Costanzo Clothing has been in business for 19 years. Co-Founders Tony and Tara Costanzo have ridden the highs and lows of small business ownership and attribute their success to innovation, perseverance, and their community of mentors and fellow business owners. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price recently learned more about the business.
NAN: Why did you decide to start your own business?
TARA COSTANZO: I have a background in broadcast, and before starting our business, I was employed in the marketing department of one of the local broadcast stations. Tony was focused on clothing sales. We’re both entrepreneurial minded, so one month after we got married, we decided to use our talents and skills to build our own business.
TONY COSTANZO: We thought if there was a time to start a business it was then. We didn’t have any children or a mortgage payment, so the risk versus reward was exciting. We decided to go for it!
TARA: When we started our business, I was at the height of my marketing career, which I really enjoyed. What I loved about it was helping people create new visions for their company. By doing that, I realized, I could really be doing this for myself. I’ve always been a better leader than a follower. So, I always felt like I was going to own my own business. I never knew what it was going to be. I think entrepreneurship, or being a dreamer, is instilled in your personality type.
TONY: Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, nor is being a business owner. Certain people need the 9-to-5. That’s just not who we are. Tara mentioned being a dreamer. The truth is, at the end of the day, very few people that will take that to heart and actually take it to another level. I love the saying: Everything you ever want in life is just outside of your comfort zone.
NAN: What’s it like working together as a married couple?
TONY: We’re a good combination. We both bring different aspects to the table—even though we’re both Type A personalities, which was challenging in the beginning! I love how Tara pushes me to swing for the fences. Running a business together certainly comes with its challenges, but we’ve been able to enjoy it together. And it’s fantastic!
NAN PRICE: What makes your company innovative?
TONY: The model has always been mobile, which simplifies our clients’ lives. We visit clients in the privacy of their home or office and help them build their wardrobe. By not having a brick-and-mortar, we have no inventory and we’re able to keep our costs very competitive with the marketplace.
TARA: When somebody calls us for the first time there, they often ask: Where’s your store? They’re excited to know we come to them. That option is enticing to busy professionals, often CEOs and company presidents who don’t have the time to shop or get to multiple stores. Their time is limited, so it helps to have a professional.
We don’t have a storefront, but we have our own private label and we have access to manufacturers all over the globe and mills that provide us with the finest fabrics. So, we can offer things people may have seen online but could never find in a store.
NAN: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your business? Any silver linings?
TARA: Being entrepreneurs, we’re always trying to find ways to get in front of our clients, and during the pandemic, it was extremely difficult to build personal connections with new clients. However, we were able to leverage our existing relationships and personal connections to get us through that unprecedented time.
TONY: Before COVID-19, we didn’t necessarily focus on weddings. We recognized, regardless of restrictions on the amount of people for social gatherings, people are still going to get married—and they’re still going to want to look their best.
TARA: Our personal connections and relationships have been essential in overcoming this pandemic. A specific example of this is our collaborations with wedding and event planners. We’re both very involved in the community and sit on a lot of local boards and gala committees. We’ve gotten to know some wedding and event planners in the area, and one of the wedding planners invited us to do an Instagram Live and share about our business and custom clothing.
We’ve always done special occasions, but moving forward, weddings is a permanent fixture in our business. I’ve been focused on growing that side of the business since COVID-19 and will continue to.
Technology advancements, including a digital look book and virtual fittings, have also helped us get through the pandemic. Our digital look book enables us to show our clients what we’ve chosen for them (fabrics, thread color, buttons, etc.) and how it’s going to look on them.
The funny thing is, even with all of the technology we can offer, our clients still want to meet us one-on-one. That says a lot about the relationships we form, because people want to buy from businesses and people they like—and that’s a huge compliment to us.
NAN: What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned or advice you have for other business owners?
TONY: Find the right mentor—someone you can confide in, who’s been there. Along the way, Tara and I have had some really great mentors. We always say our success is a result of our hard work and from being around the right circle of people.
TARA: You are who you hang out with—my mother always said that to me. I also add, be aware of who you get opinions from regarding your business. If you want to strive and be better, you need to be around the right people who are better than you so you’re always striving to get to the next level.
I had a really great mentor who always told me: The minute you get out of your comfort zone is when you get to the next level in your business. We’ve found that’s true. Every time Tony and I are uncomfortable about a decision or what our next move is, the minute we take a leap, it’s like all these blessings come our way.