Eyemaxx Optical Studio - Parsa & Dawn

Eyemaxx Optical Studio - Parsa & Dawn

Eyemaxx Optical Studio

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237 Elgin St., Ottawa, Ontario K2P 1L6

Interview: Nikki Gillingham, Blue Whale Communications

Photography: Marianne Rothbauer, Rothbauer Studio

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started. What inspired you to open an eyewear store?  What is your background?

Dawn: I followed my father into this business. He is now a retired Optometrist. I began working for him when I was 14 as a part-time receptionist. I did not see my future in the Optical business as I was on my way to Carleton University to become a journalist.  When my student housing application was rejected my parents encouraged me to apply to Georgian College and enter the Optician’s program. I graduated with honours in 1991. I had worked in retail until I graduated and applied to be an independent sales agent selling eyeglass frames to other retailers around the province of Ontario.  After 14 years on the road, I married an Ottawa man and became a freelance Optician working at Optical chains. I have experience in every aspect of this profession! I had dreamed of having my own business and with a little bit of luck in this small industry, I was approached by a business owner I used to sell to asking if I was interested in buying his optical store....in 2008, Eyemaxx was born!

Parsa:  I am originally from Thunder Bay, Dawn is from Sudbury. In 2008, I moved to Ottawa for University.  I graduated in 2012 with an Honours Bachelor in Health Sciences.  I have always been interested in health but was unsure as to what field I wanted to pursue. I decided Optometry was a field worth exploring so I applied to an Optical chain store for experience on my application. After a few months I was introduced to Dawn and Eyemaxx. I was offered a job as an Optical Stylist and have never looked back. I was named Manager after a year at Eyemaxx and quickly realized I enjoyed the business and operations side of the store.  I decided to follow my instincts and stayed with the business.  I didn’t complete my application to Optometry and am now part owner of Eyemaxx!


Why did you decide to go into business together?

Parsa: Over the years I got to know Dawn first as an employer and then as a friend and mentor.  We work well together. Our different skill sets compliment one another and we decided a partnership would lead Eyemaxx to enormous growth.  It is an exciting time for Eyemaxx!

Dawn: When you start a business of any kind, it does not come without hard work and stress. The statistics today on the number of business that fail in the first few years is staggering...My husband being an entrepreneur, has helped me a great deal in understanding how to make a business successful and to always look ahead into the future.  The future includes a plan to enjoy the benefits of your labour and I needed to have a strategy.  Then came Parsa.  I knew she enjoyed the day to day interactions with the clients but I saw something ignite in her when she took over the management side of the business. Parsa has a great opportunity to continue to do well with Eyemaxx and take this small business to new heights!

What’s it like being two #bossbabes in a culture that’s big on supporting women in business right now?  Do you feel that support first hand?


Parsa:  Love #bossbabes! It is very rewarding! We work with a team of very strong women and it’s all about supporting one another.

What’s something you’ve learned about yourself since opening your own business?

Dawn:  What the business has taught me and still teaches me is that I continuously want to be better, learn more and to provide the best service to our clients.

Parsa:  Since starting at Eyemaxx, it’s been a constant process of learning and evolving. I have learned that I am determined and always have room to grow. Dawn has been a great mentor in this regard and continuously guides me to learn more about myself as we grow our business. 


What’s it like being part of the Ottawa small business scene?

Parsa:  It’s a very homey feeling.  Supporting and helping local businesses thrive is important to us and the feeling is very mutual.

Dawn:  It’s great!  It doesn’t happen overnight...It is difficult to get your name and brand out there into the community.  We didn’t open our doors with an unlimited marketing budget so it takes creativity, hard work and perseverance!  We continue to grow each and everyday inside of Eyemaxx and out.  We are local, we are independently owned and we truly care.

How do you choose which brands and styles to carry in the store?

Dawn:  It is a tough choice because there are so many to choose from.  Hundreds, really.
We try to stay away from most products found in big chain stores.  We are an independent retailer so why not have products from independent labels?  They are smaller, have more quality control, designed and created independently and have stronger relationships with their buyers.  It is so much fun to see these collections when they arrive at Eyemaxx!

Parsa:  We want to be different and more fashion forward.  We care about quality.  We like a variety of product so that we are able to fit all lifestyles and all budgets.


Tell us about the SALT brand.

Parsa:  SALT is an independent, premium eyewear brand from coastal California. They are committed to quality construction and timeless design inspired by effortless beauty. SALT is an acronym for Sea, Air, Land and Timeless. Frames are designed in the United States, handcrafted in Japan and they use superior materials that last for years.  We know, we have been selling this brand since 2009!

Dawn:  SALT was started by a group of young men wanting to take their collective experiences and start a frame business.  A young woman from Ontario was the only representative in Canada for the SALT collection. I gave her a chance and we could not be happier with the product and the team behind SALT!

What’s your favourite place to go when you step our for a quick coffee or lunch?

Dawn: Ministry of Coffee!  For lunch:  I am loving having Whalesbone right next door and of course, Johnny Farina across the street.  For Dinner:  I have frequented all of the restaurants on Elgin!

Parsa:  It is always a debate. My go to is Johnny Farina for their lunch specials and for a special treat...Brown Loaf Bakery.

When you are not working, what’s your favourite thing to do in Ottawa?

Parsa:  Walking around Ottawa-it’s a beautiful city!
Dawn:  Golf. The courses in and around the city are spectacular.  When I am not golfing I am walking around Ottawa and discovering new businesses to support!

Club Piscine Ottawa  - Tania & Gina

Club Piscine Ottawa - Tania & Gina

EMERALD tile + marble - Dave

EMERALD tile + marble - Dave