For dads, wearing an expensive tie around children isn’t always a good idea. Ties are made of delicate fabric and can be damaged easily. Kevin Shoemaker and Skylar Bennett realized this which led them to create Tough Tie. They pitched their company on Shark Tank and got a deal with Robert Herjavec. As of 2024, Tough Tie is worth an estimated $3 million.
The Founders: Meet Kevin and Skylar
Kevin Shoemaker hails from Mesa, Arizona and holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from Arizona State University. His partner, Skylar Bennett is also from Arizona, but resides in Phoenix. Skylar studied accounting and got an associate’s degree at Utah Valley University and a bachelor’s degree from ASU.
Both of them finished college at the same time, tried their hands in the real estate business. Kevin worked as the marketing director at Menlo Group Commercial Real Estate, and Skylar was the industrial specialist at the same firm.
From Selling Houses to Selling Ties
As aspiring real estate agents, Shoemaker and Bennett wore suits everyday. They became dads around the same time and witnessed their kids ruining their favorite ties. The guys brainstormed some ideas, and invested $43,000 to launch a product in 2017.
They paired up with a fashion designer to make sturdy but fancy-looking ties. They called their company Tough Tie, but also sold socks and belts. In the first year of business, Tough Tie’s did $208,000 in revenue following a direct to consumer model.
Tough Tie’s Shark Tank Pitch
Sales were healthy, but Kevin and Skylar had $150,000 in debt. The entrepreneurs got accepted onto Shark Tank and appeared on season nine, seeking $100,000 for a 15% equity stake.
The founders were optimistic but once they revealed their net profit forecast for the year the mood changed. Tough Tie predicted a $40,000 profit from $400,000 in sales. The company’s cash flow was tight as they had to spend money on paid marketing to keep acquiring customers.
Out of the blue, Robert Herjavec made an offer of $100,000 for a 35% stake. The founders made two counter offers but ended up accepting Robert’s offer. Herjavec was ruthless, even Kevin O’Leary was surprised by his greed.
After Shark Tank: Rebranding to Tough Apparel
After the show aired, the deal with Robert Herjavec didn’t close according to looper.com. Most likely the founders changed their minds about giving up 35% after a boost in sales from appearing on television. Also, Robert isn’t mentioned on their blog post about their Shark Tank appearance.
As they continued to expand their product range, the company rebranded to Tough Apparel. Tough Apparel added new designs for their formal ties, socks, belts, and buckles. Not only that, they began selling durable shirts. These can be purchased on ToughApparel.com or through wholesale on Faire.com.
Many of their tie designs have 5-star reviews from customers on their website. Tough Apparel is now thriving and currently makes $3-$4 million in annual revenue. Overall, the business is currently worth around $3 million.