little bit different. I think now I may approach it differently. But at that time, it really was like a little bit of a grieving process for me. So up until that point in time, had you sort of assumed that you would take a role in the family business at some point. Yeah, we had discussed that many times that there would be a transition to what would have been the fourth generation of the family.
Lisa McIntyre 4:51But when you’re approached with an offer, yeah, you have to take a look at it and it just was sort of the perfect storm of having three parts.
Lisa McIntyre 5:00That wanted to retire and like to people to buy it out. And, you know, you get a good offer presented that everyone kind of wins in the long run and right, it’s like hard to say goodbye. But exactly with goodwill family. Yeah. And you know, some somewhat fortuitous. Since we’re, you know, it’s kind of in the sweep of COVID. Right now, it may have been much more difficult to keep the business going in this environment. Now, it also may have been a very successful time, because cleaning products are particularly useful right now. It probably would have been the greatest sales here we’d ever had.
Barb McGrath 5:36Yeah, got it.
Lisa McIntyre 5:38So well, disappointing that you’re not in that industry making money when you could have been, but I think still in the long run, it’s good. So during COVID, and everyone’s locked down, they were working six days a week to get shipments out. So yeah, a little bit different.
Barb McGrath 5:53Well, let’s go back, let’s talk about the optical shop. So how big is your team?
Lisa McIntyre 5:57So right now, it’s myself and one full time staff. And then we have three part time staff. So we scaled back a bit because of COVID. Normally, it would be three full time staff. And then some part time, and we’d also be at six days a week. Right now we’re operating at five days a week with appointments, and then only to staff on the premises at a time, just because we have a small space, rather have a few more customers in then staff taking up the capacity since we’ve limited it to six people in the store at a time at a time. Yeah.
Barb McGrath 6:28So by appointment, so I’m looking for new eyewear, I booked an appointment with you, I sort of have my one hour slot or whatever that might be. And then I can come in. And so I’m kind of getting customer service. So as a customer, it’s probably not a bad thing. To have this kind of environment.
Lisa McIntyre 6:46Yeah, we’ve because we’re located in the mall, we have a little bit of a hybrid model. So we are open to walk ins, but again, limited to six people per store. And that’s usually like two couples, and then offering appointments outside of those hours. So being a little bit more flexible as to when our customers need to see us. So normally, we’re not open on Sundays, but I did go down and meet some customers on Sunday. Because that’s what accommodated their schedule.
Lisa McIntyre 7:10But it is really nice, because when you have a private appointment, you can try on anything in the store, you can try whatever you want. And then we have time after appointment to clean everything. We don’t have to limit anyone to three or five frames to try on. Because how do you know what you’re gonna like?
Barb McGrath 7:26Exactly, yeah. So tell me about that process. So a customer’s done. And now you have to clean so is it about surface wiping? Or is it the the mist cleaning? What does that look like for you?
Lisa McIntyre 7:38A little bit of both. So we are disinfecting all the spray all the frames with spray cleaner, and then the surfaces as well if they’ve touched any of those with our disinfectant, so we’re not using the big misters that you see around. Being that I have a bit of a chemical background. I know what we can do. So yeah, so we’re just spraying Luckily, glasses are all hard surfaces. So unlike clothing, when you go to try it on, it won’t hold on to any germs once it’s been wiped down.
Barb McGrath 8:05Yeah, you know, and so there’s a little bit of you’ve trained your whole life for what we’re going through in COVID. Right now you have like the total background to be prepared for this. Hey, yeah. I never thought the night before. When I was getting ready for the show. I’m like you trained your whole life for this. He had a funny coincidence. Exactly. Um, so what’s your vision for the store? Are you hoping to have multiple stores in the future? Is your goal to Yeah, just tell me about it? What’s your what’s your vision here?
Lisa McIntyre 8:24Yeah, I’d love to have multiple stores. Keep it very boutique, I don’t want to get into being a big supplier. But I definitely keep it local boutique, potentially partner with an optometrist so that we have that to draw people in at different locations. And, and just keep it really personal and know our customers like it’s really nice when we can greet someone by name when they walk into the store. So really having that connection and keeping our staff around long term so that they build that connection with the customers as well. So that’s what we’re working towards.
Barb McGrath 9:01So do you see quite? Quite am? what’s the word I’m looking for? Do you see quite a bit of returning customers? That did not come on eloquently?
