Hello! This is the first in a series of profiles showcasing the talented entrepreneurs of ShopHER, a pop-up incubator for women-owned small businesses in the DC Metro Region. Our first interview is with Tosca Metz, owner of T&U Cashmere.
Tosca, thank you for talking to us about T&U Cashmere and for sharing some of the story behind your business. First, tell us about T&U. What’s your business about?
T&U started with me and my college friend Una. I’ve always been interested in textiles, self-taught myself to sew and started designing clothes for myself when I was a child. I wanted to start a boutique with high-quality organic cashmere goods from our home country of Mongolia. I then design and hand make all my summer garments right here in DC. I’m very fortunate to have such strong relationships with local businesses in Mongolia because they enable me to select the best materials and products to represent my culture here in DC. Even if customers aren’t familiar with my country, they can see that we have very good quality winter clothing because of our harsh winters.
Our cashmere goods are sustainable, eco-friendly, and have a minimal carbon footprint. We don’t need to harm the goats to harvest the cashmere, which is naturally grown on the goats every year. This is how nomadic people of Mongolia make a living and so we’re also supporting the local economy.
It’s amazing that you both design and make the clothes yourself! How did you find out about ShopHER and what attracted you to the opportunity?
Well, after the pandemic began, I was forced to close my brick & mortar shop in Georgetown because it wasn’t sustainable. But I kept in contact with Georgetown Main Street and Georgetown business improvement district, which is how I found out about ShopHER. I then interviewed for a spot with Heidi Sheppard, who is a Project Director at DC Women’s Business Center, and T&U was accepted!
ShopHER currently houses thirteen women-owned small businesses selling clothing, jewelry, popcorn, candles, home goods, and art from all around the world. What do you like most about being part of this female collective?
It’s definitely an empowering and warm environment to work in because it includes moms – single moms especially – who are juggling their families and other jobs, and I can relate to that. They understand what I’m going through because they do the same thing. We help each other out in the shop by restocking each other’s displays or doing whatever else needs to be done. We just get it done! The vibe of the shop, just having them by my side, is especially important because I usually work alone so having that support is essential. Even if one week you can only cover a shift at the shop for an hour or so that day, it’s ok. Everyone is understanding.
That’s a rare environment to be in. Finally, if you could go back in time and speak to your younger self, what’s the one thing you wish you’d known about before starting a business?
I wish I’d had more open conversations with my father about finances. I think I get my entrepreneurial mind and ideas from him. He was very entrepreneurial, and I didn’t even realize that until he was gone. Financial literacy is something important that I’m trying to teach my children and I wish I could’ve known more about it before stepping into the world. Money is so hard to talk about even between family and friends and so I try to be more open and honest about it with my kids. I don’t want them to make the mistakes that I made.
Deb Almond, owner of Candid Almond, one of the ShopHER vendors.
Photo courtesy of Tosca Metz