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OWA Awardees holding their awards

Helping Our OWA Stars Shine

Each year, the OWA awards honorees at our annual Champagne Breakfast, for their contributions to the industry. Recipients receive $1000 each to donate to a charity of their choice.

OWA's Star Honorees

Lifetime Achievement

Sometimes, a woman in the Optical Industry is so influential that she deserves an extra special moment in the spotlight. We found ourselves with such a contributor in 2013 and decided to create this award.

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Marge Axelrad

Founding Member — Optical Women's Association

2024 Honoree

Marge Axelrad was hired in May of 1988 as the editor-in-chief of Vision Monday, a year after its launch. At Vision Monday, originally a print newsmagazine when it started in 1987, Marge and the team she created redefined and shaped news coverage of the optical business as the industry was expanding significantly in all sectors.

In 1998, Vision Monday inaugurated VMAIL, a weekly digital newsletter. VMAIL is now published daily and has become the primary delivery vehicle for news developments with readership throughout the U.S. and international optical communities.

Marge also oversaw the launch of VisionMonday.com, which complemented and enhanced the distribution of Vision Monday's print edition and VMAIL; in 2007, she played an instrumental role in the launch of the Vision Monday Leadership Summit, which is now regarded as a key and influential gathering of the industry's leading decision makers.

Marge is a founding board member of the Optical Women's Association (OWA) (1997), served as co-president of the group (2000-2002), and is currently on the OWA Nominating Committee. She was honored by the OWA in 2013 as a Pleiades Award recipient.

In 2017, she was recognized as the Prevent Blindness "Person of Vision." She served on the national board of Prevent Blindness America (2009–2013) and continues to help its development committee. She currently serves on the board of trustees of the SUNY College of Optometry Foundation. In 2008, Marge was recognized by the Accessories Council with its "Hall of Fame" award and in 2011 was honored by SUNY's Optometric Foundation.

Grady Culbreth Portrait

Grady Culbreth

Co-Founder — Grady & Associates, Inc.

2013 Honoree

 

This year, the OWA is presenting its first Lifetime Achievement Award to Grady Culbreth, of Grady & Associates, Inc., an OWA member since the organization's inception, Culbreth has seen the industry evolve in its attitude towards women. When she first entered the industry as an optician, patients would come in and ask to see the "male doctor."

"I would say I am the optician and some people walked out — especially men. Now the industry has really changed and there are many more female opticians today than ever before," said Culbreth. Culbreth's career evolved along with the industry. When she was working as an optician and volunteering with Prevent Blindness, Culbreth kept bumping into Ed Greene from Zeiss. Finally, out of the blue she received a phone call asking her to interview with Zeiss. At the time she really hadn't realized that the Zeiss headquarters were about 45 minutes away from where she lived.

"I interviewed and got the job. Ed always had an open door policy and women in the company had the same chance as men to succeed," said Culbreth. Greene, now with The Vision Council, became Culbreth's mentor and lifelong friend. So based on past experiences — when a group of women began discussing the creation of an organization for women within the optical industry — Culbreth was all for it. Culbreth's passion and hope for the OWA was to make sure that women got a fair shake and that they had someone to go to when they needed help; encouraging women to do what they want to do and not be afraid to try.

A member in the first year, Culbreth served as the organization's president for two years, creating events on the program committee for seven years, and becoming an active member of the membership committee. It has been Culbreth's efforts that have seen the OWA create programs for the women in the optician segment of the industry.

In addition to working as an optician, volunteering for Prevent Blindness, and working for Carl Zeiss Optical, Culbreth also worked for The Vision Council and is a past president of both the AR Council and the National Academy of Opticianry. As someone who has always been involved in the OWA and found out how to get the most out of being a member, Culbreth had this to say: "The best thing women can do when they join (the OWA) is to get involved. The more involved they become, the better networking opportunities they will have. One of the best parts of being an OWA member is the friendships you will make. I will be friends with some OWA members forever."

Pleiades Award

Each year, our Pleiades Award honors an individual who has shown exceptional support in advancing the leadership role of women in the optical industry. "The Pleiades" is also known as the "Seven Sisters" — referring to the seven brightest stars in the cluster.

According to Greek mythology, each star was named after the seven daughters of Atlas who were turned into stars by Zeus. Together these stars create one of the brightest clusters visible in the northern hemisphere, just as by working together, the women of the OWA have created an organization that is bigger and brighter than the sum of their individual efforts.

Rebecca Giefer Portrait

Rebecca Giefer

CEO — Modo Eyewear


Rebecca has a distinguished career marked by commitment to client relations, leadership, and strategic growth initiatives. She has a solid foundation in team building, based on her past experience as a collegiate soccer player at NYU, and a reputation for cultivating a culture of collaboration, work ethic, and excellence. Her leadership style inspires teams to surpass targets and achieve remarkable results. Her mantra is not original and has been used by many before her: "true leaders raise leaders who raise leaders." Her unwavering commitment to customer-centric solutions is rooted in her start at Modo, where she began as a temporary employee on Modo's customer service team. Rebecca wore various hats throughout her tenure at Modo; noteworthy positions include Manager of Customer Service, Director of Operations, and  beginning in 2010, Vice President of Operations. In 2014, she became the COO, and in 2020, was appointed CEO.

