Cowgirl Tuff’s relatively recent success seems as if it came overnight, but lots of years of hard work are responsible for their spot on top of the western wear fashion world. Here, in her own words, is the story of Lisa Bollin and the dream she made come true.
In 1999, Lisa had a dream to own her own clothing company. With the support of her husband and partner, Kirk, and their daughter Lexie, they started on a journey. That journey has brought them so far, inspired many, and has become a dream come true!
Cowgirl Tuff provides “unbelievable fit” for any body type
Cowgirl Tuff Co. started in the little town of Litchfield, MN. The company that is busting out at the seams sits in the middle of a field that was farmed by Lisa’s father, Wayne, (aka Grandpa.) Lisa started printing tops and retailing them at many of the major barrel racing events throughout the U.S. When she realized she couldn’t keep up with the demand, she looked into wholesale. Lisa went to her first wholesale market in 2004, and at that market landed 18 stores!
Over the last 7 years, 18 stores have turned into 1,500 and are still growing. In 2008, Lisa wanted to try her luck in designing a fashionable western jean, with an emphasis on comfort. That she did! Her jean line is making a name for itself in a BIG way in the apparel market. Lisa is not slowing down. She has decided to get the cowboys looking fashionable as well. In 2011, the men’s B. Tuff line was launched to much acclaim.
Lisa’s journey has been a dream come true. She has hit bumps along the way, but with those bumps, she has always lived by her motto: “Even though you’ve been bucked, kicked, bit, & stomped… NEVER GIVE UP!”
1. Who or what inspires or inspired you?
Peoples’ stories… I am always inspired by people who overcome obstacles to make their dreams come true no matter what! People who never give up on themselves and believe they can achieve whatever they really want. It is so powerful when someone stays positive and doesn’t let negative thoughts or negative people hold them back.
2. How & when did you get started in the clothing business?
I remember in high school redesigning all my clothes so I would be different than everybody else… hand painting tees and sewing up new creations. After graduation I went to school for fashion merchandising and design. I then managed clothing stores and worked in display departments. I feel I have a very full background of understanding selling to the end customers and what women really look for in their clothes.
3. What is your family’s role in Cowgirl Tuff Company?
Huge part! My husband and daughter have been there 100% of the way working and supporting this huge dream. My husband is my full partner in the business. He has been there in the lean times and now in the extremely busy times. My daughter has been raised with Cowgirl Tuff and has worked in every department. My parents have always been supportive of my dream of becoming a designer.
4. How many horses do you own and what are your goals with them?
**Bird is my 21 year boy who is a major part of the creation of Cowgirl Tuff Co. He was the horse that really made me a better barrel racer and made me work really hard for the things I wanted to accomplish. A lot of my slogans were inspired from him. It is his picture that is on a lot of our tags. He has been an amazing horse and is now semi-retired due to ringbone. He has such a huge heart and ran many years in pain but he truly loved his job! He still loves to just run around the cans for the fun of it. I was truly blessed to have such a wonderful partner.
**Spider is 14 years and is my “Fun Run” boy who is a turnin’ machine and can run on any ground! He is the guy I can put anybody on so they can just have fun. I am planning on getting him to more rodeo runs this year.
**Mater (Dash of Kelly) is my future! He is a big 16 hand 6 year old this year. I bought him last year from Shelly Murphy. She did such a great job starting him. It has been really hard to replace Bird but I feel this is the guy. He is a big ol’ puppy dog with a large stride and smooth turns, a true pleasure to ride. We had a late start to the futurities but watch out this year as we are ready to hit the derbies.
I am so excited to haul a lot more this year, the past few years have been spent building Cowgirl Tuff and making some well worth sacrifices.
5. What impact have horses had on your business?
Huge ! I feel I have the upper hand compared to some western apparel companies as I truly live the lifestyle. I am just like our end customers.
I barrel race, trail ride, haul down the road, bale hay, clean stalls, and really enjoy every aspect of the cowgirl life.
6. What do you think makes your clothing unique compared to other clothing companies?
I feel Cowgirl Tuff Clothing is unique because I am the designer, not someone hired from another competitor’s company. My studio is in my barn next to my horses and the smell of hay on our 40 acre ranch in small town USA not in a corporate office in a large city. I like to look out my window to watch my horses running ‘n’ playing. It keeps me grounded and in touch to real life. I also compete at rodeos, events and races which keeps me in tuned with fellow cowgirls.
7. What is something that would surprise people about you?
I really like days off with no make-up, undone hair and clothes that don’t match. Ha haa, those are the “ain’t my days to care.”
8. How did the idea of Cowgirl Tuff come to you?
I love mainstream fashion and all the fun of styles and trends. Back in 1999 I decided to try a new concept that I hadn’t seen in the western apparel before, bringing some mainstream looks and blending with western. I wanted to offer a more stylish sportswear line to cowgirls. I live in comfy jeans and tees everyday… but with some bling & cool embellishments. The name Cowgirl Tuff has many meanings to me, it started out with the thought how Tuff you have to be with some horses and the lifestyle. The slogan “Even though you’ve been bucked, kicked, bit & stomped….. Never Give Up” came from being raised with not the nicest of horses and today I live by it because life can kick ‘n’ stomp you but you can Never Give Up. It drives me to be more persistent and determined to do the best I can. We hear so many inspiring stories of how our name & slogan helps people get through those “tuff” times in life.
9. What’s your favorite pastime? (besides horses and work.)
Doing anything I can outside… I am a true tomboy at heart. Getting dirty and not living by a clock!!
10. Where is your favorite place to vacation?
Lake Tahoe took my breath away… it feels like God’s country. But, really anytime I can ride horse all day is the best days and always feel like vacation.
11. What would you consider was the most important achievement you have had up to this point?
JEANS! Right now I am so thrilled to hear how much women love our jeans. Being an average size woman and knowing how hard it is to find comfortable, stylish jeans! Before I designed my own jeans… I hated to try on 12 pairs of jeans and you might find 1 pair that would work. We have so many women who can wear all our jeans no matter size, height, age, etc… it doesn’t matter! They fit! Achievement has been to hear woman feel good wearing our jeans! That is amazing!