Alexis Rebennack | 1 comment
Posted on September 29, 2013
A current University student and an alumnus are tying the knot with college campuses all over the U.S., forming a bow tie company with a level of class and culture that only comes from the South.
Jordy Scholhamer, who graduated in 2011, and Claire Bourgeois, a business management senior, knew their dream of starting a bow tie business would be a reality when Scholhamer’s mother blurted out what she thought should be the name of the future bow tie company — Ties to the South.
After Scholhamer’s mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, she spent much of her time sewing.
“My youngest brother was leaving for college and joining a frat, so my mom started making bow ties for him and some of the guys in his fraternity,” Scholhamer said.
His mother Judy grew up in her mother’s sewing studio, so making a business out of sewing bow ties was a natural transition.
Judy, who Bourgeois and Scholhamer refer to as the “designer extraordinaire,” handles all of the sewing and ensures the handmade quality of every bow tie.
“A bow tie is different than a tie,” Scholhamer said. “It doesn’t hang in your food when you eat. It’s more casual, and who really wants to wear a tie tie?”
The company prides itself on its affordable price tag and being made in the U.S.
Bourgeois and Scholhamer said the main goal of Ties to the South is to make the product “tie together the ties of the states.”
“For example, in the Texas tab on our site, you will see bow ties with reds, whites and blues and burnt oranges,” Scholhamer said.
Bourgeois and Scholhamer said no matter how big the company gets, the price for every bow tie will remain $38.
“For a handmade bow tie, we think that’s very reasonable,” Scholhamer said. “We wanted to be an affordable option for something high quality.”
All bow ties from Ties to the South are named after local places or streets. In Louisiana, the most popular tie is “The Burbank.”
So far, Ties to the South boasts designs featuring 12 different states, all with unique patterns that represent each state’s local flavor, according to Bourgeois.
“We have over 50 bow tie designs, and it’s so much fun to see someone wearing all of the stuff we picked out,” Bourgeois said.
Scholhamer said that Ties to the South also does custom orders.
“We have requests to turn T-shirts into ties,” Bourgeois said. “We lay the patterns [of the T-shirt] out so when the bow tie comes out, you can tell what it was, and they look awesome.”
While the company targets a collegiate audience, they are currently working with Mardi Gras krewes to create custom ties. The company also creates ties for groomsmen in weddings.
Although Bourgeois is a student and a business owner, she says she isn’t facing the typical challenges one might assume comes with the territory because she loves her job and because it’s football season.
Bourgeois and Scholhamer met during Scholhamer’s last semester through the business fraternity. They frequently talked about starting a business because they both considered each other business savvy and outgoing.
Creating their own company was all talk until Bourgeois brought up the idea of joining the student incubator. After that, Scholhamer said the company just started growing.
“Our name, Ties to the South, really embodies the culture of the South,” Scholhamer said. “When you come to Louisiana and hear people speak this language that isn’t really English or French, that’s your tie to the South and the food, the language and Mardi Gras.”
Bourgeois and Scholhamer agreed bow ties are making a resurgence right now.
“There is a huge infatuation with the South right now in the media,” Scholhamer said. “Even up in the North, it’s a market we haven’t tapped into yet, but it’s definitely there, especially with the number of graduates that LSU has placed in northern cities like Chicago.”
Bourgeois said the site received hits from almost every state, the United Kingdom and even Argentina.
The company just kicked off a representative program as a part of its marketing campaign, allowing more people to get involved. So far, there are seven representatives in South Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.
Bourgeois and Scholhamer are staying tied to LSU in a unique way.
Mass communication students in Professor Kasey Windels’ qualitative audience analysis class are partnering with Ties to the South to help the company with its branding strategies.
“The goal of this class is to get students to understand a person’s relationship with a brand,” Windels said.
Students are also doing secondary research for the company, finding out who the company’s competitors are.
“By the end of the semester, students will have a big research report that they will give to Claire [Bourgeois], and it will say who Ties to the South should be talking to, how to talk to them and how the company should market to that certain group of people,” Windels said.
Windels said she chose Ties to the South as a company for her students to research because she wanted clients who were easily accessible and needed help with their brand and target audience.
“We love football, we love the South and we love being from here,” Bourgeois said. “It’s a bright and colorful culture and that goes in to how our ties are made.”