AN optician with almost 40 years of experience in the field has scooped awards for her 18-month-old business.
Anne Gill, who until January 2013 had worked for some of the country’s largest opticians, is now an employer of five people.
Anne Gill Eyecare in Kingston Road, North End, was named runner-up in the Start Up of the Year category at The News’ Business Excellence Awards earlier this year.
The firm has recently won the New Business Award at this year’s NatWest Venus Awards Portsmouth.
‘I have always worked in optics. I started in 1976 when I started formal training,’ said Anne.
‘I worked for Batemans in Portsmouth and Fareham. I worked for them for a long time. We were taken over by another business and I was made redundant.
‘I started working as a locum which was quite interesting and I saved up for 18 months while doing that to start up the business.
‘I am a dispensing optician. We have got expertise in lenses and frames. We now have three permanent staff and three locums working here.
‘I have now got 934 patients on my books. I didn’t think I would have quite so many when I started last year.’
Asked what it is that attracts patients to her business rather than to the international market leaders, Anne, 57, said: ‘I think it is the personal service we offer. It is very hard to compete with the big players.
‘I can’t afford a big advertising campaign or a television campaign but I can offer a personalised service.
‘Generally I can remember people’s names and I try to remember something about them. We spend 45 minutes on a sight test because we want people to get a full health check. It’s not all about paying for specs. We are giving a full health assessment. We can pick up things like diabetes. That can have far-reaching effects on the eyes if it is not controlled.
‘We can also pick up the first signs of glaucoma. We take interest in our patients and a lot of people have said how thorough they think we are.
‘I am now going into schools and doing talks with children. The whole business is about being part of the local community.’
Last month, the opticians won the New Business Award.
‘I was nominated by a few people in different categories and was lucky enough to get this one,’ said Anne.
‘I hope the awards will give me a higher profile. Small businesses like mine have to be savvy about getting their name out there. It’s easy for the big companies but it’s something I am working on.’