Photo Credit: Dar Es Salaam for Good Light Works
Chris Williams (CW): Who is Margie Toney? Where are you from?
Margie Toney (Margie): I am a generally good, warm and loving businesswoman. I am from Port Au Prince, Haiti and I came to New York when I was seven years old.
CW: What did you do for a living before launching your business?
Margie: I always worked in the eyewear industry. My part-time afterschool job turned into a full-time career. When I was about 16 years old, I got my first job in an optical store, and they had me in the basement. My job was to tint every pair of glasses that came into the store, and they were a very busy store. The store was located at the corner of Jay and Fulton Street in Downtown Brooklyn. Shortly after I attended FIT where I studied Merchandising and Buying.
CW: When did you decide to open your own store and what led you to that decision?
Margie: I went from salesperson to assistant manager to regional manager to partner in between my partnership I decided to open my own store because I wanted a certain type of store and I didn’t want any pushback. Style Eyes Optical was born in 2016. January 2016 I came to Brooklyn for a vision board party and at the end of the event as they asked everyone what they wanted to do I blurted out that I wanted to open a store in Brooklyn. Two years later and my dream was manifested.
CW: What sets you apart from other eyewear stores?
Margie: We specialize in sourcing independent labels that are not usually available in our community. My goal is to ensure my customers have access to a wide variety of frames that is not readily available in the Black community.
CW: Who has been your biggest supporter(s) since launching your business?
Margie: My close friends have shown up for me regularly. They support me by cheering me on, showing up for various events I do and spreading the word about my business.
CW: Who has been your biggest mentor(s) in this industry and what is the best advice they have ever given you?
Margie: The owner of the store where I held my first managerial position became my mentor. The best advice he gave me is to always make sure I cut myself a paycheck.
CW: If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your journey as an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Margie: That I could have gone out on my own sooner and that being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart.
CW: What role has social media played in the growth of your business? Do you believe it’s integral to your success?
Margie: Social media has played a huge part in the growth of my business because I am able to reach a wider and more diverse audience, so it is absolutely integral to my success.
CW: What are some of your biggest fears or challenges that you faced when you chose to launch Style Eyes Optical?
Margie: No safety net, because I don’t have a rich partner. No support system because I don’t have a partner. It was a leap first situation for me. Being by myself was a bit concerning, because I am a one-person operation, so maintaining the level of quality and ensuring my health was good became even more critical.
CW: What’s your process for selecting the eyewear you want in your store?
Margie: I think the reason I do well is because I know my audience. You have to know how to properly fit eyewear for your customers. One of the main reasons I opened my store is because I see how poorly a lot of Black folks are fitted for eyewear. So I take into consideration the size of our face, the diversity of us as a people in terms of complexion and fit when selecting companies I want to source for Style Eyes Optical.
CW: What is the next step for Style Eyes Optical?
Margie: I plan to launch my own frame line soon in mid-2023 so stay tuned for details.
CW: What is your lifestyle like outside of Style Eyes Optical?
Margie: Style Eyes Optical is my primary focus right now. I do find time and make time to relax, to unwind and manage my personal life, but as an entrepreneur with a growing business, time is truly precious.
CW: How do you want people to feel after you have fitted them for a pair of glasses?
Margie: Happy. I want them to like and enjoy their purchase. I want them to walk out the store feeling good about themselves. It’s the first thing people see, it’s like your calling card, so I want it to leave a lasting positive impression.
CW: What advice do you have for men and women of color who are looking to enter the eyewear industry?
Margie: It’s a lucrative career. You have to learn your skill. Whether that’s being an optometrist, an ophthalmologist or an optician, you need to take the time to hone your skill, learn to work well with people and be patient. Of course there’s more to it than that, but it’s important to start there and if you’re uncertain, start out as a salesperson and see how you feel then.
To find out more about Style Eyes Optical, follow them on Instagram: @styleeyesoptical and visit their website: www.styleeyesoptical.com.