Lisa McIntyre 9:22Yeah, I would say so we have quite a few client files and probably about 4000 files. Not all of them being returning, but hopefully, with improved service and different things like that, that we turn more of them into returning customers. But yeah, we do have a lot of people who have files sitting since 1983. They’ve been buying with the store. And they just really liked the quality of the product and the service that we’ve provided over those years that they keep coming back. You know, and in that industry services so important to walk in and work with someone who will genuinely help you find eyewear. That’s going to
Lisa McIntyre 10:00To make a fashion statement, but suit you, that’s huge as eyeglasses wear, and I wear my glasses off and on, so I look to use them when I’m on the computer. But if I’m just watching the movie, I don’t need them. But what I have found in the last number of years is when you walk into some of the larger stores, the person you’re working with might still be in high school or university. And that flavor that that look is really different than what you want once you’re into your 30s and 40s. So it’s like, Yeah, no, that’s that’s kind of weird.
Lisa McIntyre 10:35Yeah, yeah, I always say like, with myself being trained as an optician right now, and then we have an optician in the store full time. And we really get trained on to know what looks good on different people. And it really helps in our industry that like, when we do our frame buying, like I do all the frame buying myself, and then but I run it by the other staff, and I’m like, do you like these? Is this something that you think we can sell? What do you think, because the more we like the frames, the more you’re gonna like the frames, right? It’s not like we get a shipment in. And I have to pick from frames that I’ve never seen before to try and fit you. And then the other thing I say is that we always, we never want to send someone out unsure of the choice they made, right, we want the repeat customer.
Lisa McIntyre 11:23So I want you to leave feeling fabulous. And if we don’t find something, the first time you come in, we’ll take the details of what you’re looking for. And we’ll go through our sights to see what we can bring in that might fit your exact needs.
Barb McGrath 11:38Ah, you know, and that’s that kind of customer service is something that I think people are really looking for nowadays, because we don’t want to make a fashion statement. But we want to feel confident in our choices. So how are you letting customers know sort of how your approach has changed? What’s different at the store? Now? How are you communicating with customers?
Lisa McIntyre 11:57We’ve actually been working through calling all of our customers. So it’s a long time, I definitely got more calls done in April than any other month because we’re fully closed. But yeah, we’ve been getting through all those, I think we’re on track to finish them by the end of December. So just calling people updating them. Collecting email addresses is something our store never had under the previous ownership. So we’ve been getting those to update people. And then using social media, as well, just to keep people apprised of what we’re doing, and how the store is operating. But for the most part, I think we’ve probably been one of the more flexible stores that I were shopping. And that’s really helped us.
Barb McGrath 12:36So when you get frames in Do you share them on social media? And do you find that people come in looking for that frame, then?
Lisa McIntyre 12:42Yeah, we do share them, we probably should share some of the more but we do share them quite a bit. And we get frames in like every week. So that’s something that we advertise, and there’s always new stock in the store.
Lisa McIntyre 12:50And you can come look anytime.
Barb McGrath 12:54You know, that’s one of the very interesting nuances of a retail environment, when you can share something that’s you know, new in store, what it looks like on someone that tends to create and drive demand, where for a service based business, sharing a service doesn’t necessarily drive that demand. So that’s a really unique feature that you have in retail. And from a service base business. There’s a little bit of envy there because it’s like, oh, you know, when I share this, right? And then you don’t get that same kind of feedback. So how are you growing your I’ll say your network, right? Because as an entrepreneur, we all need people around us, we all need our peeps to keep us going. So how do you build that network? How do you keep going?
Lisa McIntyre 13:37Well, I was really good at networking prior to the pandemic. And now we’re in a whole new world when it comes to that. So I would say like, I probably could have gone to a different charity gala every Friday or Saturday night all year round and network that way. So now it’s been a little bit different. I’ve been asking my community for support. So one of the initiatives that I took on during the pandemic was that I reached out to a few close contacts and said, hey, are there a few people that I don’t know, that don’t support the shop yet that need glasses that I could send them something. And so I got a list of about 40 people, and I dropped off the price bags. So it was a bag with a gift card for the store. And then some eyeglass cleaner, some chocolates and just some little things in it to try and expand that.
Lisa McIntyre 14:19And we saw some people follow us back on social media or reach out and definitely become supporters of the store. So it’s really having to work through the network that I already have to try and expand it to their friends and keep going because it is really hard. Like I can do some but it’s just not the same as what it was before.
