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Fancy a suit? Dressing the part for business can build confidence, which can help not only in day to day business dealings but can be vital in a job interview situation. Suit the City is a company which knows the importance of looking professional. It is also a company that has taken full advantage of modern technology to tailor not just the suit, but the entire shopping experience to the needs of the customer. Workingmums.co.uk spoke to them.
Fancy a suit? Dressing the part for business can build confidence, which can help not only in day to day business dealings but can be vital in a job interview situation.
Suit the City is a company which knows the importance of looking professional. It is also a company that has taken full advantage of modern technology to tailor not just the suit, but the entire shopping experience to the needs of the customer.
The company was started around four years ago by entrepreneur Carol Rawson and Sallie Belton and provides a mobile service to customers. Basically, the customer can come to them or they can come to the customer. “It depends on the customer,” says Sallie, the company’s technical expert. “They can come to us and sit and relax while we go through the fabrics or we can go to them. We don’t just work 9-5pm. We are very flexible as a lot of our clients are busy people and have to work during the day. We try to fit in with them and make it as easy as possible.”
She adds: “We have had women come in who have had difficult finding suits to fit and have low confidence and we have seen them walk out ten foot tall. It is like they are different people. It can be such a transformation.”
Carol, who has a 14-year-old daughter and works flexibly around her, had the idea for the business around 20 years ago, but the technology did not exist then to start it up on a mobile basis. “We would have needed to buy a shop and operate from one place,” says Sallie. Initially it was aimed only at women. Sallie met Carol when she was doing a work placement with her during her business management course at Oxford Brookes University. Carol was running a training and consultancy business at the time, which she continues to manage on the side and which Sallie does “the odd bit of work for” too. “We talked about Suit the City and we decided to launch it while I was there. I came back when I had finished my degree,” she says. Neither Carol nor Sallie has a background in the fashion industry, although Carol, who started her career as a sales executive in the City before setting up her own businesses, has made her own clothes since she was 11 on account of being taller than average. Sallie says it took three and a half years for her to master how to measure someone for a suit and to understand latest fashion development and styles.
One of Suit the City’s big successes has been the creation of a “capsule wardrobe” which you can gradually add to. It works by the customer paying in a regular amount of money every month and Suit the City then ensure that every item they buy complements the basics they already have. Through the use of different accessories and items, says Sallie, they get the feeling that they are putting on a new outfit every day. For instance, they can add a bright jacket to a neutral suit. She adds that she spends a lot of time with clients to make sure they are happy with every aspect of their purchase, from the type of fabric to the colour and style.
Suit the City works closely with a Saville Row fabric specialist and they get in new fabrics each season. The business has been so successful that Sallie and Carol decided to launch it as a franchise in December. They want to have a broader reach as, at the moment, the business is based in a converted barn in Buckinghamshire, although they have a showroom in Saville Row in London. The franchise package, which costs £9,995, includes training in all aspects of the business, such as three weeks in the studio processing orders with Carol who is in charge of sales and marketing and three months on the job training with Sallie to build their confidence. Sallie says a franchise can be managed on a flexible basis. “You do not have to work every hour that God sends,” she says. “If you have a family then you can work flexibly around that, but you would have a sell an average of eight suits a month to get an income of £50K a year.”
Sallie says she doesn’t regret for a minute going straight into a small business rather than the corporate world. “Things are changing all the time here. There is always something new happening. I don’t think I would have learnt nearly as much in the corporate world.”