Doing Business in Style with Jordan D. Williams of Keefe Cravat
Jordan Williams dropped out of Columbia College Chicago in 2012. The last thing he wanted to do was move back to his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. But alas, he found himself in his mom’s basement weeks after leaving the Windy City.
“I made a declaration right away—if I’m going to live in Kansas City, then I’m going to grow with Kansas City.”
That he did, becoming one of Kansas City’s trailblazer, Jordan started a custom bow tie business called Keefe Cravat. Keefe means noble, gentle, lovable and handsome (qualities Jordan does possess.) And Cravat means neckwear in french.
On March 11 of this year, Jordan will begin a partnership with the Gown Gallery, a mainstay in Kansas City’s bridal industry. The one-year partnership is called ”3/11: The Collection” which will provide a one-stop shopping experience for the formal wear market.
How he got from his mom’s basement, to the Gown Gallery, starts with just $10 dollars and his faith.
One man’s trash is another’s startup
When Jordan started Keefe Cravat, he had never sewn a bow tie before and knew nothing about designing neckwear. His first project was to re-fashion old neck ties into bow ties.
He grabbed $10 and headed to a local second hand store, Savers. He saw that each of the neckties cost $2-3. He asked the manager if he could help him out. The manager said, “Sure, I can sell you a box of neckties for $10.” That box, became Keefe Cravat’s first line of product.
Jordan designed the first collection of bow ties with a hot glue gun, velcro and a handheld sewing kit.
From watching YouTube videos, Jordan became an expert at designing his own handmade neckwear. Next, Jordan decided to learn how to operate a business.
His first step was to join the UMKC Entrepreneurship Scholars, a two-semester business feasibility course.
“When I started E-Scholars, my business was all over the place. I was designing bow ties for men, children and women. My E-Scholars mentors and instructors encouraged me be specific and focus on one target market.”
This focus helped Jordan’s business gain momentum, as did his presentation at 1 Million Cups Kansas City in 2014.
“When I presented on the 1 Million Cups stage, I had no idea what I was talking about. I didn’t know what a business model was and I had a basic understanding of the fashion industry. I just knew I had what it takes.”
After his presentation, Jordan spent hours at the Kauffman Foundation making connections and building his network.
This was just the beginning of Jordan’s journey into Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Since, he has tapped the network deeply. At Global Entrepreneurship Week in 2017, Jordan teamed up with Adrienne B. Haynes, founder of SEED Law and the Multicultural Business Coalition, to host an event called “For the Fashionpreneur.” He shared his story and showcased what a real entrepreneurial hustle looks like.
Keefe Cravat is going to be a household name
When we spoke at his design studio at the Bloch Venture Hub, Jordan shared his vision for the company. “I want Keefe Cravat to become the number one choice for men’s neckwear. I hope to partner up with Tailored Brands one day, they’ve dominated the menswear-formal market.”
Celebrate Jordan’s success and the future of Keefe Cravat at The Gown Gallery for Keefe Cravat, March 11, in the Crossroads Arts District, Kansas City.
And learn more of Jordan’s story when he sits on an alumni panel at 1 Million Cups Black History Month celebration on Wednesday, February 28, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Kauffman Foundation. The event is free, open to the public and includes a Black-owned small business fair featuring microenterprise entrepreneurs.
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Photo Credit: Steven Green