Hannah Cho, OD, started getting serious about her cold-start practice plans during her fourth year at Southern California College of Optometry so that by the time she reached her 2012 graduation, she was ready to hit the ground running. On the advice of a professor, she picked her practice location based on where she wanted to live: her hometown of Irvine, California.
The homecoming presented a set of challenges as the area is over-saturated with optometry offices, and it wasn’t particularly easy to find an ideal office space either. But Dr. Cho remained determined, and she found a space in a medical plaza that had been an office space. Her contractor tore down the cubicles and built the office from the ground up.
Dr. Cho got to work building up her patient base, working herself as the doctor, optician, lab manager and more. “I knew I needed something that would differentiate me” in a community with so many choices for eye care, and particularly because the visibility of her office wasn’t great. “There were a lot of buildings in one parking lot, so it was hard to find,” she says.
She saw an opportunity in Yelp, which was growing in popularity at the time but not yet for the health care arena. “I knew it would get big so I started targeting Yelp reviews at the beginning when other optometrists didn’t know how to use it or think they should.” The results have been astonishing. “There’s still a constant influx of new patients from something I did years ago.”
Her team has grown a lot since those early days, with the addition of her first associate Justin Wong, OD, within her first year to cover the maternity leave for her second child. Two years ago, she added associate Carla Chiu, OD. She hired her first employee about a year into the business “when patients started recognizing my voice when I answered the phone, I knew I needed to hire a receptionist,” Dr. Cho says, laughing. The rest of the team is now cross-trained to help where they are needed, and she also works with interns from UCI who work in the practice as optometric assistants.
At her five-year anniversary and resigning of her lease in 2017, Dr. Cho’s contractor returned for an office remodel. The tiny optical was expanded, pushing back the front walls to add space. She replaced her cabinetry and dispensing tables, as well as optical displays with eye-catching, back-lit LED lighting. Some fresh paint changed the color scheme from hospital white to grays and warmer whites. It’s a bright and welcoming look that will take her practice another five years and beyond.