Giving People A Personal Edge: A Q&A with Knot Standard CEO and Co-Founder John Ballay
Brands x Better is a coalition of like-minded companies fostering stability in a time of crisis. We asked 10 members of the Brands x Better family a few questions about what they do, why they were drawn to BxB, and what this pandemic has meant to their company. If you aren't already familiar, meet Knot Standard, a premium custom menswear company. We caught up with CEO and Co-Founder John Ballay to learn more about Knot Standard's involvement in Brands x Better, hear some advice to young entrepreneurs, and get tips on finding the perfect suit. Here's what he had to say.
Tell us how Knot Standard came to be. What is your origin story?
One of the best tests to give yourself before starting a business is whether your product is something where people say “why doesn’t this currently exist?” That visceral question was the core of why Knot Standard was born – the ability to have a custom suit made at a reasonable price in a high technology way just did not exist in the US. My business partner Matt and I were ex-pats living in Dubai and there was an opportunity to partner with a great tailoring facility that had made custom clothing for the Armani hotel, and we could execute samples using some excess production. So the origin back in the day was that we were using production expertise from a well-known global retailer, to deliver custom suits to guys in the United States – and that is what started the whole Knot Standard business.
What are Knot Standard’s core values? Do you have a mission statement? If so, what is it?
Knot Standard is all about helping individuals on their individual personal pursuits. Whether that’s to be a better dad, a better businessman, to start a company, to start a firm, Knot Standard exists to make guys better than they were yesterday. That quest to help give people a personal edge, through custom clothing, fulfills the daily mission of our business.
What motivated you to join Brands x Better?
We were motivated to join Brands X Better because, at every point in time, different companies have their moments where they can step up. The COVID environment presented an opportunity to provide outsized help to people at the front lines, and we leveraged our supply chain to get disposable masks into the hands of hospitals quicker than almost anyone. BxB was an easy way for us to use this capability, team up with a whole host of great brands, and use the collective strength to contribute to the solution.
If you had one piece of advice to give to young entrepreneurs what would you say to them?
Advice for a young entrepreneur...I would say make sure that you are evaluating a 5 to 10-year timeline as you think about starting your business. From there, what does the support look like from your family, your significant other – and throughout the future that you want to build? Because the sacrifices that will need to be made will not be made by you alone, and ensure that everyone around you and your support circle is on board
What’s one of the hardest obstacles you’ve overcome as a company and how did it shape what your company is today?
As Knot Standard launched, the original vision was all-around executing and delivering over eCommerce. Also during that time (2014 or so), Ecom was all the rage and the hot buzz word. Amidst that hype, we knew that the Knot Standard business would best serve customers by building a direct sales force and using in-person experiences to introduce individuals to the brand. The decision to build a salesforce and push against the trend was one of the hardest and smartest things that we ever did. When your company is built on the talents and personalities of other people, getting to that critical mass of team members is extremely difficult.
What’s one takeaway you’ve had as a company during this recent pandemic?
There are many quotes around and famous sayings around what you learn about others when things get tough. I could not be more proud of what we learned about the individuals in our company during the recent pandemic and the DNA that we all have to be tenacious problem solvers throughout a very difficult time. On top of that the underlying commitment to help others, which we carried out through our BxB mask donation initiative - was above and beyond wildest expectations and could not be more proud
What sets Knot Standard apart in a somewhat crowded marketplace?
There are many companies that have the ability to make clothes for an individual. We are a company that is completely driven to serve the customer, with one of the largest and most talented stylist groups in the United States, and with 10 different retail locations around the country, Knot Standard is truly different. Add on top of that, we make our own proprietary products (All-Weather Jacket, Weekender Jacket, KS Travel Pants) with our development team, and you realize we really have something special.
What’s one quick tip you’d give to guys when looking for a well-fitting suit?
For guys, my tip would be to not over complicate the process of trying to improve your wardrobe. There are knowledgeable people everywhere that can help you find that expertise – I obviously have a bias towards the process, product, and people at Knot Standard, but for the majority of guys just keep it simple.
Is there one suit every man should own? If so, what is it?
Never underestimate the diversity of a well-fitting navy suit. Notice that the FIT is actually just as important as the color. Navy is timeless, it goes with everything, you can use it for weddings, you can use it for work. If you’re only buying one thing – buy a well-fitting Navy Suit.