I’ve been working on a post featuring the Knotty Tie Co. for the better part of two weeks. It started out as a small collaboration feature highlighting the Knotty Tie and Spruce team up. However, after completing my regular deep dive into the company's start up story and history, I became completely engrossed in their social mission and the personal stories of some of their employees. So instead of the usual post sharing some of the rad products a company creates I wanted to share some of the stories and opportunities Knotty Tie has created.
Founded by Mark Johnson and Jeremy Priest, the Knotty Tie Co. set out with the mission to “create dignified employment opportunities for skilled resettled refugees.” They teamed up with the African Community Center’s (ACC) We Made This (WMT) program (which offers a 12 week sewing and employment skills training in order to provide opportunities for economic growth as well as social network supporting refugee integration) and hit the ground running. Their team of highly skilled refugees receives fair wages, flexible scheduling, benefits and a truly supportive work place. Below are a few personal stories from the refugees who found a home with Knotty Tie Co. (you can find these, and many more refugee stories on the Knotty Tie Co. website).
Team Knotty: Bems
A vicious war in his home country of the Democratic Republic of Congo drove Bems and his family to a refugee camp in Uganda. Instead of letting this defeat him, he was determined to make a life for himself there, and was successful in opening his own company designing and creating all types of clothes. “I love the language of fashion,” he says about his passion for the business he ran for many years. When he moved to America, he was working in a hotel, but lacked the joy and purpose of meaningful employment. Upon hearing about the We Made This sewing program at ACC, he went everyday just to spend time sewing, what he loves to do most. “I want to be here. Whatever it takes, I want to be here,” he told Rachel Cox, Program Director at ACC We Made This. After an assessment of his skills, Rachel provided Bems with a certification and recommendation, a difficult but invaluable asset to acquire for recently resettled refugees looking for long term career opportunities. Soon thereafter, Bems was hired as one of the first two refugee employees at Knotty Tie. Taking his innate creativity and initiative to new levels, Bems set the standards for our manufacturing staff, and continues to lead and coach new employees added to the Knotty Tie family. His unique fashion sense and fun personality adds just the right flair to our team.
Team Knotty: Amal
Amal fled the volatile environment of Iraq with her two children, resettling in America nearly a year and a half ago. As a single mother, the transition was a difficult one, but Amal courageously navigated the challenges of learning a new country, culture, and language. “It was so dangerous in Iraq, and very difficult for me to find work to support my family,” Amal says. Safety is something she greatly cherishes in America, as well as the educational opportunities for not only her children, but herself. “I want my children to succeed in their schooling, and become a doctor and an engineer,” says Amal, who is currently studying English and hopes to attend college in the future. Completing the sewing training program at ACC We Made This, Amal excelled in her class and applied for a job at Knotty Tie. Her cheerful demeanor makes her a joy to have around the shop, as well as the delicious treats she generously shares.
Team Knotty: Hibo
Growing up in Somalia in the midst of continuous conflict and danger was not easy for Hibo, the eldest in a large family. “There was no peace, never any peace at home,” she says. “I love my country, but it is also very difficult to live there.” Bravely accepting the opportunity to take asylum in America, and leaving her family in Somalia behind, Hibo takes on each new day here with grace and positivity. Having always dreamt of becoming a designer and seamstress, Hibo is grateful for her job at Knotty Tie Co. where she has learned to sew, the first step, in what we’re sure will be a successful career for this feisty 22 year old. “At Knotty Tie, I find peace. And a place with freedom to learn, to laugh, and to grow where you want to,” Hibo says. She is also learning English and hopes to attend college one day to pursue her dream of becoming a designer. “I want to try and learn each new thing. It is always hard at first, but then after practice, it becomes easy.” Wise advice for us all!