Flora B.L.: I wanted to lead with a doctor interview to set the precedent for … what does Peeq Pro offer to optometry offices and patients and what is Peeq about? And also, from what I gather, you were part of the founding of Peeq, so you probably would be a really good person to interview as well.
Dr. Cheryl Chapman: Yeah I’m Dr. Cheryl Chapman and I’m one of the founders of Peeq. So, I am an optometrist, and I work really specifically with dry eyes, so I have a pretty strong dry eye clinic, and I recognize that there’s a lot of people who do have dry eye due to problems with their oil glands. In fact, nearly 80% of people who do have problems with dry eye have really insufficient oil gland secretions. And so, myself and our other co-founder Dr. Christopher Wolfe, we talked about this problem and realized that one of the most simple solutions was to improve eyelid hygiene. And when we talk about improving eyelid hygiene, one of the main things that we can do is to help reduce the biofilm that collects along the base of our eyelids. So you can think about biofilm in the same way that you can think about plaque on your teeth: it’s a matrix of bacteria that just gets kind of tough and hard to remove.
Our Peeq foaming cleanser is antimicrobial by nature and when you use it regularly, it will help kind of degrade and break down that biofilm, which ultimately reduces a lot of the inflammation along the eyelid margin. Well, if we can reduce that inflammation and that bacterial load, then what ends up happening is that we get improved oil secretions from those oil glands. And as those oil secretions improve, the tear film on the surface of the eye will improve, which will improve ocular health, as well as decrease dry eye symptoms.
So that’s kind of where Peeq was born. And we realized along the way that Peeq is really wonderful at eyelid cleansing, lashes cleansing, removing eye makeup and other residues along with some of those biofilms and what not.
F: Yeah, that’s all awesome to hear, great information. You are an optometrist, yes, but there’s specializations, right? And is your specialization in dry eyes specifically, or like a certain part of the eye, something like that?
Dr. C: Yes, I’m an optometrist by training. And one of my specialties that I focus on is dry eye. Within optometry, you’ll have people who specialize in different things, whether that’s retina, or whether it’s contact lenses, and dry eye is one of those. Dry eye is becoming so very prevalent because of the way that we use our eyes. So, think about the amount of screens that people are using throughout the day.
Well we know that anytime someone is on a screen, or a device, they are blinking only about 20% of the normal amount. When you don’t blink regularly, then you end up with these oil glands becoming really stagnant, because they’re not getting that squeezing action of blinking to help push those oils out. So yeah, it’s a really big problem. And it’s more common with women, it’s also more common as we age. And of course all the screen time that we do also really promotes dry eye disease.
F: And, you are located in Omaha, yes? What area?
Dr. C: I’m actually in Gretna, Nebraska, which is actually a small bedroom community, a suburb of Omaha Nebraska.
F: Ok. How many years have you been in practice?
Dr. C: I’ve been practicing for, it’ll be 20 years next year, so, just shy of 20 years.
F: Wow. Yeah, what made you first get involved with Peeq, but maybe an adjustment to the question. Since you were a part of the founding, what made you passionate about this problem for people?
Dr. C: So, as someone who suffers from dry eye and discomfort in my eyes myself, I’m very interested in products that can help improve the way that my eyes feel, and the way my eyes are able to produce their own tears. So I know that keeping the eyelids clean really helps promote that. So personally that’s why I’m really really passionate about it, because I know it’s a problem for me, I know how it feels and I know that it’s a very very common problem. And there aren’t really any solutions that are available that do a good job with this. Not over the counter stuff, not stuff you can do at home.
There’s a fair number of specialized treatments that you can do in eye clinics, but sometimes those become cost prohibitive. So I’m really excited about Peeq, because what Peeq can do is give people at-home maintenance, to help keep their eyes clean, and really really healthy in between visits with their eye doctor. So think about dentistry, and think about how we brush our teeth. And, you brush your teeth every day, hopefully, maybe twice a day! And, when we go to the dentist, you get a deep clean, right, but you don’t do those deep cleans at home. But it’s nice to have that at-home maintenance, it’s nice to be able to brush your teeth at home.
With Peeq, it’s nice to be able to clean your eyelids at home, every day, every single day as part of your hygiene routine.
F: So leading off of that first question, I guess you sort of already got to the second one. That is the benefit of Peeq Pro to your patients, is that daily maintenance, would you say there’s any other benefit to your patients? Maybe like sensory experience, or like general face hygiene areas? Any specific insights as a professional.
