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Lisa McCool and Lauren Burrough: A Creative Vision for All

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This mother-and-daughter duo has their eyes on Kansas Citians and can clearly see the diversity our city offers in people, places and things. Their business has framed all these details into one extraordinary concept: Red & Gold KC, an independent eyeglass frame company. Lisa McCool and Lauren Burrough are the creative powerhouses driving this company into an
all-seeing, profitable adventure.

These Kansas Citians are also taking on the optical international goliaths with their mission-driven focus of creating spectacles accessible to all. Their collections of frames accommodate diverse face shapes and sizes without breaking the bank. To top things off, the premier line is named after metro landmarks with the MYKC collection.

“We are extremely proud to be from Kansas City and what the city is doing, and we wanted to be a part of that. That’s why we created a company that offers products named after Kansas City landmarks and traditions,” noted Lauren. “These frames can fit on the faces of all Kansas Citians. When designing these frames, every shape, size and skin tone is taken into consideration by us. Our pride in our city is the biggest thing that we work into every aspect of our frames.”

“We’re one of the few companies that offers a translucent frame in four colors that flatter different skin tones. We make three different kinds of tortoiseshell to match different skin tones. Also, we created different bridge widths because we know that some are narrow and some are wide,” revealed Lisa. “We looked around the city and saw all the different sizes and shapes of faces. We’ve been thoughtful about designing a frame for everyone, just like there’s a place for everyone in Kansas City.”

With extra time on their hands during the COVID lockdown, Drs. Ryan Powell and Burt Schreiber created Red & Gold KC, the concept of naming the frames for different Kansas City landmarks and a few sample frames. About six months later, Lisa and Lauren were asked by the optometrists to come on board and take the company to the next level. Initially, the plan was to come on as consultants and scale up the company by creating a business plan, but plans quickly changed.

Lauren was already working in marketing and social media for several local Kansas City businesses, and Lisa enjoyed a successful career in optometry. But along the way she developed a keen sense of business strategic planning and development. The doctors’ prescription was 20/20 when it came to envisioning the advantages this pair could bring to developing their business. “They said, ‘Lauren and Lisa, would you grow this company in your spare time?’ And we did. We grew it from several dozen frames to four frame lines with almost 30 frames each,” shared Lisa. “We oversee frame design, marketing, the websites and involvement in the community, social media and getting products into optometry offices and boutiques.”

The company has now grown to four frame lines: Cobalt Eyewear, Burt’s Eyewear, Burt’s Kids Eyewear and MYKC Eyewear. Red & Gold KC has a small frame showroom and office in Parkville, Missouri, that’s not open to the public, but products are found in many optometry and ophthalmology offices and boutiques around the U.S.

The highlight of Red & Gold KC is the MYKC Eyewear, a boutique frame line, with ophthalmic frames for prescription lenses and sunglass frames that celebrate Kansas City. According to Lisa, the frames are named after recognizable segments of the city and its landmarks. “Our closet is full of Kansas City spirit wear, and we wanted to bring that excitement to the eyewear world. Each frame is named for something special in Kansas City. We’ve probably had the most fun bringing this brand to life and giving it a voice,” she stated. “As passionate Kansas City fans, we really enjoy the attention and love this brand is getting. You will find the frame name inside the temple of each frame. You will also find the MYKC metal inlay at the temple tip of our frames; we think this ups the cool factor. Even MYKC frame cases have detail and styling to set them apart from the rest.”

But the world of optometry is dominated by one company, EssilorLuxottica, that controls over 80 percent of the major eyewear brands. Since its founding in 1961, the corporation has been able to create and acquire some of the best-known eyewear such as Ray-Ban, Oakley, Persol, Vogue Eyewear and many others. Distributors such as LensCrafters, Sunglass Hut and Pearle Vision are also a part of this system. In 2020, Forbes reported EssilorLuxottica possessed a brand value of $9.2 billion. But Lisa and Lauren don’t allow this giant to downplay their small-business efforts to succeed.

