We recently met with Bob Lipski (and his wife Sherri for a brief moment) to learn more about suppliers, start up costs, and the physical space required for the business. As always, Bob was incredibly helpful!
What we learned:
- Optical infinity occurs when the patient is 20 feet from the item they are focused on,; this is where diagnosis is most accurate. According to Bob, using mirrors to create 20 feet does not affect the accuracy of finding a prescription. Using two mirrors works well to create 20 feet.
- Do supplies (lenses, frames) need to be stored in a special way? No. The material (especially polycarbonate) is hardy.
- With regard to what lenses we should order: Other than using the distribution of lenses he provided us, he didn’t have much guidance as to how much to order, because he cannot predict the demand. He said that even if he did know what the demand was going to be like, need for prescriptions is so random…Charles believes we’re just going to have to track our usage well upon starting the business and learn from trial and error. Bob said our distribution will differ from his (that he uses in his shop) because there are more astigmatic patients in Guatemala (need to order cylindric lenses).
- I asked Bob about what sizes to stock for frames. He said that adults use 52,54,56 mm sizes. They all look the same, but fit differently on the patients once they’re tried on. For adolescents, he recommends 42, 44, 46mm.
- Our real breakthrough was our discussion of potential suppliers. Bob called his supplier, who said that Indo would be a good place for us to start. The organization operates all over the developing world to supply optometry supplies and equipment. Charles added that we should check out Esselor, a humanitarian organization that has funded various eye care projects such as Aravind.
- Charles posed a good question. If we are legally required to have a diagnosis from a licensed professional in Guatemala (as we think we are), how do other businesses and charities function legally diagnosing via employees who are not licensed in optometry? We need to do some digging here. I have a list of organizations doing eye care in the developing world from Adam Anderson’s ’12 masters thesis.
- Charles and Patience asked Bob some questions about the engineering they are currently doing. Their goal is to diagnose astigmatism more effectively. They asked for his input on various technologies. He stressed that giving clear instructions is key to an accurate diagnosis (Ex. say, ” does this help?” rather than “is this clear?”).