SAN FRANCISCO – Zel Anders, owner of Tomboy Tailors, identified the need for custom tailored clothes within the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, but the idea only became a viable business after years of consideration. When she was ready to take action, Zel was referred by a friend to participate in training sponsored by the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). In 2012 she graduated from Renaissance’s Business Planning class, and is now having a huge impact on the LGBT community by offering custom-made, fine-quality clothing to individuals of any identity with a strong sense of self-expression.
“People tell us again and again that we are filling a much needed niche. We get visitors from as far away as Canada, France and Australia,” says Anders.
In 2012, Anders also attended Renaissance’s Successful Women in Business speaker series and received one-on-one consulting through the organization’s Women’s Business Center (WBC) and Financial Resource Center, which helped her secure a lease at the Crocker Galleria mall in downtown San Francisco.
Nationally, there are nearly 100 WBCs designed to assist women start and grow small businesses. WBCs operate with the mission to "level the playing field" for women entrepreneurs, who still face unique obstacles in the world of business. Through the management and technical assistance provided by the WBCs, entrepreneurs (especially women who are economically or socially disadvantaged) are offered comprehensive training and counseling on a variety of topics in many languages to help them start and grow their own businesses.
“We are delighted to have been the source of information, tools and support Zel needed to realize her dream of launching a business that would address the lack of fine clothing options for butch/boi lesbians, trans-masculine individuals, and women of any identity with a specific fashion sense,” comments Paula Connelly, Renaissance’s WBC Director.
Renaissance’s WBC offers a welcoming, positive community environment for all motivated people looking to start businesses, including women and members of the LGBT community. Renaissance’s classes and workshops have a built-in support system that ushers clients through the entire business trajectory: from the initial idea through growth and expansion. In addition to ongoing feedback, Renaissance clients have access to peer support, which is crucial when embarking on the journey of entrepreneurship.
“The SBA is proud to support Women’s Business Center program graduates as diverse as the Northern California district we serve,” said Mark Quinn, District Director for the San Francisco SBA District Office.
As an SBA Women’s Business Center (WBC), Renaissance offers special programming, including fashion business classes and daytime workshops that support women specifically. Since its inception in 1999, the Renaissance WBC has served over 10,000 women in every stage of business development. WBC clients represent a diverse population of gender identities, races, ethnicities, ages, and sexual orientations. For more information, please visit www.rencenter.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The San Francisco SBA District Office covers Alameda, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, San Francisco San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, and Sonoma Counties. In Fiscal Year 2012, the District guaranteed over 1,500 small business loans valued at $807 million. 125 banks, credit unions and community lenders participated in this program. Annually, the San Francisco District Office cohosts over 1,000 training events for over 50,000 Bay Area small businesses or prospective businesses from SBA resource partners.