“It’s something that we’re aware of in the optical world. It can be concerning; they have a tremendous reserve of resources. So how do we play in that space? It can be intimidating. But the bottom line is all the things we’ve talked about. All our brands have a voice and a story. We’re independently owned and we’re proud of that,” remarked Lisa. “We like to think that each frame brings intentionally created love and that means something to consumers. We’re seeing more and more people interested in that. And that’s what’s resonating and creating the buzz and the success we’ve had. We weren’t afraid to stand up to the giants. We’re not trying to be the next Luxottica but we sure like playing in that space and hearing from people that our details make the difference.”
Spring and fall mark when the eyeglass market debuts new frames and concepts, but the pair says if they’re motivated by a frame, they’ll release it at any time of the year. This small business brings mobility, the ability to quickly adapt and better meet the needs of their customers. They say their intense attention to detail in designs and customer service set them apart from the competition. It’s a hometown spirit that has Lauren and Lisa sharing a far-sighted vision for the future. “We know our frame line stories. Each frame line’s voice is unique to the industry,” said Lauren. “We use only local models in our ads. They are our friends, our neighbors, our family, people we meet on the street. We think that’s what makes us real. Celebrating untouched faces in our frames is really a way to celebrate our community.”

The transition from a workplace of friendly co-workers to one of family has been a solid one to make for this team. “I’m lucky that Mom is my also best friend. That’s made it fun and easy to be in business with her. I do get to see a new side of my mom because I’ve never worked with her before so I get to see her be a rock star in her industry. We also can read each other’s thoughts better than co-workers can,” stated Lauren. “We’re more familiar with each other and we can read when someone is holding back, and we know how the other will approach something. That’s a big benefit. We read and feed off each other. We’re most creative when we’re together. We make a powerhouse team.”

“Lauren and I can be like-minded; aligning with our vision and values was easy. But we’re also so different,” said Lisa. “She can do things that I can never dream
of doing.”

The future is incredibly bright for these two and Red & Gold KC. They were a sponsor for the Big Slick charity event and supplied sunglasses for each celebrity along with handwritten thank you notes. “We framed them,” laughed Lisa. “We studied their face shape, how widely set their eyes are, what their bridge is like. Then we reviewed the shape and size of our glasses and found the best fit for their face within our collection.”

Also on the horizon for the fall is a fundraising project with Children’s Mercy Hospital to supply sunglasses that are sized for adults. Lauren notes that many adults are parents, but everyone has been a child, and Children’s Mercy does amazing things for children. The Children’s Mercy and the Red & Gold KC cause-marketing campaign will be a wonderful opportunity to show their support for the organization. These unisex sunglasses will be offered in two colors: Grad Cap Black and Caring Clear.

Their success is easy to see and they offer these visions for success that local entrepreneurs starting or needing some encouragement with their business may want to try. “Be intentional with your vision, your energy and your resources,” advised Lisa. “Remember to be patient with the world, your team and yourself, and enjoy it.”

“I’d add to embrace your community because we have a lot of resources that can also be excited about what you’re doing,” remarked Lauren. “Local entrepreneurs should embrace everything that is happening in the city and be current with what’s happening.”

Incredible success is on the horizon for Lisa and Lauren as far as the eye can see. Their creativity and devotion to driving a business that embraces all our differences while highlighting the diversity of Kansas City are clearly evident.

“We’re the energy behind this organization and that does take some brains, but it also takes excitement,” noted Lisa. “This is a labor of love for Lauren and me by bringing these frame lines to life and giving them a voice and purpose. It’s not just a frame but there’s something about it that’s unique and special.”

“We are two people who are a perfect fit for this job. We talk about the fact that Kansas Citians dress like tourists because they’re so proud to be from Kansas City. We are that through and through and we do it by helping to spread that joy of Kansas City,” commented Lauren. “We’re proud to live here and embrace everything that’s here. We love to show off what a cool city we live in.”