“Even though we’re a small business, we’re an international business thanks to the Internet.”Kirk Hinckley
Kirk Hinckley believed that bow tie lovers deserved better. While working for a national men’s clothier, Kirk saw firsthand that bow ties were either overpriced, low-quality, or tossed into a single display drawer as an afterthought. Deciding to do something different, he and his wife, graphic designer Corinne Hsu, founded The Bow Tie Club in 1994. “People who wear bow ties want to be a little different,” Kirk says. The couple used their knowledge of the industry to create a mail-order business offering high-quality, fairly priced bow ties, all manufactured in Maryland. They brought The Bow Tie Club online in 1996 and now feature over 500 of their own designs available in a multitude of shapes and sizes.
As an early adopter of the web, The Bow Tie Club has very much grown alongside the Internet. For years, Kirk and Corinne advertised their products on printed media. “Now it’s the exact opposite,” Kirk notes. “It’s 90 percent to digital; 10 percent to print.” The Bow Tie Club uses AdWords, Google’s advertising program, to reach fashion aficionados all over the world. About 20 percent of their sales come from overseas, and “AdWords is an integral part of the international business,” says Kirk. “When people click on a Google ad, they’re looking for something—they’re ready to buy. The reach and purchase intent are what make AdWords so powerful compared with other media tools.” The company also uses insights from Google Analytics to optimize their online presence. “It’s hugely important for understanding what the customer wants, refining our product, and creating a better shopping experience,” he adds.
For Kirk and Corinne, the bow tie is more than just a fashion piece; it’s a way to connect with new people. “You have no idea how many great conversations I’ve had that started with the words, ‘I love your bow tie!’” explains Kirk. “Our bow ties not only look good, they help you stand out.” And stand out, they do. Even former President Barack Obama has taken notice, sporting one of their bow ties to his 2012 inaugural balls. “That’s probably the pinnacle of my career,” Kirk muses. With thousands of customers around the world, The Bow Tie Club today is a global community of fashion-forward individuals. “There’s a reason why we named it The Bow Tie Club,” Kirk shares. “It was always meant to be a community for people who want to be a little different. And now, with the web, bow tie lovers from anywhere can be a part of that community.”