Maria Dellapina was a licensed optician and single mother of four when her youngest daughter, who has Down syndrome, needed eyeglasses. Dellapina struggled to find frames that would fit on her two-year-old’s petite facial features, so she started sketching designs to improve how her daughter’s glasses could fit. She had a sample made and spent a long time finding a manufacturer who could produce her ideas.
“I incorporated in 2004, but it wasn’t until 2008, on my daughter’s ninth birthday, that the first three models arrived. I never looked back,” Dellapina recalls. “Eighty-seven percent of individuals with Down syndrome need glasses by preschool age. With well over half a million people in the world with Down syndrome, there had to be a need for this,” she says.
Superior Precision Eyewear for Children Who are Special, or Specs4Us, seeks to improve the sight and quality of life for individuals with Down syndrome through eyeglass frames patented with a lower bridge and temple placement. “Our design provides individuals who have low bridges or unique facial features with eyewear that solves the problems that regular eyeglasses never could,” Dellapina says of the company’s frames.
Volunteer mentors Jon Slaybaugh and Richard Coyne have assisted Dellapina throughout the growth of her company. “They help me stand outside the box and look inside piece by piece,” she says.
"Our mentors helped the business realize what could be holding us back in increasing revenues," Dellapina says of their monthly meetings. "They also gave us tips on how to work with the distributors we have outside of the United States and organizing our QuickBooks to be more efficient."
“Once people buy it, she’s got a customer for life,” Coyne says.
Dellapina remembers exhibiting her initial frame line, with a few models in two sizes, at her first Down syndrome conference. "[I] returned with seven-page list of parents who were looking for more sizes and styles."
Since starting Specs4Us, the company has expanded to offer 15 models for infants through adults. Dellapina was named one of Toyota’s Mothers of Invention in 2015.
Specs4Us received the Outstanding Innovative Small Business SCORE Award in 2016.