Jean Foley: Co-Founder of Groomsman Suit - the creators of sharp-looking tuxedos and suits that can be purchased for less than the cost of a traditional rental

1. What’s your background, how did you arrive at your current role, and what are you most focused on right now?

I graduated with a Fine Arts degree in Fashion Design from the Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago and have engineered apparel fit and construction for 13+ years as a Technical Designer for major fashion brands such as Talbots, Abercrombie & Fitch and Under Armour.

I am the Co-Founder of The Groomsman Suit with Diana Ganz, my long time childhood best friend and now business partner! My daily focus is on Product Development, Operations, Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management, Creative Direction and as a company we are

always working on creating an exceptional Customer Experience!

 

2. Was there a turning point in your life or career that pushed you to become the female leader that you are today?

There were a series of 3 events in a short period of time that pushed me to start my own business.

Event 1: The right idea
I always wanted to start a business, but after working in the fashion industry for 13+ years I also knew how much it took to create and run a successful brand, not to mention the statistics on small business failure. I did always say that if I had the right idea, where I could take a calculated risk on something that could serve a large but easy to find demographic, I would go for it. In 2013 that "right" idea came to me when I got married. I asked 9 groomsmen to rent tuxedos from a big box store, I noticed the day-of my wedding that the tuxes didn't fit very well. No one complained so I didn't let it bother me. The day after my wedding I returned two of the tuxes for my brothers (because if you don't return them the day after, you get charged a fee!) when I dropped the tuxes off, I saw the receipt....$250 per tux! That's when I realized there could be an opportunity to provide a better option.
 
Event 2: Move to NYC
About 2 months after my wedding, my husband was promoted and his new position relocated us to NYC. I found a great job but I couldn't stop thinking about the suiting idea. Being in NY opened up so many possibilities to explore the idea and get samples made. I started to work on the concept on nights and weekends and it started to evolve into something substantial.
When I convinced one of my husband’s friends to order suits from me for his wedding and all of the guys loved them, I felt confident that this concept could work.
 
Event 3: Starting a family + finding the right partner
During the full year of planning and development, my husband and I were ready to start a family. This was a huge factor that pushed me toward wanting to start my own business and taking it more seriously. When I found out I was expecting a baby girl, I suddenly had a 9 month countdown. Thankfully, I had a brilliant best friend to turn to for business advice. Diana and I have been friends since the 3rd grade. She lived in Boston and had just graduated from MIT Sloan. She was running another business at the time, but openly offered help and advice. After a few weeks, I realized she was as enthusiastic about the concept as I was and we realized that we had something really special together. We decided to partner and launched TGS on a Kickstarter in February 2016, 2 weeks after welcoming my daughter Francesca into the world.

  

3. Can you go more in-depth about The Groomsman Suit?

 The Groomsman Suit started as a simple concept: Suits and tuxedos you will OWN for less than the cost of a rental. We wanted to give men a better option to the dreaded tuxedo rental by offering a better product, an easier (and fun) ordering experience, and of course exceptional customer service. TGS has evolved into a suiting brand for Men, Women and Kids that is focused on providing the best possible customer experience! We now have 3 showroom locations (Philly, Chicago, and Denver) and ship thousands of orders a month nationwide. We have written hundreds of helpful articles to help couples plan their big day and partner with other niche wedding brands to bring the best possible products to our customers, at an affordable price. We also offer convenient tools for ordering online such as free fabric swatches, a free home try-on, and a fit finder that will predict your fit with 90% accuracy, without having to take a single measurement! Getting suited up for weddings has never been easier or better looking! We offer one of the largest size ranges of any suiting brand so we take pride in being able to suit up a wide variety of body types and sizes and get a close to custom fit for a fraction of the price!

 

4. How has being a woman affected your experience as an entrepreneur, if at all?

Right now is such a wonderful time for female entrepreneurs! There are so many great networks of supportive female founders, women who have blazed the trail before us and opportunities to support other female founders getting started. I think being female founders, especially of a menswear brand, has given us a unique edge. The suiting industry has historically been dominated by men. We take pride in bringing a fresh perspective and better experience to couples shopping for special occasion suiting, which in our experience has been a very underserved market.

 

5. What is something you wish you had known before starting a company?

I am glad I didn't actually know a lot (if anything) about running a business when I set out to start TGS. I was very naive in many ways but also lived by the philosophy that I would "figure it out" and I think that actually worked in my favor. The smartest thing I did was ask a friend for help and recognize the value in a partnership. Had I known what I know now, I am not sure if I would have been brave enough to take it on. When we look back at all we have accomplished (and all of the obstacles we encountered and pushed through) it is really amazing. I'm glad I didn't know what I know now but I am beyond thankful for everything that I have learned along the way. I also know there is still so much more to learn and do, which is the fun and exciting part about starting and running a company!

  

6. Best and worst advice you’ve ever received?

  • Best advice: Stop asking for permission.
  • Worst advice: Customers will have a hard time trusting a woman founder of a menswear business.

 

7. Last question to keep things real, what was your very first job and is there anything from that job that still serves you in your role today?

My very first job was teaching dance classes to toddlers! I grew up basically living at my dance studio after school and summers in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I took every class I possibly could and it became a second home to me. The owners hired me to teach youth classes when I was in high school and it was the BEST experience ever.

  • I learned that showing up prepared and on time is important.
  • I learned that jobs that you can actually look forward to (and even love) doing DO exist.
  • I learned that doing a little extra than what is expected of you goes a long way and it feels better to give than to get.
  • I learned patience
  • I learned the feeling of being appreciated when a job is done well.

I value all of these things still today and feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to have such a wonderful first job experience. I also used ALL of my savings from working 3 years at the dance studio to pay for a summer program at Parsons School of Design one summer before my senior year in high school. It was then I knew I had to pursue a career in fashion! These lessons and the experience it gave me beyond the dance studio was very influential to where I am today.