This article was published on Canvas Rebel on May 15, 2023.
Gisele, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today What’s the backstory behind how you came up with the idea for your business?
Growing up in Brazil, I saw first-hand the challenges of receiving access to healthcare. My grandfather was the town’s only pharmacist. Seeing him help people with their ailments inspired me to follow a career in healthcare. I just didn’t know which area yet.
After working as a patient service representative at Boston Children’s Hospital, my calling finally found me. My husband was was named director of communications at Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute in Boston, a 2 and 4-year nonprofit college in Boston, created by funds left in Benjamin Franklin’s will. We learned about a program in opticianry. Opticianry is the profession where opticians verify and dispense lenses, frames and other optical devices, such as contact lenses. Opticianry ties fashion with healthcare, two things I’m very passionate about. While my husband served as director, I was a student. Not just any student, but a passionate, star student, who received the college’s first award for leadership. I went on to work at LensCrafters, and then, upon become a certified optician, worked for an optical boutique, in Greater Boston, where I earned a reputation for being an exceptional optician.
A few years passed, and my husband Jaime and I decided to move to Boca Raton, to enjoy better weather, start a new chapter as our son was entering kindergarten, and to be close to my family in Brazil. After working as a manager at an optical boutique, I decided to become a fully Florida licensed optician. This requires the passing of a grueling test, which I successfully did. After getting my license, my dream became clear – to open up my own optical boutique to help the Brazilian, Hispanic and other communities improve their vision. Latinos suffer higher rates of eye disease, and eye conditions, many of which are preventable. Finally, my vision became clear – to be like my grandfather – in the sense to help people, and to be there when people need help in the area of vision care. My calling was to start a business where I can help people see better, feel better, through a customer experience that went above and beyond the call of duty. We sold our home in Massachusetts, and began to look for a small business loan. It was very difficult. All the banks asked us for 2 years of receipts – we always answered, “but, we don’t have any receipts!” “This is why we need a loan” After many declines, one woman at our bank said, “We don’t do those types of loans, but I know a woman from Valley bank who is Jamaican. She has a passion for helping other minority women to open their business.”
My husband and I developed a business plan. What were we going to call our business? My other passion in life, are mangoes! I used to climb mango trees barefoot as a girl, and I now how to make all sorts of mango treats. Over COVID-19, I created and bottled home-made mango preserves, using all-natural ingredients. I began creating concoctions of mango with pineapple, mango with passion fruit, mango with chili pepper, and mango mango. People fell in love with the preserves. So, we decided to call our business Mango Optic! Come to find out, mangoes are a superfruit for your eyes! Same as carrots (same orange color), they have vitamin A, Lutein, and other antioxidants that are great for vision and retinal health, and dry eye! It was meant to me, and easy to remember.
Today, we own Mango Optic in Boca Raton. I am the only Brazilian woman-owned optical store in South Florida. I have made it my calling to use my Portuguese-speaking skills to help the Brazilian community. I am following in my grandfather’s steps. My husband leads marketing and communications, while I handle the optical side of the business. Client by client, we are slowly growing. We treat everyone like they are family, and we have a big social media following.
We are making a positive difference one frame and mango at a time!
Gisele, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
Gisele’s passion is to help people see better so they can enjoy life to the fullest! She is a licensed optician by the Florida Board of Opticianry, and Contact Lens Fitting
Board Certified. She holds an Associate Degree in Opticianry from the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology in Boston, where she earned The Philip C. Meuse Memorial Award from the Opticians Association of Massachusetts in recognition of outstanding scholastic achievement, citizenship, and service.
Gisele is an active member of state-wide and national opticianry associations, and has been featured in The Boston Globe and on Channel 7’s Urban Update TV program in Boston, where she highlighted the benefits of opticianry careers.
How did you build your audience on social media?
We are growing our social media by developing relationships with influencers. Brazilians are highly active, and over-index with social media usage. There are numerous Brazilian influencers in the South Florida area, which is in our region. We develop partnerships and trade eyewear and exams, in exchange for social media promotions. For our grand opening, we hand-delivered Mango Optic, branded goody bags, full of gifts, plus a $100 VIP gift card they could use on any pair of glasses. Many of them opened the bag, or unboxed it, revealing its contents to their social media audiences. We gained over 100 new followers just through one post. Today, we have approximately 700 followers.
How’d you build such a strong reputation within your market?
We engaged with radio stations, newspapers, and bloggers. We contribute articles on vision care to the media, which get published. We also engage with faith-based organizations, churches, women’s groups, and cultural groups. This helps us to meet new people, and to be invited to special events, where we meet more and more people. By sharing important information regarding vision care, we are establishing ourselves as thought leaders in this space, which is sorely needed.