A company is only as good as its customer service, in my eyes. Quality is important, but relatability and treatement of consumer ranks right up there, too. I’ve been lucky enough to hook up with a few companies that are shining beacons in this field. I hooked up with Nick from Knot Belt Co., one of said brands leading the way in this realm and picked the brain of the man behind the belts.
First things first – Knot. How? Why? Where? When?
Knot how: Saving money for a year by working for corporate America. Black suit, white shirt, black shoes. Enough said.
Knot why: I can’t work for someone I’ve never seen or knew who they were b/c the company was so huge. I would go to work, crush it, and not make that much. Who knows how much I made for that company. I could go on and on about that but the bottom line is that a company without a face isn’t a company I wanted to work for….Usually I’m asked “Why Knot?” instead of “Knot Why?” haha.
Knot where: I started my own detailing service when I was 16 and had built up a large client base each year. I saw how hard work pays off and had always wanted to do my own thing from that moment on. With working at a golf club every summer since I was 14 and being on a boat or playing golf every summer on top of that, there was a ton of time for me to really think out there and take my surroundings into account with all I’ve experienced. The style at St. Lawrence University was so east coast it was almost a no-brainer to try and do something that captured that as well. So, “Where did Knot start?” …I’d say it started after I moved to Boston, worked for huge corporate America and took a step back and looked, really looked into my past. My days back home in Naples, NY with family and friends and my years at St. Lawrence and all of the great experiences I had there is where Knot was started.
Knot when: I officially told people what was going on in July 2009. I hadn’t told anyone what I was up to for almost 8 months. Not my friends, not my parents, nobody. It was hard to keep quiet b/c I was so excited about everything. My friends would go out to a bar and I’d be home drawing or researching things online and studying other companies business themes. I also did this at work and probably spent more time working on Knot ideas than actually focusing on the “suit-job” itself.
What was your original goal in starting Knot? Have you achieved any part of it? And is there a new mission or goal or future you see for the brand?
My original goal was to have fun and do something I love. Almost every day I’d see a Ben and Jerrys sticker (I’m sure you’ve seen it) that reads “If its not fun, why do it?” After a while it started to piss me off and I’d say…”Yeah, why not do something you love.” I originally wanted to have an American based company that ACTUALLY MADE THINGS IN AMERICA. “Gasp” I know! I’ve achieved my original goal of taking a risk, having it be a little scary and working hard at making it stay afloat and gain traction. I’ve also achieved my goal of having our belts be American Made, which is huge. As far as the future, there’s a new goal or mission every day and every night. If I had a notebook for everything I’ve thought about doing with Knot and where I see it in the months and years to come, I’d have a library full.
How big is the Knot squadron? Are you looking to add members?
The Knot squadron is made up of myself and Caitlin O’Hara (who still needs to get involved with your pretty girl Tuesdays). She is my creative partner. She’s the best. I can throw 20 belt designs at her, 5 new website ideas and an entire marketing plan and she’ll take it all in and then give it all right back without flinching. She keeps me grounded when I get excited about new my many ideas and thoughts. We also have Knothead brand reps across the country who are spreading the word and having a blast along the way.
Our brand reps are in college and rock our gear everywhere they go, look into stores that Knot should sell in, and shoot us ideas if they have them. If any of our Knotheads are reading this, you guys and gals rock! After I graduated from St Lawrence I did a little brand repping from a small belt company and pushed their products everywhere I went. It was fun and felt good doing it so I hope these kids who are representing Knot are feeling the same vibes I did. I’m also super accessible to each one via email or even text, which makes Knot a sort of close-knit, small business family.
Belts and accessories aren’t necessarily something you’re born into this world with a penchant for. How, when, and why did you get into the fashion/style/etc game? And why belts and such, and not, say, socks or holsters or shoelaces?
I got into belts because I have a million of them. Belts w the SLU crest, ones with dogs, boats, tennis rackets, stripes, checkers, golf scenes and pretty much anything else that represents some part of my life in one way or another, I have on a belt. I was “the kid with that belt” at our golf club on the lake in New York. When I wanted to do my own thing in the “fashion world” – actually, I hate that word fashion, I’ll follow up with that comment if you want. – I looked at all the options. Ties were taken and I hate wearing ties. No holsters here b/c I don’t have a gun and wallets or hats or anything else minor like that wasn’t something I had many of or liked really. I think I only own a couple pairs of socks which are used when I go hiking or running. My dad is a bit of a “fashion whore” (there’s that fashion word again) so I guess he kind of got me into what looks good and how I should dress. Between my Dad and his seersucker pants and my Mom and her casual and fresh look that always reminds me where I came from back in Naples, the belts were a perfect match for the two. Having an older brother always meant “hand me downs” and lots of mixing and matching growing up. We still argue about who’s shirt or shorts is who’s even though we live 300 miles from each other. With belts, its a happy medium around your waist that, with the right colors or designs, can really bring you back to an awesome memory or time in your life that you love. That’s why Knot isn’t a fashion brand…its a lifestyle. You should interview our customers and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Who does the majority or the design work?
