Tulsans’ Bow Ties Earn ‘Shark’ Investment
Out & About in Greater Tulsa By EMILY RAMSEY
HANDCRAFTED QUALITY: Tulsans Tim Paslay, left, and Adam Teague started wooden bow tie and accessory company Two Guys Bow Ties in 2012. In June, the business partners earned a $150,000 investment from FUBU Founder and CEO Daymond John on ABC’s Shark Tank.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
Tulsa is quickly becoming a thriving incubator for entrepreneurs. And the word is spreading, both locally and nationally.
Forbes recently named Tulsa the No. 1 Best City for Young Entrepreneurs.
entral.org named Tulsa the 39th most Entrepreneur Friendly City.
In January, local food truck Lone Wolf Banh Mi was featured on CNBC’s Restaurant Startup.
In October, bringing Tulsa back again into the spotlight was Adam Teague and Tim Paslay, owners of Two Guys Bow Ties, who appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank.
Teague and Paslay launched their wooden bow tie and accessory company in 2012. They met through their involvement with the Fab Lab. “We’re both tinkerers,” says Teague.
Paslay, a woodworker with a background in prop building and set design, came up with the idea to make wooden bow ties: “I wanted to have something to wear that shows people what I do (woodworking),” he says.
He made one for himself, which he wore to a wedding, and got positive responses from friends.
However, Paslay knew that if he wanted to turn this idea into profit, he needed a business-minded partner.
Teague’s business background with entrepreneurial and e-commerce experience meshed well with Paslay’s strengths.
“I’ve got good business sense,” says Teague, who describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur.”
Teague focused the young company on order delivery speed, customer service and additional website needs.
In December 2012, Teague and Paslay’s bow ties were featured on uncrate.com, causing both a surge in orders and quite a few late nights for the team during that holiday season.
“We figured that if we survived holiday 2012, we could do anything,” says Teague.
“That experience showed us that we had something here and that we could do this,” Paslay says.
The company continued to grow from there. And Teague and Paslay continued to innovate and add products, including lapels and pocket squares.
In May 2014, Mike Conley of the Memphis Grizzlies was photographed wearing a Two Guys Bow Tie.
By early 2015, the partners were experimenting with creating wooden fedoras and made sure to send one to Conley.
Then, in April, they received a text from a friend in Oklahoma City who heard about a casting call for Shark Tank.
“People were always saying that we should do Shark Tank,” says Teague.
In fact, the partners could have tried out for Shark Tank in 2013, when they were in Texas, attending South by Southwest.
“But, for where our business was at, it was too early,” Teague says.
While the second opportunity in April came at a hectic time for Teague and Paslay – they were in the middle of moving shop locations and adding equipment – they saw their opportunity and knew they were ready.
On the morning of the audition, Teague arrived at 5 a.m. to secure a place in line. They were 49th in the door.
Once they began their pitch, it wasn’t until Teague and Paslay mentioned their wooden fedoras that the woman who they were pitching to began to take notice, says Paslay.
“She put down her cell phone and started asking questions,” he remembers.
After their initial pitch, everything moved at top speed so they could be ready by June to tape for an episode where Troy Carter, founder and of entertainment management company Atom Factory, would be serving as a guest Shark.
“I think they wanted us to be on the show when Troy would be a guest because our brand fits with his interests,” says Teague.
However, while at one point in the deal it looked like Carter and Founder and Daymond John were going to partner in a deal with Teague and Paslay, Carter ended up passing, and Teague and Paslay got what they had initially been aiming for: a partnership with John. Teague and Paslay made a deal to receive $150,000 with 17.5 percent of the company going to John.
“Our game plan was to get Daymond,” says Paslay. “He has gone through the whole business life cycle.”
While some business owners shirk at giving up a sizable portion of their company to an investor, “we believe in partnerships,” Paslay says.
“The concept of having someone who is so much bigger will be helpful to us,” says Teague.
Since appearing on Shark Tank, the partners have definitely noticed an uptick in online orders and interest in their products.
“They tell us that being on Shark Tank is equivalent to $10 million of exposure in advertising,” says Paslay.
Teague and Paslay are also enjoying a local following.
On Oct. 24, they held a grand opening for their retail store in the Pearl District, at 623 S. Peoria Ave.
“It’s cool to have people come into the store and say that they heard about us on Shark Tank,” says Paslay.
As for the future, “our end game is innovation and staying ahead of the trends and continuing to create new, original ideas,” he continues.
Coming soon: cufflinks, says Paslay.
After that? For these creatives, something tells me the sky’s the limit.