A Classic Act
While you might think bow ties are a fashion statement best made by tuxedoed grooms, maître d’s and waiters, the founders of Beau Ties Ltd. of Vermont would disagree with you. So would Beau Ties’ customers, whose love of the butterfly-shaped neckwear has allowed this catalog to grow from a one-page flier mailed to 3,500 names in 1993 to a 56-page book with annual sales in excess of $2 million.
In the 13 years Beau Ties has been in business, founders Bill Kenerson and Deb Venman have learned a thing or two about marketing to a niche audience. For this catalog, the right mix of preparation, product and attention to customers’ needs has made all the difference.
Product Search Led to Catalog Creation
With the idea of developing a small business to keep him and his wife busy in their impending retirement, Kenerson, then heading up the Addison County Economic Development Corp., thought he’d kill two birds with one stone. As an avid bow-tie wearer, he knew the travails of hunting through menswear stores searching for bow ties that suited him.
“Bow-tie wearers of the world have a problem,” Kenerson says. “They simply can’t find bow ties.” Armed with this knowledge, he proposed the concept of a direct marketing business to his wife, Deb Venman, a partner at a local law firm.
In their initial research, Kenerson and Venman found there were 100 million to 200 million ties sold in the United States every year. With an estimated 3 percent to 5 percent of those numbers representing bow-tie wearers, they felt those numbers represented a substantial niche that could be served by a catalog. The only catalog company they were aware of that sold bow ties had gone out of business years prior, so they felt the time was ripe for a new entry into the market — if it could be done properly.