Specs by Kyla owner’s business deals with the eyes, but emphasizes its ‘heart’
You all know and love her as the woman who bespectacles your face with the perfect frames. This year, Kyla Skinner, owner of Specs by Kyla, has been honored by the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce with the Woman of Influence Award for 2023.
“It’s surreal. That’s the only word I can think of. I’m just really grateful to be here, and then also, it just feels really weird,” said Kyla on winning the award. “I had a client walk in while I was on the phone, and I was in shock, and I didn’t know whether I wanted to laugh, cry, or dance all at the same time.”
Kyla, who grew up in Templeton, returned to the North County in 2010 after a three-year stint in North Carolina. It wasn’t until July 5, 2021, while we were still knee-deep in the pandemic, that she opened Specs by Kyla, using the money left to her by her birth mom, who was not a part of Kyla’s life until closer to her death in 2019. She added that she’s reflected on that time a lot since becoming Woman of Influence.
In the midst of the pandemic, she struggled with isolation, her birth mom’s death, and a weakened nervous system due to everything going on. But it was during a therapy session that everything turned around. Kyla and her therapist took a walk downtown and wandered past Sunken Gardens, City Hall, and the still-under-construction La Plaza.
It was during that particular day, which Kyla remembers clearly, that her therapist reminded Kyla through the buildings of Atascadero, both new and old, that she was rebuilding herself and going to be newer, better, and stronger on the other side of the pandemic. And boy, was she right.
“[I’m] being able to finally feel real and genuine for what goals I want to have and who I am. I feel like I spent a lot of my life pleasing other people, and now I can just be real, and it feels really good to be accepted for who I really am,” Kyla said, who’s known and loved for wearing her heart on her sleeve.
Facing her fears with the support of her family, therapist, and business coach, Christie Garcia, with Mindful Choice, Kyla was ready to create something new in Atascadero by the time she opened her shop. So, with a couple of decades in the optical field under her belt, and a love for connecting with people, Specs by Kyla was born. With that, Kyla dove straight into integrating herself into the business landscape of Atascadero, as well as finding and becoming a part of a new community.
“I am beyond blown away. I kind of lost a community of friends when I made all these changes, and I feel like that’s been replaced 10 times. So many amazing connections with everybody that walks in my door,” she added.
Initially, Kyla’s husband, Jeff, strongly suggested that Kyla open up shop in Paso Robles because of the possibility of more traffic and tourism there; but Kyla stayed true to her vision.
“I knew in my gut that Atascadero had the feel I was looking for. More independent, not as touristy, more of the local community. And it’s close to home, and my kids go to school here,” Kyla added. “The first time I pushed myself to go to a Chamber event, that was scary, to market myself and get out there, but every time I’ve pushed myself, it’s been so rewarding to connect with the Chamber and the city and just feeling so supported.”
Not only is she serving the community with fierce frames, but she’s also given back to Atascadero in many other ways, including a fundraiser in December that raised over $1,500 for Seneca Family of Agencies. She was also instrumental in creating the Shop Local Passport that the Chamber released around the holidays. On top of that, Kyla was also the one who notified her business neighbors of the flooding on their block back in early January.
“I just knew in starting this business, because I was given so much by my birth mom, I knew I wanted to give back to the community,” Kyla said. “I just know that we’re all stronger together, too, as a community. I can’t do this by myself. I can’t be in the desert somewhere and have a successful business. We all are collaborative. Seeing really cool businesses working hard to make it [Atascadero] a better place that gave me the confidence, like, ‘OK, this is really morphing into something super cool, and I want to jump on this bandwagon.'”
And jump on the bandwagon she did, creating a creative space and collaborating with not only the city and Chamber but also tons of local artists over the last couple of years.
“I think in processing winning this award, I’ve been realizing that a big part of my business is my heart,” Kyla said. “And I think when people walk into the shop, I’m able to connect with them as a human and heart to heart, and I feel like everything I’ve done since starting this business has been very close to my heart, and I think that that’s what makes a difference. I’m loving every minute of it, and I’m just grateful to be able to connect with our community.”
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