Participants gather for a candlelight vigil at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. (Win McNamee/GETTY IMAGES)

Martin Luther King Jr.

Recent economic data tell us the economy has begun slowing down, something we see playing out in the eyeglass industry. Many optical dispensaries have been reporting sluggish sales these past few months, as many consumers are keeping their glasses longer and are only replacing their prescription lenses and not the frames.

But as I’ve experienced, small businesses can thrive through these slowdowns if they look for new opportunities.

Most businesses, in my opinion, are sleeping through a “revolution.” This reference may seem a bit extreme, but business owners must now seriously consider how they can grow, evolve and prosper in these uncertain economic times with new ways of thinking.

Despite reports that U.S. economic growth slowed to 1.5 percent this past quarter from 2 percent in the first quarter of the year, some businesses are indeed seeing steady increases in revenue, including ours.

This year, we began moving more aggressively on a strategy to reach new markets. A few years ago, we began noticing how a significant number of hotels and resorts are catering to families, many of them offering “kids clubs.” We approached some four- and five-star hotels, including a variety of Ritz-Carlton hotels worldwide, to sell our children’s line of sunglasses in their gift shops. This year, we have seen a steady increase in our sales in that market segment, especially during the Easter break and summer vacation season.

Another arena where companies are finding that they can leverage their brands is building strong strategic partnerships. Most recently, we have entered into an agreement with a company that focuses its efforts on the same niche markets we do, and we are already seeing positive synergy and momentum.

The company offers a line of clothing that has UV protection built into it. We’re going to start promoting their products and they’re going to promote ours, hopefully giving us both a boost.

So it is evident that companies can develop new attitudes and successfully navigate their way in this ever changing economic environment. Now let us just see how many are willing to embrace this period as a time for significant and positive business and social change.

Faith Smith is founder and CEO of Eyes Cream Shades, an Irvine, Calif.-based firm that sells sunglasses for children six months and older.

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How is your small business responding to the recent slowdown in the economic recovery? Please share your thoughts or your advice for other business owners in the comments below.