Welcome to REEF KNOTS. In November 2012, two days before my wife had twins, I was unexpectedly made redundant from my job of 13 years. Despite having no experience in the field, I decided to walk away from the corporate life and build a company as well as my dream job.
The idea was to make silk ties that reminded people of life outside of their suit, rather than being a symbol of the corporate grind. The bonus was that I might manage to escape it myself.
"Go to room 10a" was the note on my computer screen.
10 minutes later, the only job I had ever had since university was finished. 13 years of 5.30am alarm clocks over, computer off, escorted out.
Two days after that bombshell my wife had twins. We had a toddler, two newborn babies, a brand spanking new big mortgage and an almighty problem. It was November 2012.
"Don't worry" I said "I'm going to start a company making ties."
My wife must have thought she could add 'husband's breakdown' to the list of our issues.
I'm not sure why any of my family agreed to this ridiculous idea, but I can only imagine they could see that I needed something.
I knew absolutely nothing about silk ties. I just knew that they were perhaps the most boring of all clothing products, and that meant it was about time someone made them interesting again.
I often heard that Sir Richard Branson saw the tie as a symbol of corporate drudgery and conformity. I saw it as an opportunity to show people there is a person behind the suit.
So I went along the process of starting this little company called REEF KNOTS. I had virtually no money so I just figured everything out from a combination of YouTube videos, common sense and great advice. I designed everything from our prints to our packaging and even took the product shots on our website.
I outsourced really specialist jobs, but most things I did myself from a little desk at the end of our bed. Often with two screaming newborns on my lap. Odd days.
In August 2013, we turned on our website and just let it roll.
It will be three years in the summer since we launched and I am beginning to draw breath on a journey that was far more rewarding but far harder than anything I had anticipated.
Since REEF KNOTS has opened its doors, we've done the following (among many other things):
- Most importantly, we've sold many thousands of ties to those wonderful customers that took a chance on us! I am in debt to every single one of them.
- We've opened our first shop 'Knots & Socks' in the City of London at the historic Leadenhall Market. We successfully crowdfunded the project by selling store credit and products in advance.
- I've managed to get our core product handmade in England (unlike the vast majority of our competitors).
- We've had our ties worn by everyone from industry leaders, politicians and celebrities. We even managed to change Sir Richard Branson's mind and get him into a REEF KNOTS tie!
- We've become an official corporate partner of the charity the Blue Marine Foundation, producing a special edition tie to highlight the crisis in our oceans. We felt it important to give back to the place that inspired us.
- We've been featured in national newspapers and on television. Ironically, I've even been on CNBC, despite never managing it when I worked in finance!
7. We've grown almost exclusively by word of mouth and social media (the "nice tie!" effect).
8. We now sell into stores and websites across the country, with a growing wholesale business.
9. We've been named one of the Top 100 Start-Ups in the UK.
10. We've branched out into a range of new products including the launch of our debut swim shorts range in early 2016.
This is just a fraction of what we have done (and nothing in comparison to what we want to do), but it shows how far we've travelled in a short space of time.
A huge 'thank you' to everyone that has helped us.
REEF KNOTS has a long long way to go, but I feel the first chapter is now written. And that feels pretty good.
Want a little more? Watch our crowdfunding video for 'Knots & Socks' here:
...and the outtakes!
Watch Patrick on CNBC: