Clarita Farrugia – founder of Tom Boi

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Clarita is a 35 year old born and bred Melbournian, and the founder of Tom Boi clothing. She grew up in the South East suburbs and now lives in the wonderful and interesting St Kilda. Clarita comes from a close knit family with wonderfully supportive and caring parents that emigrated from Malta and she is very proud of her heritage and culture. It is the love and support from her family that enables Clarita to have no fear of failure in all that she does, and she is so thankful of this.

Clarita has always been a tomboy and has played with ‘boys toys’, which she found much more fun, educational and engaging. Having two older brothers also made access to the fun toys and activities accessible. Fast forward 30 years and Clarita is still a tomboy, and still gets excited about the same toys (except now they belong to her nephews)!

Clarita has a lifelong love of learning and pushing boundaries. If anything, it has just gotten stronger as she gets older. She’s never been one to do things just because that is what ‘should’ be done by society’s standards. And out of this mentality and strength grew Tom-Boi Clothing.

Some ideas take a bit of planning, but I like to visualise that it has already happened and that creates a motivation to get started.

Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?

In 2011 I moved to Brighton in the UK for a year to make an effort to become more social as I have a tendency to spend vast amounts of time alone. In my year abroad not only did I become much more comfortable with being social but I also discovered Topman! I have always preferred and worn boys clothes or hunted the clothes that most closely represent boys clothing in women’s stores but they were either hard to find or didn’t quite fit the way I would have liked.

I made some amazing friends in Brighton and soon came to realise that my clothing problem was shared by so many women all over the world, so one day in February 2012 whilst sitting on my parent’s balcony with my friend, we came up with the idea of Tom-Boi clothing. This was the answer to our problem – lets just create our own clothing range! At this stage it was just a fun idea that we’d hardly thought through, but with no fear of failure, the support of my family and seed funding from ShareTree, Tom-Boi clothing was born on Good Friday in 2012.

Please explain your business model (how do you make money?).

Part of the ShareTree charity model is to provide seed funding for new companies that then operate in their particular business model. 50% of the shares in Tom-Boi are owned by ShareTree as a silent partner and the other 50% I own. As part of the seed funding I am given business coaching throughout the start-up and for as long as I need it. A part of the funding model is that when I am successful, established and self-sustaining, I will then do the same for another business, and so the ShareTree companies grow.

Also, Tom-Boi functions under a new business model that is all about equality. ShareTree’s philosophy and aim is simple: “To Educate, Engage and Empower people to share their time and resources to promote greater equality and harmony in society.”

I am not in this at all for money, as I already feel rich with the amazing life I have been given. Studies have shown that the more money you have does not equate to being happier and that happiness relating to money maxes out at around $150,000 so the people that are at the head of companies making millions of dollars are responsible for the disparity in equality and earn way too much money while their employees are just scraping by. This is where we are different to other companies. Tom-Boi (and all ST companies) is capped at 30:1 meaning the highest paid employee will never earn more than 30 times more than the lowest paid employee.

The ratio at the moment in wealth distribution in companies around the world is 100:1. Almost half of the world’s wealth is owned by just 1% of the population and it has just been stated by Forbes magazine that the 85 richest people in the world have as much wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest.

It breaks my heart that as a human race we can be so greedy and unkind, so now I get the chance to make a difference, and that’s what we are doing at Tom-Boi. On top of this we also give 50% of net profits back into ShareTree to make it a self-sustaining charity that will be able to help millions.

What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months?

At the moment we are looking to expand brand awareness and build an honest and dependable rapport with our customers. Instead of rushing into expanding the range we want to build slowly and not come crashing down; we are in it for the long haul.

In saying that, we are however already planning the next product to compliment the underwear and add to the lounge wear range, but this won’t be released until later in the year.

In the next three months I am most excited about running our Ruby Rose signed underwear giveaway which will run in conjunction with Orange Is The New Black new season launch, where Ruby Rose is now an inmate at Litchfield Prison.

We are also sponsoring The Victorian Roller Derby League.

How do you make ideas happen?

Ideas come to me all the time at random moments so I make a note of them and then run them by my partner and see what she thinks. After that I meet with my awesome PR/Marketing team and see what their opinion is and then if it’s a good idea, we just get started on it. Some ideas take a bit of planning, but I like to visualise that it has already happened and that creates a motivation to get started. Once begun the idea is seen through to the end.

What does your typical day look like?

At the moment I still work for my brother’s company Vative, helping out in admin to make ends meet as Tom-Boi has only just launched and is breaking even at present (but this will change). So my day begins with a 5:30am wake up to exercise and get off to a fresh start and then it proceeds with all things Tom-Boi, and continue on as Vative.

For Tom-Boi, filling customer orders, emails and social media are always first up, followed by some research. One day a week is solely dedicated to Tom-Boi where I have meetings with The Ideas Library, my designer and any other people I need to meet with as well as spending plenty of time on the development of the brand.

What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?

One of the biggest challenges is postage and competing with the bigger global companies that have free shipping even though it really is built into the cost of the product (we are honest and open at Tom-Boi and have to charge for postage). Postage from Australia to the rest of the world is very expensive and I am sure it deters potential customers from abroad, given that our products aren’t overpriced so if ordering only one pair of underwear the postage can be more than the product! Our customers so far are all buying multiple pairs because they are really cool and super comfy undies – so why wouldn’t you want a draw full?!

What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?

Make sure you have a business mentor that can guide you through the ups and downs of starting a new business.

What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?

Businesses play the biggest role in social change and have the responsibility in making our world a better place to live. Consumer power is strong and it can make change that is needed, but it is the businesses that need to offer the method for this change. A really good example is with free range eggs. The more people were educated the more they stood up for truth and justice and now through consumer power, the majority of eggs in supermarkets are free range.

Tom-Boi is a ShareTree company and we give 50% of gross profits back into ShareTree as well as being capped at 30:1 (we will endeavour to stay even lower than that). If you have a choice between Bonds and Tom-Bo at both the same quality and product, which do you think consumers will chose?!

Imagine all businesses operated under the ShareTree model! The calculations have been done and this model has shown to wipe out poverty and only leave an upper and middle class. Now this is a world I want to live in, don’t you?

Speaking of affecting social change, is there a particular charity you’d like our readers to support?

Most definitely ShareTree as they are in their infancy and support now will create additional funding to help sprout new profit-share companies that are seed funded by ShareTree. Once ShareTree is up and running with successful businesses giving back a portion of their profits, they will become a self-sustainable charity that can focus on giving to others rather than fundraising activities.

Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.

The Virtues Project

Share Tree

Cymplar

Name an Australian we should follow on Twitter.

Jan Owen – CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA)

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?

At the moment we have an awesome product that has great feedback but we need help with marketing as that is a fair whack of the budget. I have an amazing team in The Ideas Library but every bit of exposure and extra marketing will be a massive help.

We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be?

What has the best ROI in marketing?

What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?

Oh a tricky one as I have so many, but my favourite restaurant at the moment is Ichi Ni Izakaya in St Kilda, and my favourite café for my much loved Sunday brunch is GiddyUp in South Melbourne.

 

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