Want to look stylish, smart and help out a charitable cause of your pick at the same time? TIED TOGETHER does just that. You can change the world one accessory at a time!
Will is social entrepreneur who is focused on creating significant change in the world . Will launched TIED TOGETHER in September 2014. TIED TOGETHER is a men’s fashion accessories social enterprise, raising vital funds and awareness for key causes impacting our community.
They sell a range of products including ties, bowties, cufflinks, pocket squares and socks all aligned to charity by design and colour. TIED TOGETHER donates 30% of every sale to the related cause and aim that their products will help spark conversations and thus increase cause awareness.
How did you come up with the idea for TIED TOGETHER ? What made you want to create this?
I went through a period of time where a number of people very close to me were being affected by a range of causes for example depression and cancer. As this went on, one thing stood out to me was that men didn’t ever talk about the problems at hand.
I did a significant amount of research and found that men were actually quite generous towards charities from a monetary perspective, but not necessarily from an awareness point of view. I also came to realize that charities receive very little if any funding from the government.
I felt compelled to start an organization that would subtly link men to charities and causes, both from a financial and awareness perspective. I think the key to a business’s success is to be creative and it was important for me to start a business that creatively rewarded men for supporting charities and talking about the causes.
As the business has developed, we have found that men are really excited about the opportunity to represent a charity they care about and look sharp at the same time. While products mightn’t always spark conversations, it allows customers to subtly support something close to their heart.
What is the process when someone purchase a tie/bow/cufflink/socks
The majority of our products are aligned to cause by design and colour. For example we have a blue range for beyondblue, and we have dog and bone cufflinks for the RSPCA. There are a few products that support ALL charities because we felt that some people might not have a specific charitable alignment.
When someone purchases a product, we automatically donate 30% of the sale to the related charity. If someone picks a product that supports ALL charities, we donate the money equally across all causes.
The money we donate goes towards a specific goal/target that we have worked with the charities to create. With some charities, we have even identified a specific metric that each sale contributes towards. For example, 1 RSPCA tie will provide toys for a puppy or kitten. We list these goals and metrics on our website and update them so people can follow where there money is going.
How many charities are joined with you? What are your goals?
We currently have 6 partner charities* (listed below), and we are in discussions with another 4 organisations at this stage.
Our goals are as follows:
Raise $2m in 2 years for our partner charities
Increase cause awareness by 100,000 men
Increase donation transparency by allowing people to follow where their money goes on our website
beyondblue – mental health
National Breast Cancer Foundation – breast cancer
EJ Whitten Foundation – prostate cancer
Lighthouse Foundation – youth homelessness
RSPCA – animal welfare
Sea Shepherd Australia – marine conservation
Do you want to eventually get more charities onboard?
We will continue to add charities so long as we feel we can support our existing partners to the right level. We will also only add charities if we believe in the work they do, the cause they support and the way in which they do that.
It’s also important for us to choose charities and causes that are of relevance to our target market, otherwise the business model becomes redundant.
How do you go about sourcing/creating the ties and cufflinks? Do you have a group of designers coming up with new ideas?
Firstly, design in extremely important to us. It is vital that we put high quality, fashionable items into the marketplace, or otherwise people won’t want to purchase our products. Our ties are silk, our cufflinks are stainless steel, and our socks are cotton.
Every product is individually designed to ensure it is both fashionable, but also relates in some way to the charity at hand. This can be by design or colour. We review new designs and range options on a monthly basis, adding products where we see value to our customers.
Why do you feel that men don’t speak up about personal illness?
There is no doubt that speaking about personal illness is confronting. For men, I don’t think it’s necessarily a conscious decision to avoid speaking about illness, but rather I think it’s just not knowing what to say, or indeed how to start that conversation.
Of all the causes we support, mental health is probably the one that has the most stigma attached to it. However, in recent years there has been a lot of focus given to reducing this stigma and getting people to talk more. In many ways RUOK Day has revolutionized the way in which people talk about mental health by asking a simple question, “Are you okay?”
Our business is set up to try and break down this stigma for all related causes. We want men to be able to wear a great looking product and proudly represent a cause, which might in turn also spark a conversation about the charity. Our goal is not necessarily to get men to speak for hours at a time about our partner charities, but rather to educate those around them with a simple sentence. For example, “did you know that 1 in 8 women will get Breast Cancer in their lifetime?” With every product we sell, we provide a card with 1 fact about the related cause that people can use to help educate others.
For many of the causes we work with, education is just as important as financial support. We want to support both.
How many in the TIED TOGETHER team?
We have 2 co-founders, a chairman, and a marketing assistant.
Your ambassadors you’ve picked, how do you feel they represent TIED TOGETHER?
We are a business that mixes fashion with charity. As a result, we’ve picked ambassadors that we feel have a strong affiliation with both.
We also have a product range that we believe appeals to a broad range of ages, demographics and interests and so we want to have an ambassador range that represents this diversity.
What is the most challenging thing since creating TIED TOGETHER?
Without doubt the biggest challenge has been making people aware of our brand. Once people see our products and understand what we do, they are engaged with the business. It’s just getting our brand in front of people that takes time. However, this is the case for any new brand that launches.
……And the most rewarding?
The most rewarding aspect of this job is the feedback we get from our customers and knowing that what we are doing is truly helping to raise funds and awareness for our partner charities. Amongst many, I remember one lady who stopped by our popup shop and said “my son suffers from depression and so I’m sure my husband will be proud to wear your tie supporting beyondblue”. That was rewarding.
Your biggest achievement for TIED TOGETHER?
Our brand was featured on The Morning Show in late 2014. To take a brand from inception to national television within 6 months was a huge moment for us. To have not just our brand but all our partner charities brands in front of such a huge audience was hugely important.
2015 will be a big year for TIED TOGETHER. We will continue to grow and expand our product range, add ambassadors to the team, and increase our retail footprint. All of this will be done with the aim of increasing cause awareness and hitting our target of $2m raised in 2 years.
And lastly, any advice on others who want to start up a business devoted to charity
There is a famous video on YouTube of Jim Carrey doing the rounds in which he speaks at length about the importance of doing something you are passionate about. I watch the clip daily and there is one particular line in which he says “you can fail at doing something don’t want, so you might as well take a chance at doing what you love”. For me, this quote is incredibly powerful and important.
IF you want to start a business devoted to charity, my only advice would be to ensure it’s something you’re passionate about. The purpose of setting up a business helping charity isn’t to get gratification or thanks, but rather to help change the lives or something or someone else in the world.