Back in 1994, when most people had barely heard of the Internet, Andrew Baker '79 came up with the idea of selling contact lenses online.
"It was the information dirt road at that time," recalls the Peabody, Mass., optometrist. But Baker had patients and friends working in the Boston-area's thriving high-tech industry, and he had a vision of things to come.
His venture, Contact Lenses Online, was immediately successful, with gross sales doubling every year. A large percentage of sales were to overseas customers. But Baker realized that sooner or later, competition would make the business less profitable. In 1999, with four companies offering to buy the business, he decided it was time to move on. He ultimately accepted an offer from a Utah company, 1-800-CONTACTS. Baker, who credits his education at RIT's College of Science and National Technical Institute for the Deaf with providing the tools "to develop a scientific mind and a business mind," expects to launch another business in the near future. Meanwhile, he enjoys counseling others in business matters.
"I do not suggest that anybody can be an entrepreneur," he says. "Many people have good ideas. It's another thing to make them become reality. A true entrepreneur is able to recognize a need in an area where demand exceeds supply, and set up a structure to meet the demand."
The University Magazine, Spring 2001