 

Giefer, a current member of the Optical Women's Association, served on The Vision Council's Board of Directors for six years, was part of their Emerging Optical Leaders Committee, chaired their Marketing Committee, and also participated in their DEI task force.

In recognition of her outstanding contributions to the business landscape, Giefer has twice been honored as one of Vision Monday's Most Influential Women — first in 2016 in the "Executive Suite" category, and then in 2023 in the "Above and Beyond" category.

Her professional journey is characterized by an unwavering dedication to delivering value to various stakeholders and a strong work ethic. She currently lives in the vibrant borough of Brooklyn with her husband David and 7-year-old son Owen.

Pyxis Award

PYXIS is a constellation in the southern sky known as "The Compass." The PYXIS Award is presented to a member of the OWA who actively participates in the organization and promotes the OWA throughout the optical industry, contributing to OWA's continuing growth.

 

The recipient of the PYXIS Award is exceptional in her commitment to support and develop the OWA. She helps set direction of the organization by her actions and inspires by her leadership.

Trudi Charest Portrait

Trudi Charest

Co-Founder — Marketing4ecps

Trudi Charest is the Co-Founder of Marketing4ecps, a digital marketing agency focused on building digital advertising for the eyecare industry, and President of Total Focus Consulting. She doesn't just "talk" the digital marketing talk, she walks it every day in her own social and digital efforts. With over 10,000 followers on LinkedIn, she is known as a LinkedIn guru by her peers. She also heads up the Digital Marketing Committee for the Optical Women's Association, leading a team of 17 women volunteers who create the social media strategy for the OWA. Charest is well known for designing, developing, and facilitating sales training and marketing programs across North America.

Charest is a licensed optician with over 25 years of extensive eyecare experience, and also holds a Human Resource Management certificate from the University of Calgary. Before starting her marketing agency, Marketing4ECPs, in 2015, her experience included corporate training in retail optical, territory management for Bausch & Lomb, clinical consulting with Optos, and the role of Vice President of Marketing and Training for Eye Recommend, one of Canada's leading optometric buying groups.

 

She is an "Amazon Best Selling" author of the book, The Digital Sales Rep, a literary guide to social and digital sales techniques and the art of personal online branding.

Charest was one of Vision Monday's Most Influential Women in the optical industry and is currently a very active OWA board member, co-chairing their Digital Marketing Committee. She is an international speaker, author, industry consultant, and business innovator.

Emerging Leader Award

The Emerging Leader Award, created in 2018, is presented to a woman who is a rising star and exemplifies leadership qualities as a new distinctive talent within the optical industry. Examples may be a Millennial or GEN Xer but is not limited to these generations. Unlike the Pleiades and Pyxis Awards, the Emerging Leader Award may not necessarily be presented every year.

Reagan Colpitts Portrait

Reagan Colpitts 

Senior Business Development Manager — Safilo

Reagan Colpitts is the Senior Business Development Manager at Safilo, spearheading go-to-market strategies for the North American sales team while also leading buying groups and strategic alliances in the USA. With 15 years of leadership experience, she has dedicated the last decade to the optical industry.

Armed with a degree in economics, she embraces her self-proclaimed status as an analytical nerd and has a genuine passion for business. She loves to bring elements from outside the optical industry into her role, and often looks for inspiration from other industries to help keep a fresh perspective.

In 2022, Colpitts was honored as one of Vision Monday's Most Influential Women in Optical. In 2023, she was awarded an OWA Leadership Scholarship, a testament to her commitment to continually enhance her business knowledge and skills.

Beyond her professional achievements, she strives to be a strong role model for her two children, showing them that there are no limits for working moms!

Recipients Charities Of Choice

The Charities of Choice selected for 2024 are:

If you would like to make an additional contribution to any of these charities, please visit their respective donation pages.

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Three OWA members holding their awards

Even More Awards!

  • Visionary Award — This award recognizes a member who is known as a "visionary" in our industry. This influential leader demonstrates progressive thinking and actively cultivates professional development of women, contributing to the successful future of the entire optical industry.

  • Pinnacle Award — OWA recognizes a member who has demonstrated long-standing and consistent dedication and commitment to the OWA and to furthering the advancement of the leadership role of women in the optical industry. A pinnacle is the highest point of development or achievement, and the Pinnacle Award honors the person's success, determination and influence. The recipient is one who is recognized for inspiring others to reach aspirational heights and career advancement. Signifying a lofty peak, the Pinnacle Award also symbolizes major OWA milestone years as it will only be bestowed on anniversaries.

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