Small Business Spotlight: Made-to-Order Suits with Roberts

First Republic Bank

May 2, 2016

Small Business Week Roberts Apparel

Co-founded by husband and wife Jeremy Roberts and Mihal Freinquel, Roberts offers American-made suiting that's designed, chalked, stitched and draped just for you. Roberts takes the notoriously exhausting and confusing process of buying a luxury suit and simplifies it down to the essentials; it fits impeccably because they construct it based on your measurements, all of your options have been narrowed down for you, and they come directly to your home or office for fittings. Roberts is currently taking orders in Portland, Los Angeles and New York City. We sat down with Jeremy and Mihal to discuss what makes Roberts unique, the best piece of business advice they’ve received and why Small Business Week is important.

“Build a strong connection with people, and anything that's meant to follow will.”

What was the inspiration behind starting Roberts?

Jeremy: I spent years apprenticing and working in NYC as a tailor. When Mihal and I moved to Portland a few years ago, I had the relentless urge to figure out a way to take the craftsmanship and process of tailored suiting and make it more accessible — not just physically more accessible but also conceptually. I wanted to appeal to my generation and show guys that a little investment goes a long way, and beautiful suiting doesn't have to be pretentious or confusing.

What differentiates your business from other designers? 

Jeremy: What differentiates Roberts is ease. There are plenty of beautiful suits out there — and we're fans of a few really incredible brands and designers — but we eliminate the headache that comes with finding the most perfect suit for you. We take the guess-work out of the fit, the embellishment options and come to you so you don't have to deal with crowds or sales staff.

Roberts focuses on high-quality, made-to-measure suiting. Why did you decide to focus on that market? 

Jeremy: That's what I wear and love. We're going with what we know. 

Would you consider Roberts' brand a reflection of your own personality? How important is branding in differentiating your business? 

Mihal: Aesthetically, the brand definitely reflects Jeremy. As far as messaging and tone, I'd say it's more a reflection of me. In the luxury suiting space, the tone is pretty conservative most of the time. In building our own brand, it was really important that Roberts be authentic to us — how we speak, the world we live in, and our values. So we decided to loosen the tie a little. This is definitely one of the ways we differentiate ourselves — and we have an awesome CMO, Dushane Ramsay, who's keeping us in check along the way. 

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?

Jeremy: My master tailor in NYC told me that people will know you make suits. It's not about selling people on your suits. Build a strong connection with people, and anything that's meant to follow will. 

Other than Small Business Week, what can other businesses and customers do to support local businesses? 

Mihal: I think focusing on a few key components of your life — for example groceries, gift-giving and weekend activities — and trying to go with the local business option. You don't have to go big or go home — start small and see where it works for you to integrate the smaller guys, then work your way toward getting broader. 

What is the biggest hurdle you have had to overcome as a small business owner? 

Jeremy: I've attempted to create brands in the past and have failed because I tried to do it all on my own. The learning was huge — a dynamic, talented and dedicated team is essential. I don't know everything, and I love being able to lean on people for their expertise. 

As a small business owner, what accomplishment gives you the most pride? 

Jeremy: We're really proud of the conceptualizing process that's gotten us to where we are now. We had a lot of ideas of how Roberts could function — and the process of iterating over and over, and getting feedback and iterating some more — we're proud of continuing to learn even after we've landed on a concept that we feel really good about. We're proud to stay fluid, even when we feel we're somewhere solid.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of First Republic Bank.

© First Republic Bank 2016