The mission to provide better vision and to improve public ophthalmological hygiene are among the goals of Dragomira Dineva, founder of the emblematic FOX Optics
For years, FOX Optics have been more than a recognisable name on the Bulgarian market: for thousands of satisfied clients, they embody quality without compromise, and innovation, attention to detail and partnership with the best manufacturers of frames, dioptric lenses and sunglasses, contact lenses, magnifiers, low vision systems, elite binoculars.
Dragomira Dineva is a managing partner and the person who established the FOX Optics brand. Since the company's foundation 25 years ago, Dragomira Dineva and her optical centers have gone through a lot of challenges to be helpful to the clients and to satisfy all their needs.
As the creator of a successful chain of optics stores, what defines FOX and makes them different?
We perceive 95% of information about the environment with the eyes. If we correct perfectly the prescription needs (myopia, hypermetropia, astigmatism, presbyopia), we will improve customers' lifestyle and will protect them from the aggressive environment. Eyeglasses are also a piece of jewellery, a personal accessory and a medical tool for eyesight correction. They are as well the first thing that we notice on one's face.
Our goals are to provide each client with 100% vision and 360-degree visual fields, to make correctional eyeglasses in an exceptional way a part of their individuality, to teach people about importance of eye health hygiene and prophylaxis to all customers, particularly children.
Eye optics is a health-related profession, the sales' part comes afterwards. Our mission is to educate everyone who seeks information and help from us on preventive eye-care hygiene.
Eyeglasses or contact lenses are a product of the most advanced technologies. Sunglasses, dioptric frames, magnifiers, low vision systems, elite binoculars and many more optic accessories make our product range.
We, at FOX Optics, do not offer "spectacles in 30 minutes" and we do not recommend ordering lenses with power online.
Each client deserves their optical glasses to be selected and ordered according to their individual parameters and to have qualities that improve their lifestyle. Each customer deserves enough time for the selection, fitting, assembling and testing of their new pair of glasses. Half an hour is not enough to meet all these technical requirements, a result of the 21st century's progress.
Distant ordering of correctional eyeglasses is just "frame glazing," a ready-to-wear solution that could not only impair use, but could even harm the eyesight and day activities.
What was the biggest challenge you faced as the owner of FOX Optics in 2020? How did you deal with it?
Our activity was significantly affected, because we do not offer essential products and services. The restrictions and people's fears turned all our market strategies and prognoses upside down. We import a significant part of the products we offer. In early 2020 we had already received many new collections. We met the first lockdown with full stores... and reduced liquidity.
We dealt with the situation in the best possible way thanks to strict financial discipline, careful prioritising and, most importantly, the loyalty and support of the FOX Optics team. Almost all of the company's employees trusted me completely. We stabilised the company together, step by step, with a lot of personal input, without pay and useless pathos... I am lost for words to describe how inspired I was by their trust and solidarity in this difficult moment.
Our long-term partners – landlords, suppliers from Europe, clients, also helped us. To expect a personal gesture of solidarity and support in business relations is naive and out of their context. We had the chance to see the opposite was true. And something more: that business-based friendship is better than a friendship-based business.
For what do you dream about in 2021?
My dreams about my personal life are simple ones: health for my family and friends, for the FOX Optics team, and everyone I know. I wish to travel again, to communicate offline, to hug people without fear...
In business I still hope for a normal economic environment free of needless regulations, lobbyist legislation and corruption.
I dream that valuable, hard-working and talented people will stay in Bulgaria and see a perspective here. We lost precious human capital in the face of our employees – ophthalmologists and opticians who emigrated, including my brother and partner. It is not true that there are no irreplaceable people. Their absence is felt every day...
It sounds utopian, but we hope that the Bulgarian national health insurance will finally start to cover correctional glasses, like in other countries. Bulgaria does not designate funding for specialised eye test and spectacles with power to insured people, and particularly children. This is why all resources that FOX Optics implement in serving its clients' eye health are our own investment.
Is it hard to be a woman entrepreneur in Bulgaria and which " feminine" character trait helps you to own a successful business?
I am not able to say whether being a woman has helped me or has been an obstacle. Probably a bit of both. I realise that even though we experience some challenges, we, Bulgarian women, are lucky, as we are able to get educated, to grow, choose, migrate, live in peace and have access to information.
I have felt disregard and being undervalued, once, years ago, in communication with a foreign company. After all, I established my company when I was 26 and they probably found it strange that a woman, a young woman at that, was negotiating deals about large sums of money and was committing for years ahead. It took me time and effort to overcome the prejudice, but it was worth it. The company was our strategic partner for 20 years.
In my opinion, an entrepreneur should know in detail the processes in their company, their products and services technological characteristics and norms, and the market. They should be responsible and ready to risk. They should keep their promises, even unwritten ones. They should be aware of the difference between turnover and profit – particularly in small companies where owners are often tempted to spend more than they can afford.
At the same time I never forget that I work with people. My feminine nature probably helped me. To feel empathy, to walk in someone's shoes, to be concerned about how the clients and employees feel, to show understanding at the right moment are gestures that might not be cherished each time, but that create long-term trust and loyalty. And supporters who will stand by you when the times are hard and you do not know what the right move is.
I can definitely say that being an entrepreneur in Bulgaria is a challenge. If you lack connections at the right places you experience a lot of difficulties. The lack of state policy for support of small and mid-size businesses is nothing new, but it felt particularly hard the past year, during the Covid-19 pandemic. Compared to the support countries like the UK and Germany provide to businesses, we in Bulgaria feel like Baron Munchausen – we have to pull ourselves from the mud on our own hair.
