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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Surrounded by hard-working community-facing people optician grows business to 15 sites, employing 100 people

With fifteen branches across the M62, Moin Valli believes the key to his success was putting the community at the heart of his business.

Fully qualifying as an optician in the year 2000, Moin Valli, 44, spent the first five years of his career working as a locum (on a contractual basis) optometrist in and around Leeds city centre.

Today, he is the founder and managing director of Valli Opticians Group, overseeing fifteen sites across Yorkshire and Lancashire. The business has a multi-million-pound annual turnover and supports over 100 jobs across the two regions.

Originally from Lancashire, Mr Valli moved to Huddersfield from Leeds in 2006, a year after he opened his first clinic.

He said: “After working as a locum for five years and doing other things, I was looking at starting or buying my own business. Being an optician, it made sense to open my own practice.

Valli Opticians Group has grown to 15 clinics across Yorkshire and Lancashire.

When I began the search, I found there was a business available in Huddersfield from a gentleman and his wife who were retiring, which I purchased in 2005. A year later, I moved to the city and have lived in the area ever since.”

As many of the first-generation did, Mr Valli’s parents migrated from India to England in the 1960s in search of work and a different life.

From a tight-knit community, the optician watched family members save up the little money they had to buy their own small local businesses.

“I’m from a strong community. I was born in Blackburn but raised in Bolton. We lived in a very close-knit community where everybody looked out for each other,” he said.

“I grew up in the early 80s and in that time, people had very little, but everyone worked really hard and saved up. By the late 80s, people who had worked in factories saved enough money and progressed to owning their own corner shop or petrol station.

“Looking back, I grew up surrounded by really hard-working community-facing people who were entrepreneurs. My business has grown because of the qualities instilled in me through my childhood experiences.”

Mr Valli’s first practice was in Lockwood in Huddersfield, followed by a branch in Melthom, then in Honley, and in Almondbury.

After that, he set up stores in Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge, followed by branches in Wakefield and Hull. He also established stores in the North West including Warrington, Blackburn, Cheadle Hume and Manchester.

“Looking back, I grew up surrounded by really hard-working community-facing people who were entrepreneurs. My business has grown because of the qualities instilled in me through my childhood experiences.”

Mr Valli firmly believes the key to the success of his business was not through cheap deals or handing out bargain bucket frames, but by realising that a friendly familiar face was the key to returning happy customers.

Mr Valli is involved with various charities, raising awareness of eye health, especially in children.

The optician added: “Before purchasing my first location in Huddersfield, I had worked in a lot of city centre shops, not really working in community practices. When I acquired it, it was completely different from what I was used to.

“It is all about quick 20 minutes eye tests in city centres and lots of 2-4-1 offers. This practice was not like that at all, we didn’t do any offers and it had a very loyal customer base.

“The previous owners had owned the shop for over thirty years. It was quite an old-fashioned practice, but that didn’t matter to the customers, as they trusted the service and liked the fact that the eye examinations were longer.”

Mr Valli and his wife, Rachel, began to modernise the business, undergoing a refurbishment, investing in new technology and started to change some of the frame ranges, adding more fashionable brands into their store.

The couple not only maintained their original customer base but grew the number of clients on their database. “When the business flourished, the penny dropped,” he said.

“I saw the opportunity to replicate the same model in other practices. We scaled the business by buying practises from other community opticians who were looking to retire and refurbishing them, introducing fresh ideas and new styles of frames.”

He added: “One of the main aims of the business is to employ local people. I like my staff to be from the areas they work in.

“It is important to us to hire people from the community because our customers want people who live locally so they can chat about the weather or what happened on the high street a few weeks ago, it makes for a more personable experience.”

The Group will launch its 16th clinic at the University of Huddersfield next month.

For the past six years, Mr Valli has volunteered his time as the vice-chair of Outlookers, a charity formally known as Kirklees Visual Impairment Network, which supports people with visual impairment in West Yorkshire with training and support to use assistive technology.

The managing director mentioned: “I came across Outlookers about six years ago. Although we work with a lot of charities, there was something about this one that stuck with me.

“It’s a charity that helps people with visual impairment, but what makes it different is that it is fundamentally a technology charity with its primary goal to help people with visual impairment through support and training with assistive technology.”

The Valli Opticians Group is gearing up to launch a new practice at the University of Huddersfield next month.

Three years ago, the University of Huddersfield launched an optometry course, and from June, Valli Opticians Group will operate a site on campus in partnership with the university to provide local people with access to the practice and provide students with real-life clinical experience, the first of its kind in the UK.

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