This blog post about Dr. Gill's We Love Eyes project was featured on Eyeseeeuphoria by Dr. Daryl Glover. To see the original blog post, click here!
Most folks associate the bay area with Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Hip Hop heads think of E-40 and MC Hammer. The rest what pops into their head is the San Francisco Giants. Well friends and fellow bay area representatives, there is another giant that has created a major buzz. I am not referring to any of the players from the San Fransisco Giants but Dr. Tanya Gill. Dr. Gill is a Bay area native that has changed the face of optometry not only in the Bay but globally. This bohemian/hipster is the owner of Oakland Vision Center and We Love Eyes. I first came across Dr. Gill via her We Love Eyes Instagram page. As a fellow Optometrist and lover of anything eye related I became an instant fan. We recently had the opportunity to interview the San Francisco Giant, Dr. Tanya Gill.
We Love Eyes Interview
Tell us what your business does.
We Love Eyes is the first optometrist developed, all natural cosmetics company. Right now our focus is on all natural eyelid cleansers for dry eye and blepharitis symptoms.
Where did you get the idea for your business?
My husband was getting chapped lips from sodium lauryl sulfate, a detergent found in most personal care products. It took a while to figure that out, but when I did, I realized that most of my dry eye patients were likely using facial cleansers and makeup removers with sodium lauryl sulfate. It was time to eliminate not just SLS, but to eliminate all potential irritants and toxins for better eye health. There was nothing that existed on the market so I decided to experiment and make them on my own. We Love Eyes was born.
Give one word that describes your company.
That’s an easy one. LOVE.
How many products do you offer? Elaborate!
We have 3 core products: a makeup remover oil, a cleansing oil and an eyelid foaming cleanser. They are best when used as a system.
For ladies that just want to remove their eye makeup and perhaps improve their contact lens comfort, our makeup remover oil (step 1) and eyelid foaming cleanser system (step 2) work better than any product I have personally tried on the market and without the use of irritants and toxic ingredients. It’s a win-win.
Currently, I have about 500 patients using this exact system and they swear by it. The reorders are proof that there is a need and market demand for We Love Eyes.
For blepharitis symptoms including demodex, our cleansing oil (step 1) and eyelid foaming cleanser system (step 2) are the bomb. The cleansing oil is formulated with a stronger concentration of tea tree oil than the makeup remover oil to really cleanse the meibomian glands and eyelash follicles. We like to refer to the cleansing oil as “demodex obedience school”, lol.
I’ve put every MGD, bleph and demodex case on our cleansing oil and it’s been so effective, I hardly use steroids for lid disease anymore. Currently the cleansing oil / foaming cleanser are our strongest products in terms of sales. My practice has well over 1,000 patients on this system. I seldom have to call the pharmacy for meds. It’s been great.
Do you offer products for men and women?
The makeup remover is definitely a female product and our cleansing oil and eyelid foaming cleanser are definitely unisex.
What sets the We Love Eyes products apart from other similar products?
The fact that it was developed by an optometrist. Who would know more about eyes than an eye doctor?
The second would be that it’s natural, non-toxic, vegan, gluten free, cruelty free and all those wonderful things that makes a product clean and green. Consumers feel good about using We Love Eyes.
The third would be our lifestyle branding. We Love Eyes isn’t just about eyes. It’s about making choices for longevity. Self-care and clean eating are 2 concepts we focus on with our social media.
What are your plans for near-future growth (hiring, building expansion, etc.)?
OMG. We are still in the execution phase. As of May 1, 2016 we will finally, finally have all products in large quantities available for purchase from our fulfillment center. Currently we have small batches that ship out of my practice but huge problems with keeping enough product in stock. Once we get production nailed, expansion will be the focus.
Regarding the future, we have been very lucky. We have been approached by Urban Outfitters, birchbox and Sephora which is a great sign that We Love Eyes will be growing. I still can’t believe Sephora approached us. It’s been an amazing journey so far!
What famous person would you like to be the face of your company and why?
One thing about me, I’m really not into celebrities. Plus, do you know how much it would cost to get a famous person? Lots. Right now the face of We Love Eyes is me, lol. Kinda since I’m affordable.
What makes you so passionate about Optometry?
I’ve been practicing 17 years and although I get bored easily, I’ve found that Optometry has kept me fully entertained. From business ownership, billing and coding, practice management, inventory, becoming a dry eye center of excellence, getting glaucoma certified (in California), website development, social media and now inventing something: We Love Eyes. I’m passionate because it’s fun. The moment it stops being fun – I’m out. As an Optometrist, I constantly educate women about makeup and eyes.
What advice do you have for women and makeup?
The slit lamp never lies. I can instantly tell if a woman is not removing her makeup. I can also tell if she’s just using soap and water. My advice is to remove eye makeup every night. Rain or shine. Sober or drunk. I really recommend them to use We Love Eyes with a qtip to make sure they are getting it all off.
What are you thoughts on false eyelashes? False eyelashes are the grossest things on the planet if not cleaned properly, lol. And they are an amazing source of inflammation, bacteria and demodex. The worst offenders are the false lashes that are installed to last a week or month. As a feminist, it hurts to see how women will compromise their hygiene or health for beauty.
Why is eyelid hygiene important?
A dirty eyelid contains a greasy mess of debris (epithelial cells), allergens, bacteria and sometimes demodex. All these things contribute to inflammation, and we know inflammation is the root cause of red eyes, itchy eyes, watery eyes and irritated eyes. If you get rid of that source of inflammation, your eyes will be so much happier. Read: white and bright!
Where do practice? I’ve been at Oakland Vision Center (1960 Broadway, Oakland CA 94612) for 10 years. I became owner in 2007 and haven’t looked back. The Uber headquarters is about to move across the street from my practice. It will be interesting to see how that unfolds.
What is the best thing about your job and why? The best thing about my job is that I get to protect and provide for my employees. I never thought I would be momma bear to 7 amazing women, but it happened and I embrace the celebration and challenges every day.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
A smart person once told me that finding a life partner would be the single, most important investment I would make in my lifetime. They were right. Being married to my best friend is my greatest achievement so far.
How do you take a break from your schedule?
My husband and I go on a mini-trip at least once a month and get away from it all. El Nino brought a ton of snow this season so we were able to get 12 days of skiing in this year. It’s been so much fun. On a daily basis – I make sure I sleep at least 8 hours every night. I’m super cranky when I don’t get my sleep!
Are there any causes that you support?
At my practice, any patient that requests a donation for their event or charity – Oakland Vision Center always, always donates.
We Love Eyes is partnering up with Watsi in the near future to provide cataract surgery for those in need around the world. I can’t wait for this to go live. I’ve always wanted to do something to change the world.
List 5 things from your bucket list.
Yet to do: Be at the Champs Elysees when the Tour de France finishes, eat blowfish in Tokyo, swim at Bondi Icebergs, ski the Swiss Alps and eat at French Laundry.
What is your favorite accessory besides eyewear? Why?
I’m a total sucker for the wrist accessory. Right now I’ve ditched my traditional watch for an apple watch. I can text message from the exam room. Winning.
Name your 5 favorite foods
Cauliflower, brussel sprouts, broccolini, avocado and apple pie. We have our own veggie garden at home. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to pick everything from the garden and eat it 10 minutes later.