Mostly I come up with the designs or ideas and with the hundreds of ideas I throw out to Caitlin, we sit down and talk about them all…sometimes for a month we’ll talk about one design idea so it is meaningful and perfect to not only our lifestyle, but to our customer’s lifestyles as well. It only takes one word or sentence and Caitlin will feed off of that concept and really make something awesome on the computer. I mean look at our BYOB Belt design. Absolutely amazing detail. I draw out plenty of designs but its Caitlin who whips them up on the computer with such ease as making a batch of brownies….she makes really good brownies, ask anyone who has ever had some!
“Made in the USA” is nice to see stamped on a box. Where are your products made and who makes them?
“Made in the USA” should be on more things in this country. I looked into China, Vietnam, Brazil and Thailand to get the belts made. The quality control and working conditions in those countries isn’t good. These countries aren’t a phone call away and nobody in the US would benefit really except me. I buy stuff made from other countries obviously but with Knot I really wanted to start off with American made goods and give something back a little.
I’ve always been taught to buy local and support the people you respect and have connections with. Right now I’m sitting at the pool at this hotel in Denver with some of my closest friends from home. We maybe see each other once a year, sometimes longer than that and thanks to my buddy and neighbor from home, a kid a grew up with my entire life who’s getting married, we all get to see each other this weekend. Accept for the altitude change and amazing mountain backdrop, I feel like I’m back home. So, sticking to my local “American” roots, I decided to keep all of the belt production here. I can go to the factory in Connecticut and check things out. I can text them pictures or ideas and get a response by the end of the day. The quality is unsurpassed, the energy is very positive and it just feels good. I don’t think many companies, big or small can say they have such a hands on operation like we do here at Knot.
Getting more personal:
Songs to get busy to:
If you don’t have John Brown’s Body in your ipod, you need it. 33RPM
is my favorite track…first time I heard it was in the background of my buddy’s ski film about east coast skiing (funny to say that b/c I’m in Colorado and after shredding Vail, I swore I’d never go back to east cost skiing unless it was in VT haha). Long story short, my buddy, who I’m sitting next to right now, is JBB’s manager and another close friend from home plays keys for them. Go buy a JBB album and if you don’t like it, I’ll send you a belt.
I’m also super into anything electronic and funky. After going toschool for a bit in Switzerland (randomly my friends from CH are inDenver right now and we got to hit up a music festival thing here last night) I got turned on to techno. I’m not a club goer but some of these new bands, like GRUM, Temper Traps and LBCK are super cool and work with some awesome groups. I’ll also take a techno remix any minute of the day.
I supposed I’m getting more expansive than you want but I can talkabout music all day. Jimmy Buffett is a huge influence on my lifestyle. More from his books I’ve read and things I’ve seen him accomplish than even his music. I just got an email from this kid who has tickets to see String Cheese Incident at Red Rocks Sunday night….this could be the best CO trip ever.
Cities you’ve been:
Cities? Shit man, really? Best city I’ve been to is Edinburgh Scotland. I also recommend hitting up the Virgin Islands/BVIs and Fountain Street in Ashland, MA (ask for Henry).
Beverages of the alcoholic nature:
My favorite beverage on the daily is a cold beer. El Pacifico or a nice pale ale…what did I order at brunch? haha. As the sun sets let’s get the rum going with either a Painkiller or Dark n Stormy and see what happens. When its dark out and time to shine, a little whiskey or vodka soda usually hits the spot. Red wine with dinner only and white wine has been my new substitute for a mid afternoon lounge session with friends.
Things you’d like to do before you kick the bucket:
Before I kick the bucket I want to play golf at Augusta National, have a summer house on Canandaigua Lake back home and be able to be with friends and family as often as possible. They’re my inspiration so it’s only right. Wow I never thought about that question.
Actors/Actresses you’d fight, past or present, living or dead:
I’m not a fighter really so this is a tough one. I’ll have to get back to you.
What is the meaning behind the name, Knot?
It all goes back to that sticker…”If its not fun, why do it?” ……our spin is “Why Knot?” …..coming from the Finger Lakes region of New York and now living in Boston, “Knot” is perfect…don’t you think, Will?
Back to Knot: Where do you see Knot in 5 years? If all goes as planned, will you own that yacht and island and never have to worry about money ever again?
In 5 years I think Knot will begin to make heads turn more than they already do. The “Pups” line will be out, the custom shop will be rolling and I hope to have an office that doesn’t have a bed and dresser in it…maybe even some AC..ooooh! No yachts for me quite yet but my brother just bought a 1987 Century fresh water vessel that maybe he’ll sell to me real cheap. I guess I’ll still be doing work on it though because he and his friends named it “The Job.”
How do you propose to make your dreams come true?
Working hard and laughing along the way, especially at the mistakes you can fix.
What advice do you have for others trying to other start down their own dream path or just struggling to figure out what to do in life?
Try everything an anything. Talk to everyone and anyone. From the very beginning be honest and open with your customers and those who you work with. Educate yourself as much as possible by hands on experiences and just go for it.
Finally, if you drive any car regardless of cost, insurance rates, and all that noise, what would it be and why?
Ahhh the ultimate status symbol: the car! Haha. Back in high school, a friend and I used to think a sky blue 1989 Volvo DL with a few perfectly placed stickers on the back window meant you had made it big. I guess a Land Rover Defender would be nice but might be a little too yuppie for me. How about a well equipped Chevy Suburban and I’ll be happy. I’ll need it to pack the belts, dogs and a friend or two in wherever the next Knot adventure takes me.
Check out more from Knot at their website.