Being an Entrepreneur: The Exhilarating & Terrifying Journey of Cherry Optical Inc's Success
Cherry Optical, Inc may be known as a leader in digital technology, but we come from humble beginnings. We currently have 41 employees, twenty-four-hour production Monday-Friday, and an onsite anti-reflective coating facility, but we started out as two people who wanted to change the optical industry, as we knew it. Joe and I met while working together at an optical lab. We had been employed there for 24 years when a larger optical company, which brought with it many changes to the company we once worked for, purchased the lab. While that business model was and remains profitable, we envisioned a laboratory that was able to process a variety of major lens brands with an unprecedented level of quality and service. When I suggested to Joe that we start our own company, I had no idea how seriously he would take my suggestion until he resigned us from our positions. Joe still likes to tell people that “it was one thing that I quit my job, but then I had to go home and tell my wife that she had to quit, too.” Being an entrepreneur was exhilarating and terrifying. With a mortgage and children, we had to make sure our company was successful. We started out with me heading up lens production and office matters while Joe was in charge of sales, marketing, and customer service. Just two people with two edgers! Eventually, we added three employees, soon expanding to four and then five employees. Our daughter, Kimberly, joined us in customer service, eventually moving into the position of Human Resources manager. Dedicated to the company, she received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay with a self-directed emphasis in Human Resources to ensure she provides the company and its employees with formal knowledge combined with her work experience. Not long after Kimberly came on board, we welcomed our son Adam into the company, where he started in customer service and quickly learned about the business from Joe. Today, Adam is the president of the company and can be credited with continually pushing Cherry Optical, Inc.’s innovations in regards to technology, products, and efficiency. Adam also brought along his Border Collie, Pause, who is in charge of morale and greeting visitors. Today, we remain an Independent wholesale optical laboratory that successfully competes with large laboratories. We have our own line of private label lenses that have been immensely popular with customers and patients alike, but we also produce a wide availability of popular name brand lenses. We have state-of-the-art digital free-form production, which allows us to digitally surface every lens we produce with accuracy and efficiency. In addition to digitally surfacing all lenses, we also have an onsite anti-reflective coating facility to ensure that our lenses are processed and coated to meet our high standards, as well as to improve turnaround time. Over the years, we have invested in technologically advanced equipment, including two Mei lens milling machines that produce beautiful lenses to fit almost every prescription and frame combination, including wrap frames, sports bevels, and even the custom shapes of a teapot and a battleship.
None of this technology would matter if it weren’t for our staff of 37 opticians, many of whom are ABO-certified. We encourage our employees to take the ABO exam at our own expense to ensure that we have the most knowledgeable staff available to our customers. This way, customers can feel confident that they are receiving guidance and service from people who are truly experts at what they do. While the company may have grown from two people, we still retain the family feel that is unique to small businesses, and our employees have strong working relationships with each other. This fosters an atmosphere of openness and innovation, as our employees work across departmental lines to bring our customers the best products and services. By combining the best equipment with the best people, we feel we have been successful in creating the best Independent optical laboratory.