Dr. C: Yeah I would say that the benefit of Peeq Pro to my patients is that it helps keep those eyelids healthy in between their regular check ups. But it also feels really good, it feels really clean. One of my favorite things that a patient told me one time is he said that he looked forward to using his Peeq cleanser every morning, he said it’s as good as his first cup of coffee. Because he just really loves the way it feels. And I’ve noticed that with myself as well. For me, I do use it at night and in the morning. And I feel like at night it really makes me feel clean and refreshed, and it makes me feel really relaxed. It’s part of my bedtime routine, part of that wind-down. And then in the morning I do feel like it is a good start to my day, it kind of freshens me up.
F: To kind of add my experience with the product as well, I would agree with those statements. For me as someone who’s really interested in the ingredients breakdown, knowing that there is the lavender in there, as well as the tea tree oil, the oregano, it has both those invigorating and relaxing qualities. So it has the multifunctionality and the potential to have both those effects, I would say.
Dr. C: When we thought about what we wanted our Peeq formula to include, we were really intentional about some of the botanicals that we added. The lavender we really wanted for antihistamine effects as well as for a very pleasant smell. You know, tea tree oil and tea tree oil extracts have … they’re notorious for not smelling good. And so we really wanted to mask the smell. And we thought lavender was a big win because you get those other benefits from it as well, that antihistamine. A ton of people suffer from allergies, and also the smell and the relaxing effects. You know, but we wanted our formula to be very friendly to those who have sensitivities and allergies, we wanted to have as few chemicals as possible, to be as natural as possible.
F: So how do you think that a product like Peeq Pro and just the whole line in general fits into the world of optometry? Does it replace certain products? Does it sit alongside them? I guess what is the innovation that you see with it and maybe 10 years down the line, where do you think it would fit into the world of optometry?
Dr. C: Peeq Pro has a really good place in the world of optometry for several reasons. Number one, I think the product is really phenomenal. It’s my favorite eyelid foam cleanser that I’ve ever used. And of course I’m biased but one of the reasons that I wanted to create this formula was because I wasn’t 100% satisfied with anything else that was on the market. But it does go nicely alongside some other products that are out there as well. You know the warm compresses and some of the other treatments that we do in office, sometimes you need more than just the at-home stuff. Sometimes we do IPL treatments in office or we do lipiflow treatments or some of the other treatments that kind of help soften and express those glands. And I think they pair very nicely.
I really like things like Peeq Pro because it can help maintain after a patient spends, you know, a lot of dollars on those in office treatments. They want it to last right? And so when you’re maintaining this at-home hygiene, we find that they maintain much longer without having to do repeats of those more expensive treatments. Another way that I think Peeq Pro really fits into the world of optometry is the way it is like a subscription box with fulfillment. So one thing that we’re all finding is that it’s really hard to staff our offices right now, many of us are short staffed. And so anything that we can do to automate things is very, very helpful. And Peeq Pro is great, because we can get these patients signed up, and they can get these products sent directly to their house, without having staff members do it every month, every two months, every three months, every time people run out of their products.
The other thing that that does is it ensures that people are getting the correct product. But it also ensures that they’re purchasing from us. So, it’s too easy sometimes for patients to go online, to an online website where they can purchase and subscribe to things to be sent automatically to their house. And if they get their first bottle of fish oil from us, but then they go online and order it, you know, through an online retailer and have it sent monthly from them, we lose out on that profit. And so it just makes sense for optometrists to be utilizing a company like Peeq Pro, where we can take care of the fulfillment. And the practices still get that profit without any extra work.
F: And it’s easier for the patients as well.
Dr. C: It’s absolutely easier for the patients, you know, not every patient wants to do a subscription method. But I think a vast majority do, that’s becoming so common in the marketplace. A lot of people for products they like and use, a lot of people are starting to do that, particularly when they end up getting savings for doing it.
F: Are there any other benefits that Peeq Pro would have to your practice?
Dr. C: I would say one of the things that I most like about working with Peeq is that it’s a woman-owned business. And Peeq is very intentional about a couple of things that are really important to me. Number one, the environment. So, everything that we do with regards to the design of the boxes, and the packaging of the boxes. And the materials that we’re using are really thoughtful about sustainability. For example, the packing peanuts that we use dissolve in water, the sponges that we use are biodegradable, those things are really important to me. And I’m really proud that we’re able to provide products that do that. And I’m also really proud that we work with other women owned businesses as well as other small companies, you’ll find that a lot of the companies that Peeq will throw little extras in the box like lavender chocolate. That lavender chocolate was made by a multigenerational family here in Nebraska that has a lavender farm, it’s a grandmother, a mother and her daughter. And we do things like that very regularly, where we seek out these sorts of niche, small businesses to kind of help promote their products too.
