Carly Rose, OD, FAAO, says that when her sister Ehryn Cartwright, OD, attended optometry school, it didn’t inspire her to pursue optometry herself; it actually pushed her away. “I knew I wanted a medical field, but I thought it would be better if I did something else to diversify our family,” she says, laughing. But as she began to take a closer look at her options, “I circled back to it,” Dr. Rose says.
Dr. Cartwright graduated from Southern College of Optometry in 2008, and Dr. Rose started at Illinois College of Optometry in 2009. Just as Dr. Rose prepared to graduate, Dr. Cartwright opened her cold start practice Eyecare on the Square in Cincinnati, Ohio. Again, they never planned to join forces. “We have a really great sister relationship, and I didn’t want to compromise that,” Dr. Rose says. She completed a residency with the VA and continued working there for a few years, along with a few other associate positions. Dr. Rose tried twice—once during her final year of school—to purchase existing practices, but both opportunities fell through.
That’s when a divine intervention occurred, as Dr. Rose puts it, when Dr. Cartwright asked Dr. Rose if she could cover a 10-day vacation. “It can be hard to trust other doctors with your patients, and it made her nervous to hire an associate,” Dr. Rose recalls. “So when she asked if I would fill-in while she was gone, I said yes.” As a result, the sisters “accidentally” started working together when Dr. Rose was credentialed, entered into the record system and put on payroll to cover the days, officially becoming an associate.
Over the next year and a half, Dr. Rose worked one day per week and became more and more interested in the business side of things. “Ehryn wanted more time with patient care, and I really wanted to be an owner,” Dr. Rose says. It took about a year to get all of the financial and legal details squared away, and Dr. Rose became the sole owner in April 2018. “We flip-flopped—I bought 100 percent, and Ehryn stayed on as an associate.”
In her new role as owner, Dr. Rose has launched an internal dry eye clinic with additions of a number of new specialty pieces of instrumentation, added new frame lines and gave the space a refresh with new lighting fixtures and frame boards. She’s particularly proud of the dry eye clinic, which allows them to extend the treatment and care that they can provide. Their office was the first in Cincinnati to incorporate Lipiflow and Lipiscan technology, and they previously had to refer patients out to Northern Kentucky for this treatment. “I’m a big fan of the technology.”
Dr. Rose says that the rock star team gets creative to make all of their new technology fit in their tiny office of 700 square feet. They move instrumentation around and utilize every inch of the pretesting alcove for the best technology. She’s rented a storage unit for items she doesn’t need every day or that change out seasonally. Dr. Rose is in the office four days a week and Dr. Cartwright is working three days, and they also have a four full-time staff members who they navigate the space with. Dr. Rose is hopeful for an expansion opportunity in their current location versus having to move to gain more valuable space. “We have first dibs if any of the other tenants leave, so my fingers are crossed.”
Despite a small footprint, the business continues to grow, hitting 60 percent growth in year six last year. New networking connections and marketing strategies are paying off. “We’re getting so many new patients through Instagram,” Dr. Rose says. “That’s not something that they told us in school.”
Dr. Rose can thank their youngest sister Taylor Rose for bringing in patients via their social media platforms. Taylor Rose was originally contracted for branding and logo design back in 2013, and Dr. Rose hired her on a full-time basis as the practice’s graphic designer and social media marketer. She primarily works from home to save on space in the tiny office, and Dr. Rose can walk over to her home from the office for their weekly marketing meetings.
It was never the plan, but it was meant to be. Dr. Rose says that she’s thrilled to be working with her two sisters under this new arrangement at Eyecare on the Square.