Youthful energy combined with passion and a sense of style add up to a successful business for Mackenzie King and Matthew White of High Tide Bow Ties.
The online bow tie and pocket square-selling business started in June 2014, garnering media attention from the Ottawa Citizen and CTV in just eight months.
Friends since Grade 9 at Nepean High School, the boys talked about starting a business together for a while off and on. After coming back from travelling Australia and southeast Asia for 16 months, White found himself unemployed.
“I figured (there is) no better way to try to get into some employment than starting my own company,” White said.
The men discussed some ideas, with bow ties at the forefront of King’s mind.
“I had just worn one to a wedding,” he said. “People loved it! The reaction was great, the people were really warm to it, I loved it – it was just kind of fresh on my mind. When we started talking, it just came up.”
From there, it was time to think about how they would make the products with no professional fashion or design experience.
“At first we wanted to make them ourselves and save on costs that way, but we realized we should really never try making bow ties ever after our first prototypes,” said White with a laugh. “We got a professional seamstress to help us through the process, and we still work with her today.”
“I didn’t even know where we could buy fabric, or what a fabric store even really was,” King added. “We had to figure out everything and we did that pretty quickly.”
After coming up with the idea, it took a mere month for a website with merchandise to go up online through Ottawa online-shop host Shopify, where King works during the day.
“I think that we have a lot of unique designs and prints, and that’s huge,” said King. “Our designs simply don’t exist anywhere else right now. It’s contemporary and it’s things that are in fashion. They’re stylish without being pretentious. We want to make the bow tie a fashion accessory for every day. It doesn’t have to be high fashion. That’s a good thing in our eyes, because who knows what’s happening in the cutting-edge fashion world and we don’t really care, to be honest. It’s for every dude who likes dressing nice and that’s basically it.”
Goals going forward for the pair of entrepreneurs include getting their product into stores and increasing their online presence.
“We’re just trying to get brand recognition right now,” King said. “I work at Shopify and I see new businesses being born every day, and we’re doing better than the vast majority of the ones I see.”
The men say they are highly self-motivated.
“No one is pushing us to do anything,” said White. “If we just stop and become lazy, our business will die and that will be the end of High Tide Bow Ties. In such a competitive marketplace, you can’t let your guard down.”
Together, the boys want to see the death of the neck tie and they hope to play a role.
“For every tie-wearer out there, there’s a potential bow tie-wearer. We want to make everyone realize (the potential) of bow ties,” White said. “People are ditching the tie all around the world right now in favour of the bow tie. It’s coming back in a big way. It’s got momentum and it’s going to be hard to stop it.”