Lerone Langston, Founder and Owner of Tie-My-Knot, reigned initially from Saginaw, MI, before spending time in Nashville, Tennessee, where he worked for the NHL Nashville Predators.
“My plan was to step outside my box and follow my dream and the highway,” said Lerone, explaining his next major move.
And he did just that. In 2003, he began his journey, which started on Highway 40 leading to Knoxville. As he drove, he refocused by making a list of goals he wanted to achieve, which he placed on the passenger seat next to them; this gave him, as he puts it, “Something to reach for.”
Without any clear direction, he drove until he landed in Charlotte. And he’s been here ever since.
To find out what he did when he arrived and how he turned an innovative idea into a lucrative small business, keep reading!
CBRBiz.com: Tell us a little bit about your personal entrepreneurial background, education and experience.
Lerone Langston (LL): My entrepreneurial experience started in high school where I started a small t-shirt business where I designed shirts for various events and used the money to attend college. My college career started at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. I then took my credits and studied up through my Masters degree at Strayer University.
My background is combined with sports and events in the capacity of management, coordination, development and non-profits. Some of the areas have included the NBA, NFL, LPGA, NASCAR, PGA, NHL, MTV Music Awards, Dove Awards and Country Music Awards, to name a few. Within the non-profit realm, locally, I have worked with the Chris Canty Foundation, The Sandbox, and Relay for Life of Charlotte. These experiences helped develop a strong foundation of the culture of sports and entertainment which I have “tied” into the fabric of the company.
CBRBiz.com: Give us your elevator pitch for Tie-My-Knot.
LL: Tie-My-Knot is YOUR bow tie company. We specialize in selling, renting and customizing bow ties. Our clientele includes entertainers, events and the everyday man. Our goal is to help you make NOISE for your individuality, while helping you make a statement without saying a word.
CBRBiz.com: Why bow ties?
LL: This is an accessory that shows your individuality and is a unique accessory that helps you stand out in the crowd. The bow tie became my personal brand over time, and I would like to help others do the same.
CBRBiz.com: How many bow ties do you own?
LL: Enough to never wear the same one twice in a year!
CBRBiz.com: Your organization is incredibly active in sponsoring and supporting non-profits and other organizations. Tell us about a few of these!
LL: Our first opportunity came at a Hope Foundation Gala and has blossomed into many opportunities. We are currently entering our 3rd year sponsoring bow ties for The Sandbox Nonprofit, and their Annual “Evening of Believing Prom”. In our first year, we handcrafted 200 custom bow ties for the kids and various attendees to make their own statements. This summer, we partnered with Relay for Life of Charlotte, and developed bow ties and scarves designed with ribbons as a way to show support for anyone of any type of cancer to “wear” their support. Recently, we stretched our wings and sponsored a 5k in Nashville, TN, called “Steps for Success,” which was created to provide scholarship opportunities for college students and support after school programs for inner city youth in Nashville. Anytime we develop custom bow ties, we dedicate portions of the proceeds to go back directly to the organizations.
Anytime we develop custom bow ties, we dedicate portions of the proceeds to go back directly to the organizations.
CBRBiz.com: Tie-My-Knot was one of 19 companies selected from a nationwide competition for Belk and their Southern Designers Showcase. What was this accomplishment like for you?
LL: This was a very exciting opportunity for us. This was our second time entering. The first year, we received feedback that we needed to be less one dimensional. Our response was to create a date night collection which included matching scarf, pocket book for women and matching bow ties for the men. We worked with Laci Savelle of Laci Savelle Designs to pick color schemes and trendy styles that would work for both women and men. With her assistance and creativity, together we were able to make a collection that made us stand out from companies nationwide!
Mr. Brandon Viebrock of Mortimers Pub and Revolution Clothing of Charlotte worked with us to craft a presentation that helped us explain who we are and what we offer.
CBRBiz.com: What qualities do you think made your business stand out?
LL: Our collection of colors and styles helped us stand out. The unique idea of the date night collection helped us become a finalist.
CBRBiz.com: In addition to giving back to the community, you also support sustainability. Tell us about your Millennial Edition Bow Ties.
