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Monday, March 14, 2016


Shreveport entrepreneurs reinterpret a fashion accessory

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Shreveport entrepreneurs reinterpret a fashion accessory

Jared D. Alexander and Rashonda Brokenberry are tweaking a classic dressy accessory by making bowties out of steel and other unusual materials.

The pair are partners in KISA (an acronym for Knight in Shining Armor), which they started last summer.

KISA bowties are made of lightweight steel fashioned with “just our hands and a pair of pliers,” Alexander said. Alexander and Brokenberry are the designers, marketers, models and makers of these unique ties. Both are fashion-conscience and each was wearing one of their designs as they gave a presentation at 1 Million Cups at Cohab.

Alexander had a metal bowtie which used two elements of the five basic bowtie styles, which are the butterfly, big butterfly, batwing, diamond point and the club round, said author Jennifer Song in “The GentleManual, a Handbook for Gentlemen and Scoundrels.”

Brokenberry had a small Butterfly bowtie worn loosely as a necklace with numerous chains running from the two looped sides.

The bowties come in black, red, gold, bronze and silver metal, sometimes decorated with studs, feathers or with other customized colors and features.

The bowties are held in place with an adjustable elastic neckband. The pair have around 20 designs, and they are making them by hand on order.

Alexander and Brokenberry turned to Cohab for suggestions on taking this to the next level – finding a local manufacturer, obtaining copyrights and a marketing plan. Once these issues are addressed and the website is fully developed, they plan to hire employees.

“Sometimes we get 10 to 20 orders at a time, so we will need employees,” he said.

“We are both fashion-lovers, so we decided to make our own brand that would speak to both male and female,” said Alexander, although most of their customers are women, who both wear them and give them as gifts.

“Jared saw a plastic hair bow and set out to find a similar one with a metal effect. We then decided to put our heads together to create our very own design for a bow tie,” Brokenberry said.

“We are constantly customizing new pieces, adding stones and other features,” and working with the customer to assure a one-of-a-kind piece, she said. “We did a breast cancer awareness one.”

John Grindley, executive director of Cohab, gave them advice for a new start-up.

“Shreveport-Bossier is mainly a Facebook town. I don’t see a lot of Twitter. Instagram for your market might be really good,” Grindley said.

“You could do a Kickstarter campaign and sell 1,000 of these things, and then you can go to investors with that. Kickstarter is all about visual content. Get that market data: This many people wear bowties; this many people wear regular ties.”

Grindley encouraged the owners to move forward with an intellectual property attorney and interviewing manufacturers. Grindley advises new entrepreneurs to do their homework before investing.

“We walk them through the lean startup methodology developed by Eric Ries and Ash Maurya. This basically looks at the customer’s needs and validating a company’s pathway to success before spending a ton of money,” he said.

Chante Hood, CEO of CH Models, a local modeling agency, said she was so impressed with their product that she used several pieces for the red carpet party at the Robinson Film Center the evening before the Academy Awards.

“I thought it was a very forward design. It was practical, not over-the-top,” Hood said. “It would dress up just about everything.” She plans to use the bowties in trunk shows and other runway shows.

Once the legalities and manufacturing end of the business are ironed out, serious marketing begins.

“We are currently planning an official launch party this summer where the pieces will be showcased and available for purchase,” Brokenberry said.

Until then, the couple are selling individual pieces and creating new designs. Their longterm goal includes a line of apparel.

– Kathleen Ward


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