Barb McGrath 14:42No, it’s not that in person whites of your eyes. Networking is a different experience than zoom networking. And I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a couple of zoom sessions that were intended for networking. It’s just not the same like I would have a hard time thinking back to the people who are on that call. and pulling a name. Right? Like I would have a really hard time. And I think a lot of people are struggling with that. So how are you supporting your staff because your your staff feeling, you know, concern like, I don’t know, if I want to be in the store, Lisa, the numbers are getting pretty high, or you’re getting any feedback from staff or customers that way.
Lisa McIntyre 15:00Our staff have been really great. None of them have had any concerns, even one of our part time staff as a teacher, so she just sort of said, Let’s not schedule me for September, or maybe early October to see our school year grows. But even now, she’s planning to work this Saturday, and she’s feeling really competent about being in the store, I think the steps we’ve taken to keep everyone safe and limiting our distance and our people in the store.
Lisa McIntyre 15:45They’re not really concerned, I think the biggest concern would be the full time staff being worried about if there’s going to be a lockdown again, and what that means for them. I know, we’ve heard that the wage subsidy will be extended. So that’s something that definitely helps everyone in case there were to be another another lockdown. Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Barb McGrath 16:04Yeah. Um, so as you think about the next, I don’t know, 510, maybe even 20 years owning the store? Like, do you have a really clear vision of like, here’s where I want to go. And here’s where I believe the niches that we fill, because every business has to find that niche.
Unknown Speaker 16:19Yeah,
Lisa McIntyre 16:20We really want to be the place where you trust to send you out looking good, we want you to be confident. And so that’s our vision. And I think our frames really show a mixture of like classic looks with a little bit of edge in there. Nothing too wild, nothing too crazy. But a lot of just like really unique nice frames. And we just want to be known as that place where like, if you’re a professional, or just starting to wear glasses, like there’s something for you in there, you know, we’re not going to send you out looking wild. Or where you think, you know, you’re not going to get any compliments on your eyewear. We want people to know that you’re wearing it. And we’ve got some really cool frames that help that.
Barb McGrath 17:02Yeah, well, and I love that fun and professional writing, being able to look still professional, but like a little bit of flair, a little bit of fun in there. Right. And I think everybody wants that, especially right now we’re all looking for anything that you know, has a little bit of fun in it, right?
Lisa McIntyre 17:18Yeah. And if we’re gonna keep zooming for the next little while your glasses are probably going to be one of your main accessories.
Barb McGrath 17:23I know. It’s the only one that matters. I was actually thinking exactly that this morning when I was getting ready for our show. All of a sudden, nothing else matters, right? The shoes don’t matter that jewelry doesn’t matter. And in fact, you don’t want jewelry and chains on if you’re doing zoom because they clink and Clank and so it’s like, Okay, I got a scarf on and my glasses like that’s it. Right? Yeah, it has changed things. So so much. So where do you think your industry is going? In terms of all the online shopping? The competitors that are out there? I find it ridiculously frustrating to try looking at eyewear online, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. But what are you seeing?
Lisa McIntyre 18:08Well, what I’m seeing is that the big stores are getting bigger. So things like FYI, and factory optical are now one in the same. They may not appear that way yet, but they are the same Corporation. So what’s really going to differentiate us is our service because you can’t get that online, you can’t get the personal touch, you can’t get your glasses fitted. So if you’re okay, ordering five pairs only having one workout, then that’s, you know, that’s what online shopping is for. But if you’re coming in for quality glasses that are actually going to last you two or four years, that’s where we’re gonna fit that niche. But really is the service that’s going to differentiate that. Yeah.
Barb McGrath 18:47And you mentioned earlier that you’re actually right inside the mall, right? Yeah, I’m okay. Yes, I can picture where you guys aren’t out. So do you find that since the mall traffic has declined here with COVID hasn’t made a difference for you, or because of all of the work that you’re doing, hasn’t really kept things going.
Lisa McIntyre 19:05It’s really month to month, we have no idea what’s going to happen still. So October was really slow, really low. And then November was really good and December. Benefits are finishing up so people should be in but our main customer is the people in the office towers. So we need them to be back at work to see like our normal customer traffic flow, a lot of our back, but it’s on a rotational basis, or it’s one day a week or it’s ever changing at this point. So that’s really where our primary traffic flow comes from. Not necessarily necessarily from just the mall. patrons, I guess. Okay, yeah.
Barb McGrath 19:48So having known you for a couple of years, I can see how you know, there’s a marketing flavor in there. There’s a fashion flavor and there’s a business flavor in there, and you find you balance those pieces.
