Plenty of people wear a necktie to a big sales meeting. But not many rip it off in the middle of the presentation. The tactic worked for Zionsville resident Ellie Brown and her two business partners from North Carolina, who have started a line of novelty products called evREwares. Their first product was StickyTies for boys. Wearing the ties themselves at a trade show in New York last year, the women goofily tore them off and slapped them back on to demonstrate the “sticky” part. The act caught the attention of two reps from The Container Store. “They were looking at each other and saying, ‘Hey, is this it? I think this could be it,’” Brown recalls. The reps asked for samples to share with their colleagues, but that hardly guaranteed victory; The Container Store scrutinizes hundreds of samples each year. About six weeks later, though, the retail giant ordered 65,000 ties to sell as stocking-stuffers during the 2011 holiday season.
On the heels of that breakthrough, evREwares started to think bigger—literally. This spring, the women are rolling out Big Guy StickyTies, filling the long-neglected fashion niche of jokey, tailgate-appropriate accessories for men. Some of the designs sport a saying, like “as seen in front of TV.” Others look like beer bubbles or menswear fabric, such as seersucker. “We had to get edgier with our ideas,” says Brown, a mother of two. “Fortunately, we have really funny husbands.” The kids’ ties sell for about $6 in local boutiques, including Ballerinas and Bruisers. Soon, the Big Guy ties will hit some Spencer Gifts locations and Urban Outfitters.
Not that any of this has made Brown and her business partners rich. Though evREwares netted $20,000 last year, none of the owners made any money, and they have a long way to go before they equal the mega-success of Indy’s Mister Steamy dryer-ball inventors, who have infomercialed their way to sales of more than 5 million. But the women could be on the verge of something huge: The adhesive that allows StickyTies to be reused lends itself to other novelties. Brown and her business partners have created ice-breaker drink labels for parties and stickers for decorating a school locker. Their big moment came earlier this year, when they struck a deal with a national company that will use evREwares’ concept to make its own reusable adhesive products, which will be sold at J.C. Penney. The agreement requires Brown to keep the product lineup confidential, but more importantly, it promises the young company a cut of the sales. “Three percent of a lot,” Brown says, “is still a lot.”
Photo by Tony Valainis.
This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue.