TivaTies aren't merely a fashion statement — they're a statement of values.
In November, Harrison Collins, junior in marketing and entrepreneurship, capitalized on a goal set the previous year: designing and selling bow ties to raise money for charity. His non-profit business, "TivaTies," benefits TivaWater, an organization providing water filters to underprivileged families in developing countries.
In keeping with his personal style, Collins chose the accessory for its novelty.
"I'm a big bow tie guy, and I wear them all the time," Collins said. "You couldn't tell I like to dress up because I'm normally pretty rugged, ragtag and thrown together. But, if it's a nice occasion, I love to dress up for it. I think a bow tie says a lot about a guy. It's sort of quirky and confident."
An unusual choice, the ties depart from more predictable products like water bottles. Collins said he believes this will work to increase their popularity.
"It was just an interesting way to raise money," Collins said. "They seem completely unrelated: bow ties and clean water. But I like that, 'How do these two relate?' It's a good conversation starter, and it can get people talking about how they can help."
Not one for resolutions, Collins welcomes each new year with a list of accomplishments he hopes to meet.
In 2013, Collins' 13 goals included designing a charitable bow tie; a vision now becoming a reality. He said he woke up inexplicably in the middle of the night with the thought to design one and admits initial uncertainty as to how to implement this epiphany.
After talking to a family friend involved with TivaWater, Collins met the organization's owner.
This encounter solidified his selection.
"I heard their mission, their vision, everything about what they do," Collins said. "No questions, this is who I want it to be."
Delivering directly to developing nations like Haiti, Guatemala and Uganda, each TivaWater filter costs $100.
About the size of water jugs seen on sporting event sidelines, each filter contains 20 pounds of sand. This layer creates a living biological filter for harmful bacteria. One filter can serve up to 15 people.
"You pour the dirtiest water in," Collins said, "and you're going to get nothing but clean water that's safe to drink when it comes out."
Reflecting TivaWater's primary commitment to aiding African nations, Collins' bow tie design sports a motif of the continent over navy and red stripes.
After sending his sketches to Gitman Bros., a tie company based in North Carolina, Collins ordered 200 self-tie and 200 pre-tied bow ties, pricing them at $40 each.
"That was totally a blessing," Collins said. "I'm ordering such a minimum amount of bow ties compared to what they're used to, so really my business is not important to them. They shouldn't have taken me on, but they did. Not because they were going to make money off of it, but I guess they just believed in it, too."
TivaTies has since been featured in the Torchbearer, the University's alumni magazine.
Despite making no monetary profit from the sale of his bow ties, Collins' partnership with TivaWater is valuable nonetheless.
"It's the best work environment that I've ever been in, where I feel invested in," Collins said. "And they're teaching me a lot about being a responsible and honest businessman."
More information about TivaWater can be found at tivawater.com.