Rolling Out

Eyewear boutique owner Yolanda James has an eye for success

Yolanda James (Photo Credit: Pierre Rizzo)
Yolanda James (Photo credit: Pierre Rizzo)

“I began my journey working at a sunglass kiosk that was part of a small shop in Georgetown Mall. I then moved over to Georgetown Opticians when that shop closed. It was there where I met a Filipino brother and sister that changed the course of my life,” shares Yolanda James, CEO of Operating Insights and owner of eyewear boutique, Insight Opticians in downtown DC. “They were masters of opticianry, and saw in me a desire to learn. They agreed to take me under their wing and show me the importance of doing the job right. I knew this was the career for me. I took that experience and combined it with my passion for design and created Insight.”

Over a decade ago, when she began her work at a Sunglass kiosk, James’ eyes were focused on ensuring that clients were left with more than better vision. So, when she met those two master opticians, she seized the opportunity to learn. It was this experience that lead to her realizing that this was indeed the career for her.

Here’s her interview.

What are some challenges you’ve encountered?
The most common challenge clients’ face is finding glasses that fit their unique facial features. If that frame isn’t a proper fit, the client may experience additional problems like headaches and visual stress. That is why we take the time at Insight to properly measure our clients to ensure a proper fit.

Name a few of the brands and designer frames you carry.
Trendy designer eyewear such as Chanel, Prada and Gucci are produced under three large corporations. These brands have given the corporations the freedom to manufacture and design their products. Most of the parts for these products are manufactured in China and assembled in Italy. Therefore, the consumer ends up with a mass produced pair of glasses that has received very little input from the actual designer. This is what sets Insight apart from everyone else. We choose to carry lines such as Retrospects & Co, Monoqool and Anne et Valentin. These designers, like Insight, are looking to reflect quality and artistry. If you are looking for a vintage look or a comfortable, durable frame, you will find them at Insight married with impeccable craftsmanship and fashion forward design.

Beginning in the early to mid-40s, most will require some sort of visual aid. I advise my clients to think about what they’re having trouble seeing and articulate that to the doctor during their exam. Also, discuss your activities and the type of work you do along with how many hours are spent in front of a computer or hand held device.

I like to show my clients how the right frame can enhance your features. Every client that walks through our door experiences a high level of service. From athletes, local customers, government officials to celebrities, Insight carries a frame to complement your personality and lifestyle.

Please provide insight and inspiration for individuals that want to go into this business.
Raise your standards. What’s that old saying? You fail to plan, you plan to fail. So, write a business plan and follow it. Now as you grow and learn, that plan may change, that’s OK, go where it leads you and you will end up with a business you never dreamed of having. Don’t go in business to get “rich.” Take care of your customers and you will never have to worry about money.

Owning her own business has allowed James to not only mentor but also work closely with The Saint Elizabeth Catholic Church Jazz Festival. The funds for this event are used to provide unique and entertaining opportunities for disenfranchised communities. Additionally, her work with Ladies of Dunbar, a mentoring group, has enabled her to have panel discussions with other professional women, speak with teenage girls in difficult circumstances, and help them understand their vision and create a plan for how to accomplish their dreams.

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