On the fifth floor of The Columbia Club in downtown Indianapolis, a boutique public relations firm mirrors a start-up agency in San Francisco. The winding staircase in this historic building leads to what looks like a block of hotel rooms. Yet, it is home to innovative businesses and eager entrepreneurs.
Cris Dorman, ’06, found his niche here. Leaving a political communications position in 2010, he moved blocks from the Statehouse to become a member of The Columbia Club. He wanted to create a branding and public relations agency similar to Cardinal Communications, a student-run public relations agency at Ball State, and replicate its environment of openness and collaboration.
Securing office space in the heart of the Circle City, Dorman opened Brandrenew to help a range of clientele promote fresh, engaging brands. Soon, its own start-up, Rock My Bow Tie, was up and running.
Working with a fellow Hoosier who is savvy in international trade, Dorman, a public relations major, launched Rock My Bow Tie to provide stylish and trendy neckties at a lower cost. His passion for upscale fashion, along with the affordability of starting a fashion brand in Indiana, made it the perfect fit.
“Indianapolis is my hometown, and I love the opportunities here. Those in business want you to succeed, creating a sense of camaraderie,” Dorman said.
Dorman says he is tapping into a male fashion nostalgia with his products. “We want words like ‘dapper’ to continue,” he said. (Photo courtesy of Cris Dorman)
As the name implies, Rock My Bow Tie features an array of signature bow ties, though the business recently added pocket squares, suspenders and regular ties to its roster of products. Its website offers guidance on how to tie a bow tie and create a custom-designed tie. Customers can buy the site’s signature product one at a time or commit to buying one a month for periods of three to 12 months.
“We’re making bow ties a part of the everyday trendy men’s wardrobe. We want to preserve this accessory,” Dorman said. “It’s nostalgic. We want words like ‘dapper’ to continue.”
Customers can feel good about their purchases, too, knowing a portion of the proceeds supports philanthropic causes.
“To be a Ball State alumnus in the branding and PR industry means that I’ve come from a strong journalistic and multimedia university that fosters an entrepreneurial spirit, integrity, brand recognition and results,” Dorman said. “My educational experience taught me to write well, research thoroughly, develop and maintain a brand and know my audience. This gave me a strong start.”
Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Ball State Alumnus magazine.
Dorman’s company produced bow ties for the June retirement party of Dan Evans, who stepped down as president and CEO of Indiana University Health. That’s where one of the ties, which bore Evans’ likeness, found its way to the collar of Gov. Mike Pence. (Photo courtesy of Brandrenew)
Read a Q&A with Cris Dorman