Sunday, 5 April 2009


Buncrana Chamber of Commerce member Paul McGuigan is originally from Strabane. He opened the doors to his optician’s practice in Buncrana in 2007 and last May opened his second practice on Butchers Street in Strabane. He has 2 members of staff working with him, Louise and Gemma.

Paul decided on a career in optometry and in 1999 embarked on a four year Optometry degree course at the University of Ulster, Coleraine. He studied hard and came out with his degree (Bsc Hons MCOptom).

“After finishing at University, I took a year out to catch up with myself.” He tells the Inishowen Independent. My partner Heidi and I travelled extensively around South East Asia, Australia, Fiji, Canada and America. This gave me time to reflect on my studies and give me more of a focus to what I really wanted to do with my career. And get a tan of course….”

Paul enjoyed his time off and after coming back refreshed worked for 4 years in the UK, working for Specsavers, the Optician branch in Tesco and was also involved in hospital clinic work. Here he picked up a lot of experience along the way. “After working for the larger companies and the health service gaining experience, I realised that in the optometry industry there is a strong emphasis on self-employment. “There was a very high percentage of people in my University class that had gone on to be self employed and I though it was about time that I did the same.

The time had come for Paul to return back to Ireland and he travelled back at the weekends to look for suitable premises. His research was to draw a circle from Strabane on the map to find somewhere not too far away that he could commute to easily. Eventually his pin fell on Buncrana and he and his father came over to see for themselves the fabulous new Ardaravan area of the town. It was in its infancy and building work was just finishing. They felt that there was an opportunity to set up a much-needed optician in the town and the perfect premises was just down from the Ulster Bank “The shop was just the right size,” says Paul. “The area was new and we could see the potential, even though there were not many shops open at the time on the street.”

Paul’s father was an early inspiration. “ My father has run his own successful business for years and I value his input. I worked for him when I was younger and this gave me a good grounding for my own work discipline. I realise that you have to keep moving with the times and make your business attractive. His influence rubbed off on my brother too, he went to study and is a dentist in Omagh.”

Paul thinks that groundwork, and lots of it is the key to successful decision making about the right premises. “We looked at a lot of different places but saw loads of potential in Ardaravan for both passing trade and the area is so handy for parking if you are coming by car.” He says. “We felt that all of the hard work looking for the suitable premises paid off when we got to Buncrana.

Because of the location of his two shops, he is able to test people on both sides of the border. “The two premises are ideally located and give the customers the “best of both worlds,” he tell us.

Paul took six months to plan his solo career and looked closely at the location and anticipated any hidden traps or costs. “ I can be very cautious, which isn’t a bad thing in business. Forward planning and thorough research is essential when setting up and you need money set aside as a contingency plan should you incur any hidden costs, and there are bound to be some. Initially I was only going to take three weeks to set up but that turned into three months.” Paul thinks that getting a mentor to help and advise you set up your own business is a great idea. “A good mentor can see all of the pitfalls before they happen, I was lucky that I had my father to advise me.” He says.

Paul loves to see customers returning to his relaxed practice, “It’s a really big thrill.” He is seeing a 90% return on customers coming back for their two year check ups. “It’s mostly two years in between an appointment but if we need to keep a closer watch on people it can be every 6 months. We also get referrals from GP’s and we have the added protection of emergency back up in Sligo and Letterkenny should the need arise.” He says reassuringly.

Paul loves working for himself and the freedom it gives him. One key thing about working for myself is that I have full control over the eye test procedure. The girls do a fabulous job at the front desk so I can concentrate on the different stages of the eye test so the customer doesn’t feel that they are on a production line. It’s all about customer care and satisfaction.”

Paul likes to keep his customers happy and has introduced some great initiatives for new and existing customers. “We always have a two for one offer on glasses and also offer free eye tests… That’s free eye tests for everyone. We accept medical cards, but you don’t need one for a free eye test.”


The other incentive is for a lucky couple to have a bit of time in the sun, topping up their tans. “I have a free prize draw for customers and the lucky winner and a partner will get to go to Barcelona for a city break. It is a prize worth a minimum of €500 and it can be at a time to suit the winner.” Says Paul enthusiastically,

Paul feels that it pays to focus on one thing. “Being a specialist is a key factor in today’s present economic climate.” He concludes.

If you would like more information or would like to make an appointment you can contact Paul on 074 9322035 or call into his practice at 10a Ardaravan Square in Buncrana.

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