F: So it’s not just Peeq, that’s I guess, the benefit, it’s the benefit of like, connecting with other small businesses, maybe the entrepreneurship culture in Nebraska as well. Would you say to sort of summarize?
Dr. C: Well, I would say that definitely, there’s an entrepreneurial culture around Peeq and about and around the businesses that Peeq is working with in Nebraska, but also beyond Nebraska, in other parts of the United States. But since we started in Nebraska, we definitely have, you know, cultivated some relationships with some of the small businesses here in Nebraska.
F: And on the environmental topic that you brought up as well. I mean, I guess that’s sort of my position is helping with that. And not to talk too much about myself, but from when I studied abroad, my roommate, she is now going into the dental field. And she would talk about the waste that gets produced in the medical field in general. And so I think it is encouraging for me to be a part of something that is trying to be a part of that solution. Because I mean, caring about the climate should be important for everyone regardless, so like, it’s cool that a business is able to do that and also support local businesses that are giving back to the earth, giving back to other people as well. So that’s my little spiel.
Dr. C: I love it. I love to hear you say that. I think it’s really important for businesses to be thoughtful about this as we move forward. You know, the world is shrinking. There’s more and more people all the time. And we’re in a throwaway society, right? Like people are so used to not conserving, they’re so used to not reusing. And anything that is thrown away, we need to, we need to be thoughtful about it being biodegradable, and how disposable it really is. So, yeah, that’s just really important. And I feel like when you’re in a position where you get to make these decisions to make them to the best of your ability to be sustainable, it’s a luxury. And I don’t know what I’m trying to say here. It’s just as spider man would say, with great power comes great responsibility, right? Like, if you have the ability to do something meaningful, by all means you should seize the opportunity and do it.
F: I guess that also ties into the concept of like, circularity or circular economy. So like, what you had said about the subscription model, I think that also reduces the waste from like, you know, eventually maybe having a warehouse space where things are being brought in a certain quantity versus like, all the individual pieces that a single customer would be pulling from different places, minimizing shipping, carbon outputs, I suppose.
Dr. C: Yeah
F: I’ll just end it with, are your patients satisfied with the Peeq Pro products and what they have learned so far, what they know, of the company?
Dr. C: So I’ve been using the Peeq tea tree oil foaming cleanser in my office for probably about two years now. And I’ve had just really phenomenal responses from my patients. A lot of these patients used other products prior to using the Peeq Pro. And then when we had the final development stages, for Peeq Pro, we started having patients use it, it was really amazing the feedback we got. The patients I would say overall do prefer it in terms of a scent, it’s the most pleasing scent of all the products on the market. And I would say for the vast majority of patients, it also provides a better feeling to their eyes. And of course, it’s very effective, it does what it’s supposed to do, it reduces that microbial load, reduces ocular inflammation, reduces inflammation along the lid margin.
So yeah, we’ve had really good feedback, we’ve had some patients who were not able to use other products due to sensitivities, who are in fact able to use Peeq Pro. And so it’s really exciting to see when you make a product that is as good and even better than you imagined it would be. You know, I have a lot of patients that are on Peeq Pro, because we do have a lot of dry eye patients in our practice. And it’s really interesting, because sometimes depending on how well I know the patient, sometimes I will tell them that I helped develop this product, sometimes that doesn’t come up. You know, and it’s interesting, because sometimes if people know you’ve made something, that it’s your baby, sometimes they might be afraid to criticize it. And so they might just tell you what they think you want to hear.
And they’ll say, “Oh yeah, it’s great!” Maybe they don’t think that but a lot of my patients had no idea that Peeq Pro is something that I had a hand in developing, and they still give me fabulous feedback on it. So, I think that’s a little bit more of a true measure. And in fact, I intentionally often didn’t tell my patients that I had a hand in creating it because I did want really unbiased feedback from them. And it’s been really great feedback. I think it’s really exciting.
Watching it grow is one of the most exciting things that I’m involved in. I love my job, I love what I do on a day to day basis, Peeq is 180 degrees away from what I normally do. And so it’s really fun to watch something different from my normal day to day. And to hear about all the fun things that you guys do, and I’ll be honest, I’m a little jealous. It sounds like you guys have a lot of fun at the Peeq Pro office.
F: It is pretty fun.
Dr. C: Yes, yeah. Hopefully I will get to spend more time there some days and be a part of some of that stuff. Alright. Thank you.