Based in Yakima, the Washington Vision Therapy Center was founded in 2010 to treat a variety of conditions, from amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (wandering eye) to vision problems caused by traumatic brain injuries. The center’s founder, Dr. Benjamin Winters, entered the state’s program to examine growth strategies for his business.
The National Strategic Research Team (NSRT) for Economic Gardening outlined three deliverables for the WVTC:
- Provide information that would help WVTC with its strategic growth plan.
- Evaluate the company’s digital marketing strategy and develop new ideas for connecting with potential patients as well as optometrists who would be interested in opening branded visual therapy clinics in their own service area.
- Identify prospective markets in Washington, northern Idaho and western Oregon through the use of geographic information system tools and analytics.
Dr. Winters had already opened two clinics but wanted to consider other business models for expansion. One of these models would allow doctors to have ownership in a parent company and taking advantage of its operational and administrative efficiencies, but still operating independently. This would appeal to optometrists who recently struck out on their own after school but lacked the business acumen or resources to start their own clinic.
Dr. Winters had been eyeing Spokane as a potential new market. The research team was able to confirm that the city would be a solid new market for Washington Vision Therapy Center, narrowing it down further to a specific neighborhood in the city. The team examined consumer spending characteristics throughout the state as well as Tapestry Segmentation data, which defines 67 unique persons based on demographic, socioeconomic and behavioral data, to confirm their recommendations.
The new Spokane clinic opened in 2017 and Dr. Winters was able to create seven new jobs, bringing total employment to 24.5 full-time equivalent employees.
“This program really opened my eyes to the types of services and analysis I need at this stage of my business,” Dr. Winters said. “GIS analysis wasn’t even something I would have thought of before, but will continue to need as we move forward. When you’re caught in the daily grind of things, it’s hard to step back, but it’s something you need to do consistently. Economic gardening helps you take a 10,000-foot view of your company.”
As for recommending the state program to other second-stage companies, Dr. Winters had this to say. “I was extremely impressed with the process, the researchers’ professionalism, and how invested they were in my success. I hope this program is available to more businesses my size. It’s definitely something that will help the economic growth of our state.”