Mark Kahrhoff

Founder of Complete Eye Safety and Complete Vision Care

Dr. Mark Kahrhoff is a founder and principal with Complete Eye Safety and Complete Vision Care in St. Louis, MO. Complete Eye Safety is a unique physician-owned eye safety company providing not only premium quality ANSI-approved safety eyewear to customers around the US and the world but also physician-led education on visual performance, eye safety, and eye safety programs.

A lead author, entrepreneur and inventor, he has multiple patent applications filed with the US Patent Office. These include innovations in ocular drug delivery and regenerative ocular medicine. He was among the first optometrists to provide platelet rich plasma therapy to patients with dry eye diseases. Dr. Kahrhoff is a co-inventor of “The Electronic Eyelid,” a prosthetic blinking device designed for a child who had lost his ability to blink due a brain tumor and “The Freedom Reader,” a low vision aid that converts printed text to speech. In addition, he created the AMP System for Visual Neurocognitive Training, an advanced tool used by vision experts to train enhanced visual skills and decision making in support of optimal human performance. In some venues, AMP is used to train elite level athletes; in others, it is used as a tool in neurological rehabilitation. Prior to joining Complete Vision Care, Dr. Kahrhoff served in the United States Air Force where he developed contact lens education programs for Air Force optometrists and ophthalmologists and lectured military physicians on evaluation of eye trauma.

Dr. Kahrhoff utilizes his vision lab to support the community with a program called Kid’s Care. Each child in need receives an eye exam and glasses at no charge. Similar programs are setup for adults. Dr. Kahrhoff currently resides in Webster Groves, MO.

Where did the idea for Complete Eye Safety come from?

Complete Eye Safety came from my surprise as I discovered how many people do not use appropriate eye protection at work and to see that workers and employers commonly misunderstand the risks to vision and their obligations under OSHA. We wanted to help people understand why this is so important and help them enhance eye safety with high-level service and education. Many businesses are not meeting OSHA guidelines for workplace eye safety. Eye injuries happen in an instant and even those thought “minor” can have lifelong consequences.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I am up early. I exercise and meditate. I am in the clinic early where I read, think, meet via Skype with international collaborators, review patient charts, and follow up with anything needing my attention before starting the day. Evening includes pleasure reading, activities and family time. Recently I learned that balance helps make you more productive.

How do you bring ideas to life?

First, by educating myself exhaustively about a potential business and an idea, while white boarding my own vision. Second, by finding thought leaders who have interest in collaboration and share my vision of an unmet need. Finally, by examining whether there is a real business case to justify the investment of time even more than money.

What’s one trend that excites you?

AI/Machine learning. Also, Coursera, Udemy, and MITx, etc. represent a Gutenberg-scale revolution. Education will reach more people than ever before in human history. As more people become educated on different subject matters, everything, including the level of competition, will rise.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I have a genuine interest in what motivates people, and a capacity for wonder as a I learn new things. This makes inspiration easy to find.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Get on a path and get to work toward a goal, any goal. Creativity and inspiration are most often products of hard work.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Sometimes “fair” does not mean everyone gets the same thing but that everyone gets what they need.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Offer people opportunities to learn and have new experiences. Pay for that learning. This is an example of how what’s good for people is also good for business. Education makes people feel inspired, competent, and excited to be challenged.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Seeking collaborators within and across professional disciplines, including competitors. Specifically, seeking to leverage idled/under-utilized economic and personal assets for mutual benefit.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Failing to understand a market before entering it. I haven’t really overcome it. I’ve moved around it. Recognized the mistake, learned, put it in the rear view.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Find a way to help people make better decisions faster. That’s the essence of AI. Ignoring AI or wishing it away is like Aesop’s grasshopper ignoring the approach of winter.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

An online math course for someone whose junior high math ended due to COVID. It’s hard to be self-motivated and easy to formulate destructive internal monologues when you’re young and struggling. 100 bucks paid back to society over maybe 80 years seemed a no brainer.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Visual Studio Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for coding, application development and educating myself for the inevitable future. IDEs will become as ubiquitous as “Microsoft Word” as our conception of computer competency shifts.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

A book of personal resonance and I think importance for American people particularly is The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. The reflections of an artist and cultural critic like Baldwin are essential for any citizen. The reality that life is widely different for Americans passing each other on the street each day is worth examining.

What is your favorite quote?

The moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out. – James Baldwin

Key Learnings:

  • Ultimately only people matter.
  • Seek to learn and to educate beyond job function and perceived limits.
  • Seek collaborations wherever you can find them, including with competitors.