Fran Dunaway (CEO/Cofounder) and Naomi Gonzalez (COO/Cofounder) | Seattle, Washington | Retail


“Without digital tools I don’t know how we would have been able to survive or be there for our community during the pandemic.”

Fram Dunaway, TomboyX| Seattle, Washington

Fran Dunaway just wanted a button-up shirt that fit well. She never set out to found a business with her wife Naomi Gonzalez. But life sometimes leads us in unexpected directions. Fran’s frustration led to a Kickstarter campaign for a shirt company that ultimately evolved into TomboyX, a fast-growing underwear company, with the aim of providing comfort to many who felt unserved by traditional clothing brands. The kind of comfort that Fran and Naomi hoped to provide was more than just in the fit of their clothes — they also set out to provide resources, empathy, and support to the communities that would eventually become their customer base. Fran and Naomi brought their shirt-turned-underwear concept to a Shopify platform in 2012 and started selling directly to customers and TomboyX was born. With the onset of COVID-19, digital tools and social media enabled TomboyX to deliver on its community goals. A grateful community used the company’s e-commerce platform to keep a business they believed in going strong amid a global recession.

The company’s success has a lot to do with its focus on comfort and quality, but they also believe it has everything to do with the company’s core values. “As we always say, TomboyX has an agenda, and it’s not simply a feminist agenda or a gay agenda but a human agenda that says we are all people,” Fran says. “We see TomboyX as a rebel champion sticking up for what’s right because that’s what tomboys do.”


of Retail industry used digital payments pre-crisis, on average

This pre-crisis digital readiness also included use of websites (71%), and social media (72%), and a majority (64%) increased use of these tools during the crisis.

The mechanics of the business rely heavily on digital tools. YouTube was particularly helpful during the Kickstarter campaign and is something the company has been refocusing on this year. Instagram and Facebook have been central to the business’ strategy from the beginning. The company supplements its social media strategy with advertising on platforms such as Google Ads and Pinterest. G Suite and associated tools such as Gmail and Calendar are critical. Other tools that played a big part came from and Adobe Creative Suite to Klaviyo, Moz, AB Tasty, Canto, Attest, and a host of others. A TomboyX favorite is the marketing attribution platform Rockerbox, which integrates other important tools for the company such as Google Analytics.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Fran and Naomi’s attention turned to their customers. They created a list of resources to help those in need — covering everything from mental health to homelessness — and the company used social media to communicate with and provide support to its community in a listening and empathetic capacity. At the same time, TomboyX gained a deeper understanding of marketing analytics and customer insights by investing more fully in Rockerbox and the analytics that fed into it, such as Google Analytics.


of SMBs found digital tools more helpful to them during the crisis than pre-crisis.

Most SMBs (53%) also plan to continue to use more digital technologies in their business, even after the pandemic.

The company also turned to Google’s Find My Audience tool to help refine its targeting and track what was trending with the Google Trends feature. While TomboyX had initially braced for a steep decline in sales, something remarkable happened: products began selling out. The customers that made up TomboyX’s tight-knit digital community were looking for something familiar and comfortable at an unnerving time. And, as Fran and Naomi will tell you, there was no way TomboyX would have been able to provide any of it without the digital tools that fueled their business from the start.

“Without digital platforms, there would never have been a TomboyX to begin with,” notes Fran.


“Without digital platforms, there would never have been a TomboyX to begin with,” notes Fran. “And without digital tools,” Naomi adds, “I don’t know how we would have been able to survive or be there for our community during the pandemic.”

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