Over 100 guests attended the celebrations for the fifth birthday of Portsmouth’s leading independent opticians, Anne Gill Eyecare.
A constant stream of staff, customers and well-wishers crowded the store of Anne Gill Eyecare in North End which extended its Saturday morning opening hours for a full day of celebrations to mark the business’ fifth anniversary.
Guests enjoyed food, cake and celebratory drinks to toast the venture that Anne launched in January 2013 with just a receptionist and one optometrist, Julie Wadey.
After 35 years in Optometry, Anne was made redundant in July 2011 when the opticians she had worked for in North End since 1975 was taken over by a large corporation. Despite a huge blow to her self-confidence, she picked herself up and immediately began work as a locum for various opticians, often finding solutions to problems they were having in their business and becoming increasingly convinced that she had the ability to do it on her own.
‘It was a humble beginning,’ Anne recalls. ‘I had an optometrist doing eye tests, a receptionist handling bookings, I would manage any glasses and prescriptions that were required and we had a contact lens specialist who joined us from Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, Christine Allen, who saw referrals from Queen Alexandra Hospital.’
Now, five years later, Anne has doubled her staff, including a second optometrist, Richard Candlin, and recently welcomed apprentice Paris Carrington-Windo to the business, the second apprentice to train in a placement at Anne Gill Eyecare.
‘The growth of the business has been down to the incredible encouragement and support we have received from the local community and various partners which was clear to see at our party,’ says Anne. ‘When I look back on the past five years, we have achieved more than I ever imagined.’
In addition to eye tests, prescription glasses and seeing patients referred by Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, Anne has invested in specialist optometry equipment including ground-breaking US technology, ‘Tear Lab’, that has revolutionised treatment of cases of ‘Dry Eye’, and a ‘Topographer’ to fight short-sightedness in children.
‘I never thought I would enjoy the business side as much as I do,’ she says. ‘I don’t think you can ever fully appreciate all the elements that go into a business – looking after staff, identifying the best marketing opportunities and monitoring all the financial aspects – but my advice is to surround yourself with the right people and just go for it!’
And never one for complacency, Anne is clear there is more to come.
‘We have some big projects for the business this year which will be of tremendous benefit to both new and existing customers. I am passionate about eye care and want to bring everything I possibly can to the people of Portsmouth.’