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SF Small Business Week. Celebrate Small Business.


Under promise and over deliver — SFSBW Wisdom Interview with Zel Anders, Owner, Tomboy Tailors

Zel_Anders_September-Days_Aqua_1_Laura ReochThe theme of San Francisco Small Business Week 2013 is Small Business: Shaping Our Communities. Over the next month and a half we will be sharing interviews with the entrepreneurs whose small businesses form the bedrock of our communities. They will be sharing their own stories and their thoughts on the important role that small businesses play in our neighborhoods.

Today we hear from Zel Anders, owner of Tomboy Tailors.

What inspired you to start your own business?  

After years of wearing ill-fitting men’s suits, I decided that there was a need for a supplier of men’s wear tailored for women. I knew that there must be other women out there who had been through the less than fun experience of a suit-fitting in a men’s store where we were not always welcomed by the sales staff. I wanted to change that and create a custom experience to provide women made-to-measure men’s wear and made-to-measure women’s wear so I started my company, Tomboy Tailors.

What was the best piece of small business advice you’ve ever received?                

Under promise and over deliver.

Is there a lesson you learned the hard way that you can share so that other small business owners might benefit from your experience?                 

Under promise and over deliver. We opened for business in February and were inundated with orders. Then, our partner in Hong Kong promptly closed for several weeks in honor of the Chinese New Year and we also went through quite a process of getting our vendor to fully understand that our clients are women who want custom-made men’s suits. This experience was painful. One of the results was that we lengthened the expected turnaround time for delivery of orders. We are grateful to our clients who overwhelmingly supported us through this learning lesson.

Why do communities need small businesses?    

Small businesses cater to, give back to, and provide employment for their communities. They bring innovation and new ideas into the marketplace.

Tell us about the impact you believe your small business has had on your community.    

Tomboy Tailors is only three months old, but already we have received an incredible out-pouring of gratitude and support from the LGBT, women’s, and San Francisco communities. We have also received local, national and international media coverage. People have also emailed us letting us know that they are so happy we are here and our existence is even helping teens in rural areas have more hope for their future. We have had requests for new stores in other cities, states and even countries.

It is very gratifying to know you just helped someone to get a great suit for their wedding, special event or day-to-day dapper look.

What has been most surprising to us and heartwarming is parents of lesbians thanking us for being here and for understanding what their child wants in clothing.