Long maligned by comedians for our fashion sense, TomboyX founders Fran Dunaway and Naomi Gonzalez know lesbians have a style all our own. That’s why they created the comfy, chic and totally unique TomboyX collection, designed to fit the eclectic, rough-around-the-edges lesbian aesthetic.
What do you do and why?
We saw a need for a clothing line that recognizes the white space between menswear and women’s wear. We were tired of frilly, patterned clothing made for 20-year-olds. One day Naomi asked me, “How hard can it be to start a clothing line?” Ha!
What did you do before you started your company?
I am a partner in a media strategies firm and produce political ads for democrats and campaigns nationwide. Naomi is a sports massage therapist and was on staff for the U.S. Women’s Olympic Soccer team when they won gold in Athens.
What’s the single most important piece of advice you received when first starting your company? What would you tell a young entrepreneur in turn?
My dear friend Sue sent me a Goethe quote that I printed and put on the wall. The condensed version is: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
What aspect of business ownership came as the biggest surprise to you?
The challenges associated with raising money.
What do you find most rewarding about owning your own business?
Having had an idea, then implementing plans with Naomi. We are partners in business and in life. We became financees (I like to say Beyonce because she put a ring on it) a few months ago and are still going strong. There is no way we could have come this far without the other being part of it. This is an all consuming endeavor. At least, I get to spend all this time working with someone I love and respect so much.
Where do you see yourself / your company in five years?
To be an internationally recognized brand that women feel represents the proactive, confident and courageous parts of themselves. We want to have a full line of clothing for women of all sizes, of varying backgrounds and varying levels of tomboyishness. We want women to feel seen and recognized by a brand that represents their independent spirit.
What resources would you recommend to someone who is contemplating starting her own business?
Perseverance. Courage. Determination. A solid, well-thought out business plan, mentors in the business you’re seeking to get into and three to six months of financial reserves in the bank. Also, don’t quit your day job. Plug away until you reach success. And a rich aunt wouldn’t be a bad thing either.
What obstacles did you face in establishing your company and how did you overcome them?
We didn’t have any fashion experience so we just jumped in. Today, we know so much more than we did two years ago. I’m a big believer in informational meetings. I ask a lot of questions. So every time we got to the next chapter in the book “Fashion for Dummies,” we’d find someone with pertinent experience and set up a meeting. We’ve had some incredibly generous people offer guidance and advice every step of the way. We brought on advisors in a more formal capacity who we could rely on for ideas, encouragement and suggestions. I think we’ve tried to remain open to all recommendations, but at the same time have kept true to our personal vision.
Is there anything we didn’t ask you about that you’d like to share with our readers?
I think that sometimes it’s challenging for people who aren’t trying to run a small business to realize that reaching a vision takes time and baby steps. We often hear from people about expanded sizes, more styles and cheaper prices. Of course, we want to get there, but we had to start somewhere. Despite what it might look like, we really are three women working on this for no salary, out of a garage. It takes most small businesses three to five years to hit profitability, so the most that our community can do is support small businesses and understand that we are listening and we care, but give us time to get there. We don’t have the funding of a big brand. We’re working hard to stake a claim in a fashion industry that has ignored us for too damn long. So help us show them that we are a force to be reckoned with and wear TomboyX with pride.