This is me: Sara Jeffery, Tribal Riders shop founder & snowboarder

Sara Jeffery, co-founder of Tribal Riders Snow & Surf Store chats the love of shred, learning through the “school of hard knocks” and why more shops need female buyers

If you had said to me ten years ago that I would be running a snowboard and surfwear store in Norwich I’d have laughed at you! But that’s what life is all about isn’t it? You never know what might be around the next corner!

Born and raised on the Island of Guernsey I’ve always been a water baby. I’ve always loved the surf scene from the people to the clothing, decked out in Roxy and Rip Curl from an early age, which is probably where my love for all things fashion came from. I could have a wardrobe consisting of just bikinis if I’m honest.

I’ve been working in retail since I was a teenager and ended up in a job in marketing for a large company in Guernsey. Then my whole life direction changed when I met my now husband and we opened ‘Tribal Riders – Snow & Water’ nearly three years ago.

Snowboarding was always something I’d watched with my brother when we were kids. It was on my bucket list of things to try but seeing as there are no mountains, indoor domes or even dry slopes anywhere near Guernsey I’d never had a chance to try it…little did I know that when I did, it would change my life forever.

My first experiences of snowboarding were certainly via the ‘school of hard knocks’. I had some nasty injuries early on, but it never put me off, you just have to get up, dust yourself off and jump back on your board.

I love everything about snowboarding, from the rush you get from landing that new trick to the amazing feeling of riding with my snow buddies. Just as with surfing there’s a definite ‘group’ mentality to snowboarding, hence our shop name actually, we’re a tribe of people; Tribal Riders in fact.

It was this passion for snowboarding that my husband and I shared that made us want to open a snowboard store. And not just any store, somewhere to suit everyone from the core to casual but most of all a shop that properly caters to women just as much as the guys.

One thing I quickly noticed at industry events was how few and far between female shop owners and buyers are. In fact many stores believe that there just isn’t a big female snowboard market…I couldn’t disagree more. Not only is there a massive women’s snowboard scene but it is also growing each year. I think it was the stores that didn’t have the right product or advice that was the problem. I do think it definitely helps talking women to women at times and I do tend to have a glass half full attitude and am clearly stoked on all things snow, water and fashion related, so find I seem to transfer some of my enthusiasm at times!

So what do female snowboarders want? I would say, as a female snowboarder myself, choice, good advice, first hand knowledge and great products!

When we look at our winter hardware range all of our staff ride and test the boards and bindings and it is so rare to have a women testing alongside them. But I am there pushing it hard just like the guys and as such we feel we have fantastic knowledge of what we choose to buy in.

Getting the right hardware advice is so important. When I was first learning to ride I know I didn’t get the right advice and having the wrong gear really does make a difference to your confidence and progression. Then, I got what I consider to be my first ‘proper’ board, an Arbor beauty and everything changed for me.

I see girls everyday come in store or call us that are on boards that are completely wrong for them and their confidence is so knocked they nearly give up. But that feeling when we set them up with the right gear and they come back and tell us how amazing they now feel and how much fun they’ve had, just makes my day! After all we do snowboarding because it’s fun!

One thing I adore doing in store is personal shopping, which definitely goes back to my teens where I loved picking clothes for my best friends and even my mum. I’ve always had a good eye for what will suit people, no matter what shape or size and this has translated in to what I do now.

When I ‘buy’ for the seasons jackets and pants I try everything on so I personally know all of the fits, because lets face it ladies, we all come in lots of different shapes and sizes, and then I create capsule collections from each brand. We then also ensure that the overall women’s buy has something for everyone, from budgets to colours, styles to shapes, which is probably why we have one of the best women’s ranges around.

Likewise with the year round general clothing we do I always try to cater for lots of tastes and fits. This year I’ve definitely seen a massive shift for the surf and snow brands to venture in to a lot of gorgeous knit wear which has of course carried through into my own wardrobe.

Oh and in case you were wondering, the buying trips really are how you’d imagine them to be, basically massive shopping trips, I’m like a kid in a candy store!

Owning a shop is hard, busy work but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat that’s for sure. Not only do I love what I do and work in an industry I have a real passion for, but I have also made life long friends though the shop too. We run snowboard trips every year along with tons of events and each time I seem to increase my riding crew. There’s nothing like boarding with my ‘girls tribe’, we push each other, laugh together and progress every time and I will be eternally grateful to snowboarding for giving me that.

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