Hi, we’re Karen & David, a couple (literally) of Bow Tie Makers based in Northern Ireland. We make unique, handcrafted Bow Ties, Pocket Squares, Ties and Cufflinks for weddings and special events, or just because! We love what we do and we’re obsessed with our craft. Find out more about us and our journey to making the Belfast Bow Company below.
Did you always want to be business owners?
Karen: “We didn’t mean to.
We sort of fell into this. It then grew so much it became a full-time job for both of us.
It started off as a side hustle and has grown into a thriving business with our own premises and shipping across the world.
If you'd told me that's what I would be doing while studying to become a speech therapist, I'm not sure I would have believed you.
David: “But we come from a long line of entrepreneurs and founders so there was definitely something inside us, itching to come out.
Today, we have a website, we are Not On The High Street partners and our products are stocked across Northern Ireland.”
What’s your background?
David: “I'm from Fivemiletown in Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Both my parents were teachers and I ended up studying Archaeology at Queens University Belfast.
I then worked in a security firm, as a manager in Cotswolds Outdoor and as an assistant manager in a sawmill.
Karen: "He really likes to manage ;)"
David: "Oh, I also was a very good car salesman."
Karen: "Yes, those skills have definitely come in handy. Whereas I grew up in a family business in Co. Down and eventually studied English and then Speech Therapy at Queens and that’s where I met David. While at uni, I'd also worked my way up to the management level at Next, specialising in merchandising.
Looking back, It feels like there were all these forces pushing me into this business.”
How did the Belfast Bow Company Get Started?
David: “Shortly after we got married in 2014, we realised we wanted a bit of extra money, just to afford a nice meal or the occasional bottle of wine.”
Karen: “You could say it started from needing to fund our eating good food and wine habit!”
David: “We knew that whatever we sold had to be small because we had no space in our tiny flat.”
Karen: “David thought Bow Ties would be perfect. He’d noticed how online Bow Ties were really badly packaged so he sourced some lovely boxes and ordered a stamp of our logo. We started a small online business selling our unique Bow Ties on eBay and it just took off.”
How did the Belfast Bow Company go from a side hustle to a full-blown business?
Karen: “I don't think either of us were mentally prepared for how quickly it would grow.”
David: “The hardest thing was deciding what we do about our "real" jobs. Did we quit and start making Bow Ties full time?"
Karen: “It seems so funny calling it our “real jobs” now, but there was a part of us that didn't really believe that the business would make it this far. Slowly, but surely, we had made it to a point that the Bow Ties had become so successful, that we could now become self-employed.
As we worked, The Belfast Bow Company just grew. We finally realised that our WHY was this. We wanted to build a life that we both loved and that our kids would be proud of too.
It's hard work, but we are incredibly proud of what we do. That's why our motto in our workshop is "do what you love and love what you do."
How would you describe David?
Karen: "I think he would say he's dashing and charming ;)
To me, he's calm and creative. He also has a great eye for detail. He packs & posts every single Bow Tie order as well as doing a million other things that keep this ever growing business ticking over, including sewing.
He's a bit...actually VERY eccentric and loves family, vintage cars, gaming, handmade tweed suits, cooking, eating out...in amazing restaurants and talking about food and wine.
How would you describe Karen?
David: “She's a perfectionist, but with a great eye for detail. She has expensive taste, definitely! Karen designs, cuts, sews and makes every single Bow Tie & Pocket Square as well as doing a million other behind-the-scenes jobs that keep a small handmade business on track.
Karen: "I like to describe it as a champagne lifestyle but on a Prosecco budget."
David: "She's also a dreamer, a deep thinker and incredibly creative. Karen loves podcasts, British made coats, hats and shoes, taking photos, gardening cooking, eating out...in amazing restaurants, talking about food and wine and buying too much fabric (handy that!)