From boardshorts to the boardroom, how father and son surfers found the perfect tie
Watching their board shorts dry between waves, Gregg and Zeke Greer figured this would be good material for a tie
Picture this, a father and son on a beach in Hawaii, taking a break from a surf session, swinging in their hammocks, noodling about a business they could start together.
This wasn’t the first time they’d done this. For years, Gregg Greer and his youngest son Zeke had been tossing ideas around. It had become their hobby, trying to envision something nobody thought of until they thought of it; looking for their Steve Jobs moment.
Since action sports is their thing — surfing, snowboarding, skating, anything in the mountains — the ideal for them was to find a way to mix business with pleasure; figure out something they could sell connected to what they love.
They’d run through all the usual outdoor gear retail suspects: hats, shirts, shorts, shoes and so forth and come up empty. At one point they thought about a dating site for action sports participants. They went so far as to pay for a domain name: shreddersonly.com. But after that the idea more or less fell off a cliff. What did they know about online dating?
Lounging in the hammocks in the summer of 2017, they were back to square one.
Then, suddenly, they had it.
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Their inspiration was socks. They’d been talking about the sock revolution they’d seen at church. Everyone still came in their Sunday best, but now Sunday best included colorful socks patterned with everything from flowers to palm trees to Star Wars and Jazz logos — worn by teenagers and grandparents and everyone in between, including Gregg and Zeke.
And it wasn’t just at church. It was everywhere. Stance socks had become a household brand name practically overnight. “Before Stance we’d never seen a pair of socks in a skate shop or a surf shop,” remembers Zeke. “They took a forgotten category and made it cool; we wanted to do that, too.”
Knowing nothing about making neckties, after they returned to Utah, Gregg and Zeke signed up to attend the Magic Fashion Trade Show in Las Vegas, an international gathering of entrepreneurs and innovators.
They were wandering the aisles when they came to a booth displaying the stretchy, water-wicking, quick-drying, stain-resistant, virtually indestructible fabric used in making boardshorts.
It was just the material they were looking for to weld ties with surfing.
The man running the booth, they learned, was the engineer of the material used by many of the world’s leading surfwear companies. He was from China and didn’t speak English. The Greers didn’t speak Chinese. Didn’t matter. Through hand gestures they bonded and succeeded in negotiating a deal to get 50 yards of the boardshort material sent to America.
When the package arrived, Gregg passed the fabric on to Amy, his wife.
“Amy went on YouTube and watched videos how to sew ties,” he recounts. “She made one and it was kind of a disaster; she sewed another one and it was OK; then she sewed a third and I wore it to church on Sunday.”
The youth Gregg was teaching examined the colorful tie that looked and felt like boardshorts and said, “I’d wear one of those.”
Zeke and Gregg named their fledgling necktie company Bombora — an ancient Australian word that describes the big wave that breaks offshore in a storm — and made more prototypes, which they passed around to friends and family.
“The feedback was universally positive,” says Gregg. “I know that isn’t always a good thing because people will never tell you your baby is ugly. But enough people said, ‘Where did you get that tie?’ that we thought maybe we were on to something.”
By this point, Zeke had made his way through college at the University of Utah, majoring in finance, and was at a career crossroads. Should he take corporate job offers on the table or dive full time into neckties?
“I decided on the entrepreneur route,” he says. “Having more flexibility and control over my time sounded better than going the more conventional way.”
In mid-November 2019, just weeks before graduation, Zeke and Gregg, along with Zeke’s sister Kensie as creative director and graphic designer, launched their website, bomboraties.com. They had a slogan: “Boardshorts for the boardroom,” and a sales pitch: “If you have to wear a tie, why not wear one you’re stoked on?”
“It was great and we were selling ties and had a lot of enthusiasm,” says Zeke. “Then COVID hit three months later — and we were dead in the water.”
“People stopped going to the office, stopped going to church, stopped wearing ties,” says Gregg. “Zeke’s suddenly got 2,000 ties in the fulfillment center, which is his apartment.”
Zeke found work teaching snowboarding, Gregg still had his day job, so they survived. The question was: would the ties?
Then the pandemic bestowed an unexpected blessing because the lockdown shifted their surfer-first purism to the wider market waiting at their feet: namely, Latter-day Saint missionaries.
“We wanted to create a brand first and get accepted into the surfing industry. We thought if we went to missionary sales first it wouldn’t work as well,” says Gregg. “Then we decided it didn’t matter. We’re like, ‘We probably should sell ties to the people who buy a lot of them.’”
As the pandemic began to lift, Zeke succeeded in placing Bombora ties in Mr. Mac stores, then in Modern Missionary Menswear in Orem and other missionary-themed retail outlets.
It’s a perfect fit for missionaries, says Gregg. “You can bend it, scrunch it, throw it in the back of your car and drive around for a month and put it on and it looks the same.”
Not that the Greers have given up on other markets as the economy opens back up, especially the surf market. This summer their plan is to travel to California and call on surf shops up and down the coast.
While they’re at it, they’ll also hit the surf breaks along the way.
Business meets pleasure. Precisely what they were aiming for.