Corruption and regulatory burden were and remain major impediments to small business growth. Our company combines health services, manufacture and trade, our work is an expert one and consists of several interrelated processes. We, at FOX, aim to reinvest in technical equipment and diagnosis periphery that benefit the society, and train and improve our associates' expertise. However, we are forced to spend increasing resources on the ever-growing regulations and requirements.
What is Leica Eyecare and for whom is it?
Leica is a world leader in photography and optics. In its over 100 years of history Leica became an international synonym of elite quality, precision and engineering mastership in optics: from microscopes and geology products to the legendary Leica cameras.
In 2017, thanks to its partnership with Novacel, a French company, Leica entered the field of ophthalmological products. It started manufacturing the Leica Eyecare premium lenses at a new, purpose-built line in one of the most modern factories in Europe, in Château-Thierry, France.
Leica Eyecare includes high-quality eye lenses for the most common visual needs: single vision, bifocal and progressive lenses, lenses for digital devices, outdoor conditions and specific activities like driving, golfing, shooting, sailing, winter sports, cycling and of course photography. The range focuses on achieving 100% customer satisfaction.
Leica Eyecare provides lifestyle products – an unparalleled visual experience and an incredible comfort of wearing. These are secured by the unique quality standards and control procedures of Leica Eyecare, which are 20% higher than the general European standards.
Besides the usual warranty, Leica Eyecare products have the option for an extended warranty valid even when the glasses get scratched, broken or stolen.
We, at FOX Optics, are honoured that in 2019 we were invited to become the exclusive representative of Leica Eyecare for Bulgaria. The Bulgarian consumer now has the privilege to enjoy premium and elite products that are 100% Made-in-Europe and can be manufactured and delivered in 1-8 days.
In 2021 we will spend more time in front of screens. How can FOX Optics help us reduce tiredness and improve our visual comfort?
A growing number of people of all ages spend their work or free time with digital devices. We spend more time in front of screens and our eyes' have to adjust to this. The almost constant need to focus tires them, causing blurred vision, dryness, headache, neck pain.
Screens and LED light emanate blue light. The blue-violet part of the UV spectrum can damage the retina and cause age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
All leading manufacturers develop and offer specialised lenses protecting the eyes from digital devices. Considering digital devices' specific characteristics and the highest technological standards, they design products that protect customers' vision.
The eye safety solutions by Leica Eyecare, for example, offer perfect protection against blue-violet light. Thanks to molecules integrated in the lens' material (ESM is not a coating) they selectively filter up to 100% of the most harmful blue light (415 nm) and let in 90% of the beneficial blue turquoise light (465 nm) that regulates the sleep cycle and the mood. The user's feel of colour is preserved and full protection against the harmful blue-light is provided.
It is important to note that in Bulgaria there is an operative Regulation No7, from 15 August 2005, as a part of the Healthy and Safe Work Conditions Law that stipulates the minimal requirements for work with video displays. According to it, the employer has to provide eye test and personal devices according the prescription to employees who spend more than 4 hours daily in front of video displays. This is a serious measure for prevention of tired eyes and the potential damages on eye vision it might cause.
FOX are among the pioneers of implementation of digital technologies. What are their advantages?
The processes of eye lenses manufacturing are completely digital. The leading world manufacturers implemented specialised softwares to process and analyse billions of combinations of visual prescription and offer each consumer the best design for their individual data: visual status prescription, work distance, priority activities in everyday life etc. The pair of lenses itself is made in specialised high-tech machines for extremely high level of precision and aesthetics. The benefits for the client are visual acuity, ergonomics and panoramic vision with the glasses, and strong, thin and light lenses.
At each of our Sofia branches we have the most advanced medical diagnosis equipment for eye vision testing.
Competent teams of opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists analyse all required data: prescription data, lifestyle, professional activity, aesthetic preferences, and give professional advice on the optimal solution. Our role is also to create a realistic expectation about the benefits of the different solutions and to take responsibility for the customer satisfaction during their use.
We measure all parameters of a pair of eyeglasses (6 alone for the frame's position on the face, for example) and when we receive the ordered products we make them on the most advanced 3D fully digital machines to achieve 21st century accuracy and precision. We have invested in 3 such machines to cover all types of situations.
Each finished order at FOX Optics is carefully examined. The eyeglasses and their parameters – frame tilt in the right plains, temples' ergonomics, symmetry, full correspondence of alignment and measures, lack of mechanical defects etc, are all guaranteed and meet the strictest requirements.
We, at FOX Optics, pay special attention to warranty and post-warranty service of spectacles and their parts. Our shortest product guarantee is 2 years. The technological time for replacement of a damaged detail, regardless if it is covered or warranty-free, takes from a couple of hours to several days. The different units at FOX Optics work in coordination to minimise the time for spare parts delivery.
Our activity asks for a lot of expertise and our know-how is the result of years of experience. We are not just vendors. We are health professionals – opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists, and we are also technicians and experts. Our potential clients share with us information that, together with their health status, age, sex, lifestyle and personal preferences, helps us to define what they need. Often without them even realising it. For example, a missing or a wrong correction in a pair of eyeglasses can cause serious neurological and/or orthopaedic problems: headache, nausea, neck, spine and upper limbs pain.
We ourselves use different eye vision correctional means: contact lenses, glasses with power, sunglasses. We are aware how our clients feel and we seek to give them optimal comfort and excellent eye vision. We take complex responsibility on how the end product will work and the satisfaction it will bring.
I will conclude with a Steve Jobs quote: "When you're a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you're not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You'll know it's there, so you're going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through."
Central Office & Store: Sofia, 61 Aleksandar Stamboliyski Blvd
phone: 02 9 883 735