Dapper Geek creator Kellie Ketron recently moved from Nashville to Frederick, and she brought her sewing machine with her. Ketron hand designs and sews bow ties, neckties and accessories to suit her customers’ varying ages and styles.
Why did you decide to start this business?
The start of Dapper Geek was the silver lining of a bad situation. In March of 2013 I was the manager of a bar in Nashville and was brutally assaulted by a customer. I wound up having a broken collarbone, torn muscles in my neck and shoulder and a bruised throat. Needless to say my days of bartending came to a screeching halt. During the next few weeks I was invited to a party and wanted to wear a bow tie. I shopped around locally and couldn’t find one I liked, and I looked online and didn’t find any. Eventually, I decided to put my sewing skills to good use, and break out the sewing machine my mom made my baby clothes with and make my own. I wore it to the party and everyone loved it! I may have even sold one to someone there that night. So, the next day I sent a crude drawing to my best friend and he whipped up a logo for me.
How did you decide on your business name?
The way I’ve dressed and the fashions of the past have always inspired me. I hate how casual our culture has become. I’ve been called “dapper” and I liked it. I actually started off using Star Trek, Star Wars and Doctor Who fabrics. I’ve always been a sci-fi nerd, so the name is essentially a description of me.
What makes your business stand out?
I like to think that I bring something different to the world of neck wear. Sometimes I say that my ties are the Hawaiian shirts of ties, something fun to wear! I like to do the unexpected and juxtapose colors on my ties and use fabrics that range from almost cartoon-y to classic Pendleton wool. I also like to make ties that anyone can wear and choose patterns that can fit anyone’s sense of style.
What is a typical day like?
Coffee and emails! My studio is in my house, so then it’s to the studio to check my wipe off board of projects in various stages. Then I make sure everything is on schedule and post something to social media and get started on production. I usually have ties and bags in various stages of production. Then it’s sew, cut, iron or hand finish all day. Emails and text messages answered at lunch, and then sew until it’s dark.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
I took home economics in middle school and had a mom that encouraged sewing. I have always had a love of fashion and seem to be able to learn from just doing it.
What is your background? (Education, Work Experience)
I have a bachelor’s degree in Music Business from MTSU (Middle Tennessee State University). In college I learned theater lighting and lit plays and worked on stage craft. When I graduated I continued that and was a lighting designer for 7 years. Then I went into the bar business and that’s where I stayed until 2013. When I could finally work again (after being assaulted) I worked retail in an amazing locally owned shop in Nashville called Pangaea. While I was there I was also working Dapper Geek full time at nights. About a year ago I quit that job so I could pursue Dapper Geek full time.
What is it like to work for you?
Well, you’d have to ask stage hands! I think I expect hard work and attention to details. So far DG has yet to have anyone working but myself. I have help from friends in family when the ironing backs up, haha. I would say they would say I work too much.
How do the social/economic/technological environment in Frederick (or wherever) impact your business?
I’ve been a Frederick resident for a little less than a year. My folks have been here for 13 yrs. I adore the community here. I’ve made some really amazing friends and have really connected with other small business owners. I love that the community really comes together to support each other. The first Saturday events every month are what small business dreams are made of! Plus it doesn’t hurt that the city is beautiful!
Can you describe your customers?
It’s hard to describe my clientele and I love that. We’ve got everything from retirees who say, “I haven’t worn a tie in years,” to a good range of male and female clients 25- and up. And some of my favorites are at the Pride shows where people buy their previous teen and teen daughters a tie. Something about the exchange between the family and the happiness on the teens face just makes my day.
What is the best part about what you do? Most Challenging?
Being my own boss, obviously. I also love being able to pick out my line every season and have creative license to grow my product line as I want to. The most challenging would probably be working alone, and trying manage all aspects of a business by myself. Keeping up with social media could be a full time job alone nowadays.
When you’re not running your business, what are you doing?
Something outside! I spent two months tent camping on the road last summer doing pop up shows and sewing in National Parks.
Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years?
I hope to double the amount of stores I’m in. I’d also like to be involved in more weddings. In the next 5 years I want to have expanded my line to include canvas backpacks and a brick and mortar.