Darren Horndasch, president/CEO of Wisconsin Vision Inc./Eye Boutique Inc.

What was the smartest thing your company did in the past year?

Darren Horndasch


Wisconsin Vision Inc./Eye Boutique Inc.

16800 W. Cleveland Ave., New Berlin

Industry: Optical/retail

Number of Employees: 200

Family: Spouse, Jamie, and two sons, Ryan (27) and Brandon (24)

“We invested in the company to prepare for the future. Specifically, we invested in two major initiatives. The first was in our lab technology, so Wisconsin Vision can offer patients the highest quality digital lenses available in the market. Second, we focused on marketing and rebranding. We wanted to make sure consumers know that Wisconsin Vision, a 33-year-old company with a rich history, carries the largest selection of frame styles of any competitor and that licensed doctors of optometry perform all eye exams while lab professionals make lenses using the industry’s most advanced equipment.”

What’s new at your company?

“We just signed a licensing agreement with Oakley at select Wisconsin Vision locations to sell prescription eyewear. In addition, we have started to put special emphasis on sports-related eyewear and will be enhancing our rec spec selection. We also expanded a community service project in which we provide free visual acuity exams and glasses to children at select schools in collaboration with Prevent Blindness WI and Milwaukee Public Schools.”

Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?

“We’re considering additional store locations and have identified areas of interest. We’re also looking to upgrade our current point of sale system and introduce an electronic medical records system. Both systems will provide us the ability to improve our business.”

What will be your company’s main challenges in the next year?

“The economy continues to be on everyone’s mind, particularly where discretionary spending is concerned. The purchase cycle for prescription eyewear continues to be longer and managed vision care reimbursements continue to be less.”

What’s the hottest trend in your industry?

“On the glasses side of the business, there are lots of great new styles with lots of color and the combinations of plastic and metal material. Many hot brands such as Coach, Prada, Guess, Candies and Rampage have toned down logos and emphasized other details such as crystals, laser etching and colors. On the lens side, it’s definitely digital technology by Zeiss with teflon coating, which allows us to produce lenses that give patients a ‘wow’ factor. Finally, new contact lens materials make them much more comfortable to wear.”

Do you have a business mantra?

“I like to tell my staff that challenge means opportunity and, conversely, opportunity means challenge.”

From a business standpoint, who do you look up to?

“I would like to think that I always have the opportunity to learn. Sometimes the learning can come from the most unlikely places. Even as a board member for YMCA, I often leave meetings with valuable observations that I bring back and apply at work.”

What was the best advice you ever received?

“Adversity is the greatest teacher in life.”

What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you in your career?

“Wisconsin Vision has a marketing agreement with American Idol finalist Danny Gokey. As part of that, we made life size cutouts of Danny for each of our locations to display. One of my staff placed the cutout in front of my closed bathroom door. You can only imagine the scream I let out that day.”

What do you like to do in your free time?

“Health and fitness are important to me. I work out every morning and recently began swimming again with a Masters Swim Club. In addition, when the weather is nice, I love to hit the open road with my wife on our Harley-Davidson and tour Wisconsin.”

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