Some 15 years ago, he had a vision, determination and strong support from his wife.
That was enough to propel Anthony Pilgrim to enter the world of optics, which was, at that point, still an area less explored by people of colour in Barbados.
It was after completing his studies in the United States in the 1990s that Anthony returned to Barbados a qualified optician and worked for a few optical firms.
However, it was always his dream to have his own practice, which he was somewhat forced to do when he found himself without a job.
“I thought that was the opportune time to get started, so I went from there,” he recalled.
That was 15 years ago, when Insight Optical was born.
At the time, his wife Kim was still working in the banking industry. However, she made it her duty to provide whatever support was necessary to make her husband’s dream a reality.
“I knew it was his dream and I believed in it. At the time, there weren’t a lot of opticians. Optics has always been a field that was unknown to [some segments of society]. I knew early that people who were into optics were more established families. I knew it was even an area that was unknown and explored by people of colour,” she recalled.
“He believed in it, I believed in him, and we believed it was possible to have a successful business. Of course, the journey was not easy and it would take time to build a name.”
It was not long after that Kim decided to join her husband full-time at the company’s Hincks Street, Bridgetown location.
The couple readily admitted that over the years the journey has been filled with many ups and downs.
Perhaps the most challenging was not having enough capital to grow the operation the way they wanted, not being able to “get the name out there and compete more with the more established businesses”.
However, they quickly pointed out that they were satisfied their small operation has been able to weather many storms and has made a name for itself.
In fact, stating that things were “good at the moment”, Kim attributes the success to date to good customer service.
“I think that is very important for any business at all – having excellent customer service, by treating your customers like they are important. So customer service is a great part of what we do here,” she said, adding that it was the customers who “can make or break a business”.
“They are really an important part of our establishment,” she said.
The couple said it was also critical for companies to make good on promises and make tweaks to accommodate customers in special circumstances.
Last year, Insight Optical introduced an Independence promotion offering specials to residents to get their eyes tested. This year, they have announced a similar promotion as they encourage more people to get their eyes tested before it is too late.
This is in addition to a back-to-school special that was designed to help struggling parents during the summer period.
“It is part of our give back as well. There are a lot of people out there who can’t necessarily afford to have their eyes tested, so we offer this special as part of that,” said Kim.
Their joy is seeing customers happy when they receive their pair of spectacles “on time, and the fact that they are better able to see”.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a steady flow of business, said Kim who added that “we were pretty much an essential business, because when you can’t see you need glasses, so COVID [doesn’t] stop that”.
Their advice to potential entrepreneurs is to believe in their dream, remain focused and lean on those who share their passion.
“Even though you may be seeing difficult times, you have to have that vision down the road that this is going to turn around, this can work.
But you can’t be in it because you want to make a quick dollar; it has to be pretty much your dream and you know this is what you are doing and be determined about it,” said Anthony.
“You are going to have your ups and downs. You are going to go away some days asking yourself if it is worth it, but if you believe in it and you know you are doing the right things to make it work, you will get where you want to in time,” he added.