DENVER, Colo. -- Even if you’re not a tie person, Denver-based Knotty Tie Company might have something you’d like.
"We never really started as tie people,” said Mark Johnson, company co-founder. “We really wanted to make something that we wanted to wear."
The co-founders of the (double entendre) Knotty Tie Company (“Clear your browser history,” Jokes Co-Founder Jeremy Priest) are giving the stuffy necktie an irreverent fresh start.
“They're all customizable. We print our own fabric and we can do really any design anyone wants," said Johnson.
Customers can also customize length and width and even the tag.
"Some of my favorites, people will put their cat's face on stuff,” said Priest with a smile. “That's always quite hilarious."
But the company is not just about making neckwear.
"I don't think we would even be here if we were just making ties," said Johnson.
"It wasn't necessarily an affinity for ties in the beginning,” added Priest. “It was actually just the desire to help resettle refugees."
Refugees like Bems Namogaya, who was a designer in his home country of Congo.
He had been employed at a meat plant, but was laid off and struggled to find work, until he found Knotty tie,’
"I feel like I'm home," he said with a smile.
Priest and Johnson said they wanted to help refugees, especially women, who often have difficulty finding flexible and fair employment.
"We decided that we would create a company that would really have fair compensation, benefits and a flexible schedule, so they could work as little or as much as they need," said Priest.
On a tour of their Denver factory, you can see the entire process of how the ties are made – from design to printing to production – all in one place.
"There's the prep work happening on this side of the room and the finishing happening on this side," said Johnson. “It’s how we can respond quickly to orders and maintain a high quality.”
The ties are made from organic cotton and environmentally conscious ink, and the price varies depending on customization – usually running about $45 through the website.
“We also didn’t want to create a product that we ourselves as poor college graduates couldn’t afford,” said Priest. “We’re not making a rich, elite designer product here, we’re making something that we want to be available to everyone.”
Knotty Tie has tripled or quadrupled sales every year, but more important to the co-founders, they now employ nine refugees and are hoping to keep growing.
"It really gives us a reason to exist and keep going,” said Johnson.