By Becky Bracken
Skylar Bennett, 28, and Kevin Shoemaker, 27, are a “Shark Tank” dream come true. These two local guys are running their new venture out of a one-room office near Falcon Field, but odds are they won’t be there long. Their six-month-old business, The Tough Tie, is going places.
Both Bennett and Shoemaker started wearing ties regularly when they went on their LDS missions. They still get animated recounting the sweat soaking through their collars after hours on their bikes. Then the two went on to pursue careers in commercial real estate. “The daily uniform was a shirt and tie,” Bennett said. Their primary complaint: They were poorly constructed, too expensive and not machine washable.
So they came up with a few ideas on how to improve the design of the basic tie. They improved the flimsy stitching. Both fathers of toddlers, Bennett and Shoemaker said they lost several ties to sticky fingers pulling the single thread holding their ties together. So their Tough Tie design includes a sturdy, small, “iron lock” stitch all up the seam on the back of the tie that’s built to last.
The other problem with standard ties? The felt insert placed inside to give the tie its shape. So the two figured out how to design and manufacture a tie with fabric that is fused to the rest of the tie and stays in place, even through a cycle in the washing machine.
Tough Tie also recently started manufacturing ties with liquid-resistant performance fabric, able to stand up to the sloppiest soups and sauces. They also tweaked the placement of the loops on the back of the tie, called “tie keepers,” so that even the tallest wearers will be able to get the back strap looped to the front and skip the Scotch Tape to hold the whole thing together.
Besides the basic design that makes Tough Ties machine washable, they added one incredible feature: a microfiber tip on the tie specifically intended to wipe device screens clean. Bennett confesses that was his wife’s stroke of genius.
So what do these miracle ties cost? They range in price from $29-$36.
“Because that’s what we can afford,” Bennett said, pointing across the office’s adjoining desks toward Shoemaker. “We wanted to make ties for guys like us.”
Now hundreds of neatly hung ties line the wall of their office with samples and swatches of more designs to come.
So far, the duo has sold more than 300 of their patent-pending ties both online and through two retailers: Preach Supply in Gilbert and Pomeroy’s Mission Store in Mesa.
To prove their ties were indeed the toughest, Tough Tie sponsored a team for a recent Tough Mudder run. The whole 15-person team wore tough ties though the entire race. Afterward, they threw the ties in the wash and they came out just like new.
“We want to become self-sufficient so we can give back to the community,” Bennett said. Both partners explained they have plans to create a trade-in program to donate and recycle old ties replaced by their Tough Ties.
“We got our Tough Ties in the mail,” one happy customer, Katie Bodell, said about her purchase. “They were not taken out of the package and were carefully hidden under my bed. Our 9-month-old lab found the package today and destroyed the package. The ties and remains of the package were scattered all over the lawn. Crazy dog! But true to their name, our Tough Ties didn’t even have a thread out of place. Thanks for making a lasting product that will serve our family’s needs.”
Two hometown entrepreneurs with one, simple, smart idea: Reimagine the way men wear, wash and buy their ties. Sometimes the very best ideas are right under your nose – or even wrapped around your neck.