Entrepreneurs Kevin Shoemaker and Skylar Bennett took their Tough Tie to the Sharks on ABC’s Shark Tank to see if they could get a deal from one of the investors.
The idea behind tough apparel is that professional work clothes are usually made for an office environment and easily ruined. For two new fathers, that created a problem for Shoemaker and Bennet, leading them to come up with the idea of the tough tie, which wouldn’t be ruined easily due to its durable, machine-washable nature.
The duo pitched their product to Sharks Mark Cuban, Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary, Lori Greiner and Robert Herjavec. According to the episode synopsis, they “hope to sell millennials on a modern version of a fading fashion trend for men.”
Here’s what you should know about Tough Tie:
1. The Company Was Started in 2017
Shoemaker and Bennett quit their full-time jobs in 2017 to pursue the Tough Tie and Tough Apparel. It only took them a little over two years to get to the point where they filmed for Shark Tank.
“Having our business profiled on Shark Tank is unlike anything we ever imagined,” Bennett told AZ Big Media. “In 2017, we took a risk, quit our jobs, and threw ourselves into developing a line of durable and machine-washable ties that could stand up to the wear-and-tear of real life. We knew we were in for an enormous challenge starting a business from scratch but we also knew our idea was something young, professional dads would appreciate.”
They started the business because they saw the need for a fashionable tie that was also resilient, and they’re proud of the growth they have already experienced.
2. The Founders are Both Fathers
The need for Tough Tie arose out of the fact that Shoemaker and Bennett were both new fathers, and their newborns often spit up on their ties and ruined them. They’d both become fathers in 2015.
“Gone were the days of being able to keep their work clothes clean and crisp,” the website reads. “After succumbing to the fate of newborn baby spit-up that ruined their ties time and time again, Skylar and Kevin decided to do something about it.”
They came up for the idea of the tie, but then spent months Googling and learning about what it would take to get a business off the ground, eventually meeting with a local Arizona fashion designer before officially launching the product.
3. Tough Apparel Makes More than Just Ties
What was once only the Tough Tie now falls under the blanket of Tough Apparel, which includes belts, socks and face masks.
Each product is liquid and stain repellent and machine washable. The tough ties come in many designs and sell online for $30. The Belts also start at $30 and come with a buckle.
The socks sold on the website start at $14, and the face masks are currently on sale for $12. One face mask will be donated to someone in need with each sale.
4. They Encourage Others To Pursue Their Dreams
According to the Tough Apparel website, the founders encourage all entrepreneurs to follow their dreams, no matter what those dreams are. They even make themselves available to everyone via email.
“Need to bounce your ideas off someone? Call or email the guys at Tough Apparel,” the website reads. “They’re happy to throw in their two cents. Sometimes an outside perspective is what gets you to the next level.”
“Remember: life is short, so you might as well spend it pursuing your own aspirations and goals instead of simply…existing,” the website concludes.
5. A College Class Helped Develop Their Marketing Strategy
Grand Canyon University and the Colangelo College of Business fall 2019 Marketing 415 class and instructor Mindy Weinstein helped Bennett and Shoemaker with their marketing and brand strategies during their semester.
“It was phenomenal. I had never been on campus or been very familiar with the school. I loved GCU,” Shoemaker told GCU News. “The students were nice. They were kind, just walking around campus. It was clean. It was upbeat.”
The students helped them put together an ad campaign and came up with the slogan “Confidence that looks good on you.”
Shark Tank airs on Fridays at 8 p.m./7 p.m. central on ABC.