FLEAKIN' OUT WITH KNOTTY TIE
In 2013, Mark Johnson and Jeremy Priest jumped on an opportunity: the launch of a customizable, accessible line of handmade menswear goods, and a way to forge their own career path. Now, they're creating meaningful work for more than themselves—in the summer of 2014, they began hiring skilled resettled refugees, cultivating community and crafting ties (and more) alongside a team of 10 employees.
What does KNOTTY TIE MEAN to you?
Jeremy Priest: For me, Knotty Tie is just a way of life. When we started this, Mark and I both wanted to create something that we had complete control over—something that really allowed us to become who we thought we were capable of becoming. In the last two years, that’s happened. Now we’re digging even deeper to see how much of an impact we can have on the community and how much we can make that a reality for other people.
Mark Johnson: Knotty Tie is the ultimate self expression. We started this as a way to become all we could be, but also to express ourselves in terms of creative output and creativity in business—creating a new way to do business.
Austin Gregory Allan: It means a lot in different ways. It was a really interesting way to start developing professionally and doing things that we didn’t have the opportunity to do before. It was like taking charge of our own well-being and starting to do things our own way. We hope it goes in the right direction.
QUICK FACT #1
Custom ties and other dapper adornment for you, your wedding party, and your workplace.
QUICK Fact #2
Community enrichment through refugee hiring and conscious business practice.
QUICK FACT #3
Your dream design printed on high-quality, organic cotton.
What’s the most important 15 minutes of your day?
Mark: I don’t know if there is a singular most important 15 minutes. Really, every 15 minutes is different from the last 15 minutes, especially with as many people as we have here now. So many different things going on in here at the same time.
Jeremy: It’s when everyone’s gone—Mark, Austin and I rotate who is here at 8:45 at night and it’s a time that allows us to reach insights on things we’ve been thinking on for the last few months, all while we’re at our most relaxed part of the day.
Austin: I think the morning plan of action—making sure the day is moving in the right direction. There are so many moving parts. When the day ends, you think you have something finished, but the next morning it’s a whole new set of priorities.
What part of your day is the most creative?
Jeremy: Probably the improvised morning meetings. We don’t really prepare for much—in the way of official anything—so we’re always sort of leading from the hip. It's really important that we get everyone excited for what we’re doing that day and what’s coming up in the next couple months. It’s usually the first 10-15 minutes of our day.
Mark: I would say the second most creative part of our day is when we’re trying to fit tie boxes into a box to ship them. It takes the four of us, a spreadsheet—every order could be 13 ties, or it could be 29, and we have eight minutes to get to UPS. It's a race to switch them all out and get them to fit.
Austin: For me, it's figuring out how to make production better or faster, or improve on teaching everyone the process. The process we created isn’t perfect by any means but we’re always trying to make it better and more efficient.
WHO—OR WHAT—IS YOUR BIGGEST INSPIRATION?
Mark: A big inspiration for me is the people we work with every day. When we realized our mission of rehiring resettled refugees, everything took on an entirely new level of seriousness and those guys are a huge source of inspiration because we can’t let them down. They’re supporting families and themselves and establishing themselves—if we don’t do what we’re doing here well, then those guys are in trouble.
Jeremy: They amaze us every day—like today—Amal has been here for two or three days and is already the shop mom. She made a meal for everyone today, and yesterday too. Just how comfortable people feel here and how good they look like they feel, it keeps me inspired. For six months it wasn’t that way, but somehow, after being around Austin for long enough, everyone got on the same page. Now, they're joking around constantly but still working hard and staying late more often than ever before. We haven’t even asked them to. it’s just what they want to do to make sure everything here goes well.
Austin: Another inspiration is constantly being able to do what I want to do—I can choose what I’m doing and my day isn’t dictated by anyone but myself and our team.
ANY NEW PRODUCTS IN THE WORKS?
Jeremy: We’re working on socks and suspenders and we’re really excited about those because our wardrobes are all lacking. If we could get to the point where we’re making our own ties, vests, socks, suspenders—there’s not much else we can make. We could pretty much clothe ourselves. It will be a powerful thing for us to be able to say that we make all the clothes we’re wearing. We have leather patching equipment coming so we’re going to start making shoes. We’ll see how far we can take this—and when we get to the point where we can't deliver anything else, that's when we’ll hang it up.