Welcome to our Interview series, where we chat with inspiring and innovative female entrepreneurs who are empowering women and positively impacting their local communities. This week, we chatted with Sam Conover, owner of popular lingerie store Broad Lingerie in Toronto, Ontario.
Sam Conover of Broad Lingerie
On Social Media
Parfait Team: What's the secret to creating a memorable experience for customers?
Sam Conover: Our customers appreciate that we post photos of bras on the bodies of ourselves, our friends and our customers rather than just posting highly edited shots of professional models or flatlays. They like seeing how a bra might fit on a body similar to theirs!
PT: What are your tips for connecting with your customers?
SC: Stay true to yourself and your customer base. Our customers appreciate that we’re a little scrappy, a little goofy and nerdy. If we posted highly polished “aspirational” images and quotes our customers would know we were faking it!
PT: How do you reach out to potential customers in your local community?
SC: Eye-catching window displays and donations to charity events.
PT: What works best for you for engaging with your customers?
SC: Instagram is our best tool for social engagement. People really love pretty pictures of pretty things!
On The Lingerie Industry
PT: What is your favorite lingerie trend at the moment?
SC: My favourite trend is the return to unlined cut-and-sew bras. T-shirt bras have dominated the market for so long, and as a bra fitter I know seamed bras work for a wider variety of shapes and sizes. Plus it’s nice to see something that offers a shape aside from two perfect half-spheres.
PT: Do you believe we will one day see women of all shapes and sizes in fashion magazines, movies, and throughout the media?
SC: Nope. We’re moving towards more diversity in the media, but it’s a slow, bumpy roll. It’s really hard to envision of future where all sizes (like really ALL sizes and ALL shapes) are regularly without fanfare shown in the media. And it’s hard to realistically envision a future where these differently sized people shown in the media are not just cis women, not just white women. I hope that day comes and I hope we get closer to that day...but we’re not gonna get there overnight, and we’re not going to get there by featuring a token hourglass-shaped size 16 model every once in a blue moon.
PT: Where do you see the lingerie industry in 10 years?
SC: I see two possible (and possibly co-existing) paths for the lingerie industry. One path is continuing in the tech-heavy, online-centric, self-service vein with things like Bra Fit Yourself Apps, 3-D printed custom underwires and subscription services. The other path is a more service and experience oriented path where people go bra shopping not just to buy things but to be part of a community and to be cared for and known on a person-to-person basis.
On The Challenges Business Owners Face
PT: What challenges have you faced as a business owner?
SC: Matching my big dreams to my small budget! There are so many things I want to do with Broad - but those things take time and money. So running the business is always a game of figuring out what I can spend on and what has to wait. I have a perfectionist streak, so it’s hard knowing that there are changes I could make, but I have to hold off on for now.
PT: What are your tips for overcoming challenges?
SC: Overwhelmed with an overflowing to-do list? Get a box. Write the date of the next year on the box. If your problem does not need to be immediately addressed, it can probably wait until next year. Write the problem down and put it in the box and don’t look into the box until that year comes around. When you open the box you’ll find most of the problems are actually not really that important. I did this in my first year. One of the problems I wrote down to address in 2017 was “wall paint is slightly too pink.”
PT: What is most rewarding for you as a business owner?
SC: Being able to shape the kind of space I’d want to work in or shop in. With Broad I’m trying to build a place that values respect, communication and compassion both on the sales floor and in the back rooms. Everything is connected - how you treat your staff (and how your staff treat each other) affects how customers are treated and vice-versa. Broad isn’t perfect and is limited by things like money, time and resources, but I’m really proud of what I’ve created so far.
On Success and The Importance of Role Models
PT: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting their business?
SC: Research, research, research! Talk to other business owners. Make a business plan. Have actual experience in the industry you’re entering!
PT: Who are your role models and why?
Cora Harrington of the Lingerie Addict
Jeanna Kadlec of Bluestockings Boutique
Erica of A Sophisticated Pair
All three of these people were (and continue to be) inspirational to me. I’m forever in awe of the bravery, truth-telling and toughness of these women. I appreciate how each of them followed their own path to build something unique and true to self. They’re a refreshing break from the often homogeneous lingerie world.
PT: What does success mean to you?
SC: Success means being able to sustain a business that fulfills its mandate (making bra and swimwear shopping an easier and more enjoyable experience for busty people), employing good people and growing a community. I don’t run this business with dreams of becoming rich. As long as I can support myself, my employees and my business can thrive, then I’m successful!
PT: What your keys to success?
SC: Passion, patience and determination.
On The Best Advice She Has Ever Received
PT: What's the best advice you've ever received?
SC: To view my business as a continuous process of improvement. There is no perfect!
Sam Conover is the owner of Broad Lingerie, a lingerie store located in Toronto, Ontario.
Store Address: 1763 Danforth Avenue, in Toronto, Ontario M4C 1J1
Phone Number: 647-725-6838
Website: Broad Lingerie
Check out our conversation with Sam about Broad Lingerie here.