Dame Mary Perkins, Specsavers (part one)

She's the posterwoman for female entrepreneurs everywhere: Dame Mary Perkins launched Specsavers at 40 years old, and has grown her unique optometrist concept into an international superbrand.

When Dame Mary Perkins began Specsavers, she had no idea of the growth potential for the brand.

All expansion has been organic. To this day, Specsavers continues to draw more optometrists into the fold, re-branding them and operating a unique dual ownership model.

Unlike franchises, the optometrists and retailers that work with Dame Mary keep all their profits: they pay a management fee to the umbrella company to cover running costs, administration and other tasks.

As a result of this nurturing approach, Specsavers has never lost a store.

In this video, Dame Mary shares her start-up story, explaining what motivated her to start the company, and how she devised the growth model.

She also outlines the Specsavers ethos: Dame Mary operates a very flat management structure: No glass-fronted, plush corner office for Dame Mary. She sits in the same room as her staff, just like the other directors.

Online retailers have steadily stolen market share from the high street over recent years, but Dame Mary insists that Specsavers will remain an offline concept first and foremost. "Eye examinations are vital," she says. "You can't do them over the internet. The eyes are the only place where you can look into the body without cutting."

That's not to say that Dame Mary is not embracing new technologies or innovation. Specsavers has successfully diversified into the hearing aid market, and is now one of the biggest suppliers in the UK, second only to the NHS.

Watch her inspirational story: hit 'Play'.

Watch Part Two of the Smarta interview with Dame Mary Perkins

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