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Opening an Optometry Practice Part 1: Location, Loans, Documentation, Insurance


So you’ve decided that opening an optometry practice cold is for you…now, what is next?

I found out quickly there is not a comprehensive to-do check list. It’s more like talking to someone who tells you this certain document needs to be completed and to call so-and-so. With variances between states, here are the basics to opening an optometry practice cold.

Preliminary Research polaroid_00

A. Location:

  • Research lease rates for office space in the areas you are interested in opening your optometry practice.
  • Compare different areas of the city/town to find the going rate for rental space.
  • Determine how many ODs, both commercial and private optometry practices are in the area.
  • Meet with the landlord of each serious contender for best price, and ask if they will allocate any money towards your buildout.
  • Talk to existing tenants in the surrounding area and ask these important questions:
  • Are they happy with the landlord?
  • How is business?
  • Would they do anything different?
  • Anything they wished had been a part of their lease?

B. Loans:

  • Do you qualify for any of the Small Business Association loans? How do the interest rates compare?
  • Contact the small business department at local banks. Each bank has their own loan requirements from a necessary number of years out of school, to mandatory hiring of a consultant.
  • Loans will be given based on financial status, student loans, and living expenses. The bank will ask for tax documents and proof of income from an outside employer. Make sure you have these documents handy.
  • Keep in mind that most loans require a business owner to work at least 3 days outside of their own optometry practice.

C. Documentation:Merlin2525_Approved_Business_Stamp_1

  • Before you sign your lease, have a lawyer review it. They can tell you what is standard for most business leases vs. changes you should ask your landlord to implement.
  • Besides registering your personal NPI number, you must get a NPI number for your business (Type 2). Register here.
  • You must also register your business entity with a tax id for both insurance and tax purposes. You must have this prior to enrolling your business on insurance panels.
  • File your business entity with your state and with your state’s board of optometry. Your accountant should advise you on the best type of entity based on tax codes in your state and county for your optometry practice.
  • Register for a business privilege license with your county and a tax exemption certificate (tax exemption certificate may vary state to state, check with your accountant). A tax exemption certificate is important when it comes to your sales of optical hardware.
  • In most states, in order for your business to operate under another name but your own, one must file an Assumed Name Certificate with your county’s Register of Deeds. This will ensure no other business has the same name as your own.
  • Apply and buy domain names you may want for your website. I purchased my website domain through GoDaddy.
  • Begin the process of setting up your business on all social media (Twitter, FB, Yelp etc). You can hire a freelance web designer, but the cost can range anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. Other than paying a hosting charge, we built my website free using Wix. All you need are pictures to add to their templates.
    Image of Website
    Image of Website
  • Google your name and the name of your business, and make sure all listings online have correct information for your optometry practice
  • Begin enrolling yourself on insurance plans, and taking your name off of panels if you have worked at other locations. Create an “insurance” binder, and document date, time, processing time, and who you talked to, each time you contact an insurance company, so you can follow-up in due time.

D. Personal Insurance:

  • Bank loans require one to have both disability, malpractice, and life insurance. The amount of life insurance may vary depending on financial status at the time of obtaining a loan.
  • Make sure you start the process EARLY! You will need this in place before you receive any of the loan money.
  • I purchased my insurance through the AOA’s program.
  • You will also need business insurance, which I found through a local agent.
Stay tuned for Part II, where I’ll discuss build out, labs, and frames. Until then, please let me know if you have any questions regarding location, obtaining loans, documentation, and insurance. If you want to know when the next issue comes out, just register below 🙂
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About Courtney Dryer

Courtney Dryer
Courtney Dryer is a 2011 graduate of SCO. She opened 4 Eyes Optometry in her hometown of Charlotte, NC in February of 2013. After 5 years, the practice name was changed to Autarchic Spec Shop to renew the practice's commitment to independent optometry. In addition to consulting with new graduate optometrists on start-up practices, she contributes regularly to New Grad Optometry and has guest blogged for Invision Magazine. The unique design of her boutique practice was featured in Women in Optometry. In 2015, Vision Monday named her a Rising Star, and one of the most influential women in optical.


  1. What are some things you would look for in a location other than the number of optical around? Did you pay for professional help?

    • Courtney Dryer

      I did not hire anyone. I don’t like to pay someone for something I can do myself. Agents can take an average of 3%. I narrowed my location to several areas of the city that matched my target population (young professionals with disposable income). I then researched each of those areas for average lease rates per square foot. I attended a development meeting in one area I was possibly interested in. My office actually has a lot of ODs around me, but my practice is niche so what I offer is different from what they do. Within 5 miles of me, I have an Lenscrafters, Pearle, a large MD/OD practice with refractive care, 2 chain type locations, 3 other OD private practices and 2 opticals owned by opticians. I think considering saturation is important, but making yourself different is more important. When I was an extern a doctor once told me, if you are doing your job to the best of your ability, you don’t need to be afraid of another doctor who opens up next to you.

  2. What is the best thing you can do before starting a new practice? Connect up with private practice doctors that are part of an IPA in your state!

    The New York IPA, , has a program for new or recent graduates that makes this possible! This allow you to Connect up with the best of those doctors who have success and leadership experience and are shaping Optometry’s future.

    Here is how:

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