The Ties that Bind

Category: News

Alumni-owned company, Threds, Inc. perserveres during economic downturn.

Founded by two UT graduates, Threds, Inc., has been producing custom apparel and promotional products for more than 25 years. From a tiny shop on 17th Street near the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, campus to a company of more than 100 employees, a lot has changed since Kelby Shymlock and Keith Phillips put their entrepreneurial gears in drive. However, there is one constant; the premise that business would never be transactional. Strong client relationships are what Threds was founded on and it’s those relational experiences that have been built and fostered during the last 25 years, that helped Threds persevere during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If COVID-19 taught Threds anything, it was that adapting to change – in this case, abrupt change – is essential for survival in both business and life.

While doors were shut and streets were empty across the country, Threds took time during this unprecedented pandemic to reset on all fronts. “While business was closed, we didn’t just go home. We evaluated our business model; we gauged our efficiencies in all departments, and we determined new ways to cut costs so that when we were cleared for re-opening we could do it right and stay focused on our customers,” said co-owner Kelby Shymlock.

Threds knew there would be a period of re-building once businesses returned to the “new normal” and that customers would need time to adjust and re-engage their client bases. Luckily, Threds was pro-active and was able to supplement revenue by being one of the first businesses to offer masks as a new product offering.

Threds quickly secured vendors and developed a dedicated website solely for masks.

Co-owner Keith Phillips shared that this project was exceptionally special to the Threds team because it made them part of the solution by providing a product that helped mitigate the spread of COVID-19. “Through urgency, strong client relationships, and old-fashioned hard work, we were able to rally and generate revenue that we needed during the early re-opening stages. Beyond that, we were excited about being able to supply a product that helped communities stay safer and minimize spread. That felt good.”

Some would say that innovation is the key to success. While Threds can agree on its importance, to the team success is believed to come from a much simpler place— the foundation from which all other successes are built. These building blocks consist of relationships, trust, consistency, and a determination to not fall even when the world rattles around you.

“Our tag line is also simple: We Do More” said Director of Marketing, Alicia Strange. “We chose this identity statement because we simply do.”