Lisa McIntyre 20:01I don’t know if I’ve found a balance yet, but I definitely into the business stuff before I get into the store. And I often end up doing that at home. We’re working on developing the marketing piece a little bit more with something our store never did. They just relied on referrals under the previous ownership group, which nothing wrong with that they built a great business doing that. But we want to get out there a little bit more. So we’ll be building up our social media marketing, things like that. And the fashion. When you get to pick out frames, they just you can see who they’re going to suit. And you can see how it’s going to fit in the store. And a lot of times with women’s rooms, I think like what I wear that, you know, and if I wouldn’t, even if it doesn’t fit my face shape, but like what I want to wear that, that I’m like, yeah, I’ll bring that in.
Barb McGrath 20:48So do you see just thinking about this this sentence? You just said if you like it was are you seeing people? And I suppose especially women, but people in general, are you seeing them wear glasses at an earlier and earlier age than you know, we may have traditionally seen in the past?
Lisa McIntyre 20:55I think so especially right now with everyone being on computers, they’re feeling a lot of eye strain. And usually when you’re on a computer, you just don’t blink as much. So you’re not hydrating your eye, but you’re getting that eye strain and developing an astigmatism sooner or needing that little bit of like a reading power, something like that. So we are seeing more younger people start to come in younger professionals needing eyewear.
Barb McGrath 21:06So was that a learning curve for you? You just threw the word astigmatism into a sentence eloquently. I know five years, you probably wouldn’t have done that it was at a steep learning curve for you.
Lisa McIntyre 21:42Yes, and no, some of it seems to be pretty natural. You can pick it up while working in the store. And then there’s some other things in the optician course that just don’t seem
Lisa McIntyre 21:53Quite as usable every day. So yeah, definitely something I’ve learned over the last year or two.
Barb McGrath 21:59And are you able to do the optician course online?
Lisa McIntyre 22:02Yeah, it actually was all online. Prior to this. So able to do it. The only difference is our final exam used to be in person and now it’s online with a lockdown browser and webcam monitoring you.
Barb McGrath 22:16Really? Oh, no, that’s in high security. So does that get your staff actually trained you on how things worked?
Lisa McIntyre 22:24Yeah. So my full time staff has been an optician for five years. So she is the one who is overseeing me doing all the learning because there’s also a like a clinical piece. So it’s Yeah, it’s kind of a funny dynamic. It’s like I sign your paycheck. But you have to sign off on doing these hours in the store.
Barb McGrath 22:43No kidding. Wouldn’t that create an interesting dynamic? And what happens if she doesn’t want to sign something off?
Lisa McIntyre 22:50Yeah, it’s funny. We, we actually got challenged on our hours, and we sit back, we’re like, there’s literally only two of us in the store every day. So like, these hours are valid,
Barb McGrath 23:01But exactly Oh, yeah. You know, like, I’m just thinking through that. And that’s, that’s a really odd, dynamic rate. So kudos to both of you for that.
Barb McGrath 23:17Oh, excuse me. So Lisa, we only have a couple of minutes left. And one of the things I always like to do at the end of the show is make sure that the guest has time to like, kind of do their marketing spiel. So let’s give us your spiel, tell us where to find you tell us your hours, your social channels, take it away.
Lisa McIntyre 23:33For sure. I think like I said, the optical shop are a really unique store. We’ve got great unique brands and some of the classics that everyone loves. So there’s something for everyone at the store. We’ll do the personal shopping, we’ll do the one on one private appointments, however you want to shop in your bubble, what makes you feel comfortable. We’re here for you right now. And I think we’re probably going to be living this way for another year, possibly. So we’re adapting and we’re going to be here we even did at home try ons and deliveries during the full closure in April. So we can do that again for people. So you can find us we’re in the Cornwall center, we do not follow Coronel center hours. So always check our sites. But right now we are Tuesday to Saturday 10 to five, and then doing appointments outside of those times so we can kind of fulfill everyone’s needs. We’re on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, all at the optical shop Regina or the optical shop y qR, and our website is the optical
Barb McGrath 24:35Awesome, that was fantastic.
Lisa McIntyre 24:59Thanks so much, Barb.
Barb McGrath 25:01Absolutely. If you’d like to be a guest on the show, you can email me at Barb at Google or reach out on Facebook and Instagram at Above the Fold. ca. Just a reminder, you can even submit questions in advance of our live show on our Facebook page. I’m your host, Barb McGrath, local business owner and Google girl. Remember, you worked hard for your success. Don’t keep it a secret. Bye for now.

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