LL: Our Millennial Edition Bow Ties is our cornerstone brand that helps introduce potential consumers to the world of bow ties. Using recycled fabrics, we focused on the best way to individualize the style. Using various recycled fabrics, we never have two bow ties that are the same, highlighting the Millennial attitude. We keep it reasonably priced at $24.99, so it does not break the bank but still offers style and class. Last but not least, it is ready to wear, meaning it comes pre-tied but developed to be both self-tied and clip on, satisfying both those that know how to tie a bow tie and those that don’t. They were available beginning October 1st!
CBRBiz.com: How do you market your bow ties?
LL: We market our bow ties through social media as well as at Harris Teeter where we invested in advertisements on their pharmacy bags.
We collaborate with Lisa Crates Photography and provide bow ties for all her photoshoots; in turn we get the opportunity to have our bow ties in various magazine advertisements and get professional pictures for our website and social media sites. Our goal is to always think out of the box in marketing.
CBRBiz.com: How do you get exposure?
LL: Our exposure comes from our marketing and our sponsorship of various events and out-of-the-box ideas. One such idea was we allowed an employee of the Charlotte Hornets to wear a bow tie from us free of charge, like a “clothing allowance,” to home games and events. It put our bow ties in the face of many places–people we would not normally reach–additionally creating many sales opportunities.
We work with a business called Ten80 Education; we travel the country teaching marketing and branding coast-to-coast as part of their S.T.E.M (*Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum. This allows us to give presentations in various cities (*including Miami, Chicago, New York, Seattle, Denver and Houston, to name a few) to audiences exceeding 1,000 of both youth and adults. It increases our national footprint and provides us inspiration from across the nation in the development of our bow ties.
CBRBiz.com: And what advice would you give to someone hoping to gain more exposure for their products in your industry?
LL: Think out of the box, but also note that not every opportunity is an opportunity. We have invested in many things we saw as beneficial and ended up becoming “learning experiences.” Pick and choose what you invest in, and make sure it is always focused on your target audience.
Think out of the box, but also note that not every opportunity is an opportunity.
CBRBiz.com: Which local resources have helped you the most along the way?
LL: I have worked closely with Mary Klock, who is with the SBTDC at UNC Charlotte. Outside of that, we visit various pop-up shops and boutiques talking to owners and employees. We have attended courses at CPCC for small businesses and taken classes at the library offered by various organizations.
CBRBiz.com: What was an unexpected challenge you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it?
LL: Getting potential customers to understand we also rent bow ties besides selling and customizing. It is a new idea for the Charlotte community, so it takes time to get people to get a feel for it. We have leaned on small business owners such as Dressed CLT, that rents dresses to assist in getting direction in the retail rental industry, as well as companies that rent.
We are currently in the process of redesigning our rental program to make it more consumer friendly and increasing marketing specifically targeting that division.
CBRBiz.com: What’s one thing that Charlotte might not know about you that you’d like for them to know?
LL: We rent bow ties! Not just black, white and grey but ALL types.
CBRBiz.com: What else would you like to add?
LL: The “I” in Tie-My-Knot is not for individual; I am not the only owner. All of our custom bow ties are handcrafted by my wife Kimberlie. She also acts as our Finance Director and the last line of defense for company decisions. As our company continues to grow, we have a strong group of supporters. None of this happens by chance, and every company has a team, whether they act as counselors, motivators or mentors. We would like to thank Vinny and Dianne Esposito, owners of Split Second Sound, who have continued to support and mentor us throughout the process of being a successful small business; Quinzce Brim of Brimco LLC; Mrs. Donna Cotrone-Sada of Brides of America for your continued support; and Mrs. Bernadette Maulion, owner of Dressed Charlotte for helping us map out our success. These are a few of the people who have helped strengthen our foundation so that one day we will be not only online but in a boutique near you!
None of this happens by chance, and every company has a team, whether they act as counselors, motivators or mentors.
We are always looking to partner with organizations as unique fundraisers and boutiques to put our bow ties in! If you know of anyone interested, feel free to contact us!