“We’re not really that into ties” is a strange comment from a man who along with a college classmate founded a company dedicated to creating custom bow ties, neckties, scarves and more. And yet, this is the true story of Knotty Tie Co., a company founded by Jeremy Priest and Mark Johnson. As Johnson clarifies, for both he and Priest, it was always about creating meaningful employment opportunities for an underserved, though talented group of people: resettled refugees and asylum-seekers. They began by considering what skills this population might have or could readily learn and the concept for the business grew from there.
Knotty Tie Co.’s social mission includes three guiding visions: to utilize skills to remove initial linguistic and cultural barriers to economic self-sufficiency; to create a supportive workplace with fair wages, flexible schedules and benefits; and to employ graduates from the African Community Center’s We Made This program, which teaches skills to female refugees – often single mothers.
Founded in 2013, Knotty Tie Co. designs and produces custom bowties, neckties and three types of scarves for individuals and companies all over the world. As the company prints all the fabric onsite at its headquarters in Denver’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, clients can order a single item or thousands.
After completing an initial form at Knottytie.com, clients are paired with one of Knotty Tie Co.’s designers who help create a custom design and guide the client through the ordering process. Once the client is happy with the design it goes to the printer to be printed with special inks on a large sheet of paper. From there, the printed paper design is placed onto fabric which is then fed through a industrial heating machine that causes the dyes to sublimate into the fabric creating a vibrant and durable print.
Once the custom fabric has been created, it is then cut and sewn by hand by one of Knotty Tie Co.’s skilled manufacturers. These talented seamstresses and tailors come from many different countries including Iraq, Syria, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Congo, Rwanda and Somalia. This diversity is part of the company’s unique identity and on any given day, roughly 8 different languages are being spoken. As designer Dayna noted, “lunchtime here is one of my favorite times as everyone always brings food from their native countries and they’re always trying to get us to try a bite.”
As the company grows, employees in the manufacturing department and those in the design department will engage in skills exchange programs so that each can learn the other’s side of the business. As Priest explains, “this way, as our technology improves and we replace some of the manufacturing positions, these members of the team will be able to transition into other roles in the company. It’s important to us that they have a place here.”
The folks at Knotty Tie Co. are doing good things here in our city and it has been an absolute pleasure to partner with them for the Neighborhood Tiers series. We hope you’ll check them out and perhaps even dream up your own custom design (wedding? company shwag? gag gift?) with help from their talented, yet very fun-loving and genuine, group of designers. If you’d like to check out their workspace in person, the door is always open to visitors during business hours at their shop at 926 W. 10th Avenue and they’re always happy to take visitors on a tour!
Meet the Designers:
Meet Members the Manufacturing Team:
Images courtesy Knotty Tie Co.