Sutro Footwear Co-Founder Describes the “Immense” Imapct of COVID-19 on Small Businesses

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The co-founder of San Francisco-based Sutro Footwear describes the impact of COVID-19 on her small businesses, and is looking for silver linings.

About Sutro Footwear

Nooshin and Mehran Esmaili founded Sutro Footwear in 2010, though the pair met way back in 1981 while studying engineering at San Francisco State University. Based in San Francisco, California, Sutro specializes in leather boots and shoes for women and men and is a great example of an innovative, direct-to-consumer brand helping men dress sharp in the digital age.

I’ve been testing out a pair of Sutro’s Charleton boots with Vibram soles (pictured below), and really love the look and feel. (I’m planning a separate write-up to review the Charleton boots properly.)

Sutro-charleton-boots-review

Impact of COVID-19 on Sutro’s Business

I asked Nooshin about the extent to which their small business and the factories that they work with being impacted by the coronavirus.

“We are a small, family run business,” she said, “so unfortunately the economic impacts of the coronavirus on us are immense.”

“Like all small businesses, shutting down with limited reserves/funds, unpaid inventory, fixed overhead (i.e. rent, insurance, utilities, city taxes) and possibly health care for staff with no return date is not sustainable. Businesses running on low margins will not be able to bounce back nor rehire staff.”

Nooshin added that factories are impacted by disruptions to suppliers as well as by the loss of work force and limited production capacity. This chain of events lead to an impact on their production, distribution and consumer behavior.

“There will be a period of adjustment from [everyone from] suppliers to consumers,” she added.

Sutro-footwear-boots-review
Photo credit: Courtesy of Sutro Footwear

Adapting and looking ahead

I also asked Nooshin to describe how Sutro Footwear is adapting, and whether there are any silver linings.

“What small businesses have on their side is their adaptability and their creativity in how to realign with the changes,” she responded. “We are asking our customers to help us (and all their favorite small businesses) by purchasing gift cards.”

She added that small businesses are at the core of our democratic society.

“They are also deeply connected with their community,” Nooshin noted, adding that, “more local charity comes from small businesses than from outside sources.”

As for a silver lining?

“There is definitely a silver lining in all of this, but we have a feeling we will find it at the end of the quarantine period.”

Nooshin also observed that this period of quarantine has taught us that we have too much and need a lot less.

“Simple living is the key. Buy less, buy smart. Make every purchase worth it, by using it and wearing it.”

Support small businesses like Sutro Footwear

Small businesses may be adaptable, but they could use our support right now.

Sutro’s online shop is open for business, and you can buy their good-looking, handcrafted boots, shoes and more for women and men — or a gift card — via their website.

If you’re looking for other ideas of small businesses to help:

  1. Support one of the many innovative direct-to-consumer brands who are making (nonmedical) washable face masks for kids and adults;
  2. Discover an impressive lineup of innovative companies dedicated to giving in response to the COVID19 crisis via the new Brands for Better coalition;
  3. Jazz up your work from home clothing options via these innovative clothing companies that use athleisure fabrics for business casual and professional wear;
  4. Get ready for going back to the office by buying from companies that cater to professionals like one of my favorite custom online tailor Black Lapel or another one of my favorite handcrafted shoe companies Beckett Simonon; and
  5. Help your bleary, glued-to-the-computer eyes by purchasing blue light blocking glasses or selecting home try-on kits for prescription eyeglasses that can be delivered to your door.

About Jake

Jake is passionate about exploring entrepreneurs' global journeys. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs behind the innovative brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age.  Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and/or fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine, and has provided analysis on international business for BBC Radio, NBC News, CNN and Time Magazine.

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