Suit-A-Bull expands after year in SVC

At a Dress for Success event in March, Suit-A-Bull staff dressed students and took professional headshots free of charge.
Special to the Oracle

After a year in its new permanent location, Suit-A-Bull (SAB), an on-campus resource that provides free formal attire rentals for students, has grown in inventory and usage while setting a goal to grow even more in the year to come.

In the summer of 2015, SAB stopped being the service run out of closets, moved around from year to year for eight years. It got its own shop on the second floor of SVC and consistent hours. A year later, Enactus at USF President Priyeshwar Sodhi said he felt the service has expanded greatly.

“It was a big leap coming from just a small closet space in the bookstore to its own 700-square-foot space next to the Career Services with a modern, sleek layout,” Sodhi said.

SAB was the brainchild of Enactus at USF, a student organization that uses entrepreneurship to do community outreach projects. One such community outreach project is SAB, a partnership between Enactus at USF and Career Services.

In 2007, USF was considered by employers to be one of the most underdressed universities at career fairs, which sparked the idea for SAB. 

“It’s actually a true solution to the problem,” Sodhi said. “In the last two years, career fair employers when asked again say there (has) been a drastic improvement over the years for USF students and they see that improvement not just in their attire but in their professionalism.”

Before the permanent location in SVC, Sodhi estimated inventory at around 50 to 70 suits. Now, he estimates that number at more than 500 suits, including men’s and women’s.

This increase was largely due to the drive SAB held upon securing the SVC location, the Deans and Vice Presidents Challenge, in which competing colleges and divisions donated suits for points. The College of Behavioral and Community Sciences won the competition with 21,400 points.

As SAB has grown into its storefront, student use has also expanded. According to a SAB Student Satisfaction Report provided by Communications and Marketing Officer for Career Services Peter Thorsett, approximately 190 students used SAB services during Spring Career Fair Week in February. 

The largest group of those users consisted of freshman students, at 38.8 percent.

“We’re starting to see with more freshmen and sophomores using the career fairs and the internship fairs and the part-time job fairs to secure employment earlier in their college careers so that they’re getting the right experience for their resume, it’s driving a need for more of this kind of service, more of this kind of apparel,” Thorsett said.

According to Thorsett, SAB services reached more than 650 students during the 2015-16 academic year.

Even with improvements, SAB is not without challenges. 

Staff members are most often Enactus members, so keeping membership up is necessary to keep up with use and demand. SAB is looking to hire in the fall to keep up with hour expansions. As of mid-Spring 2016, work-study students can now be employed at SAB. 

Laundering costs can also present problems, as SAB is a nonprofit organization. Suits are laundered after every use, which means with increased servicing, dry cleaning bills can start to stack up.

However, new partnerships, such as the financial support of Northwestern Mutual that SAB recently acquired, can help diminish those costs.

Thorsett attributes much of the success of SAB to the Enactus students and also Graduate Assistant Kristofer Stubbs who helped run the operation.

Currently, SAB is lacking in smaller sizes for women’s suits and larger sizes for men’s suits, which will be the goal of the new Corporate Challenge drive, whose confirmed participants include Northwestern Mutual and Enterprise Rent-A-Car so far.

The processing component of accepting donations takes a long time, which is why SAB does not accept donations throughout the year. Instead, SAB holds large drives in order to divert manpower to sifting through donations for a smaller window of time.

Keeping SAB up and running and in a position to continue to thrive is important to not only Thorsett and Sodhi but those students who depend on the service. 

When a student goes to SAB, a staff member will help them put together full formal attire catered to the occasion, which the student rents for 24 to 48 hours. Students can also rent individual formal pieces. 

Sodhi said the program often has repeat customers who use the service for career fairs and job interviews.

“The team has been so helpful and so welcoming with these people that they know when they come in what suit they want, who they want to talk to, so it’s kind of like, they just come in, get the suit and they don’t even have to try it on because they’ve been there so many times,” Sodhi said. “They know that that’s their suit.”

In the SAB Student Satisfaction Report, 80 percent of users surveyed who received an interview or presentation with a potential employer said they believed that SAB helped them secure a job.

The goal in the upcoming year, according to Sodhi, will be to further expand SAB’s services, hosting more events, like Dress for Success where students are given advice on formal attire and have professional headshots taken, in order to bring in more students and get them excited about the program and Enactus. Sodhi said the hope is to make Dress for Success a monthly event.

“We want to provide students the (freedom) in their mind that whenever they need professional attire … they can just come to us and we’ll be there to help them out in any way that we can,” Sodhi said. “The goals of Suit-A-Bull (are) to expand to the surroundings, be able to provide the service … and make sure that anyone who needs professional attire doesn’t go unnoticed.”