One Neck at a Time

One Neck at a Time

Utah Valley University student Noel Lopez knows what the so-called “American Dream” feels like, and he’s forging that knowledge to touch people around the world “one neck at a time.”

Utah Valley University student Noel Lopez knows what the so-called “American Dream” feels like, and he’s forging that knowledge to touch people around the world “one neck at a time.”

Between going to marketing and business management classes at the Orem UVU campus, Lopez can look back and relate how he was taught life’s lessons as soon as he was old enough to help his family succeed. Lopez’s family immigrated from Mexico to the United States in 1990 — “my father often worked for $2 an hour,” he remembers — and it wasn’t long until Noel was helping with the struggle.

Or Lopez can look ahead and continue to pursue his affinity for fashion, a desire to unite cultures, and a strong entrepreneurial understanding as he heads his new company The Town and Co.

The Town and Co. started with the premise that something as simple as a tie around a neck can assist in making cultural connections and provide instant camaraderie.

“Seeing a familiar country symbol on a stranger’s tie says ‘We have a connection, even though we don’t know each other yet’,” Lopez explains. “It is the ideal relationship icebreaker for anyone communicating internationally. Or for anyone who wants to recall a memory or honor a country they have an affinity for.”

Lopez was struck by the idea of ties reflecting a nation’s colors and symbols while serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Uruguay. He noted that some missionaries were wearing colors of Uruguay’s flag and logos from the national soccer team on their neckties.

“I went to a missionary reunion and noticed several of the guys were still wearing that same tie,” Lopez says. “They attract attention, they open conversations, they make a connection.”

Lopez and The Town and Co. now produce neckwear with tie-ins to more than 20 countries. His neckwear is currently sold in 11 stores nationwide and available through the company’s website and Utah-based Deseret Book Company. He says he hopes to soon have his ties in airport gift shops around the country and various tourist centers. He is expanding his creative ties to reflect each state in the union — Utah’s icon is Delicate Arch — and perhaps individual companies and corporations.

“I want to touch and inspire people, one necktie at a time,” he says.

The 23-year-old sophomore says politicians, traveling salesmen, and government auxiliaries in Washington, D.C., are among his customers along with, of course, returned LDS missionaries.

“We get a lot of sales out of D.C.,” he said recently. “Also, the website brings in anywhere from 50 to 100 requests each week.”

His long-term and loftiest goal is to design a line of ties that will be featured in the Olympic games, similar to accessories designed by Ralph Lauren this past summer. A lot of creative thought goes into each design, he says, with most designs reflecting colors of a country’s flag and a recognizable icon — “I want the icon to pop out and start people talking together. I know people have a love of a country and most have a desire to talk to someone else about it.”

“I love fashion,” Lopez, who aims to graduate in 2018, says, “but that isn’t enough to run this business. My Woodbury accounting classes help me understand how to balance and keep the books and my marketing school classes have taught me how to market successfully both nationally and internationally. You can have a passion like I do for fashion, but you also have to understand business.”

Paul Dishman, UVU marketing department chair at the Woodbury School of Business, said, “Noel’s keen marketing sense and disciplined enterprise approach has served him well. He is just one example of the numerous student entrepreneurs who have taken what they’ve learned at Woodbury and started their own successful businesses.”

Lopez says having a business on the side has affected positively how he studies at UVU. “I can apply my studies directly to what I’m doing. It really makes school fun and worth my attention, for sure,” he says.

Lopez credits watching his father’s work ethic for much of his success.

“Our family is the American dream, in my opinion,” he says. “We could have left, we could have abandoned our hopes, but my dad said, ‘Just keep going. It’s OK.’ Because of my parents, I have the opportunity I now have and, like my father, I’m just going to keep going.”

His father began as an agricultural worker, but today has his own concrete polishing company and builds custom homes. He recently sold his janitorial cleaning company that he owned and managed for 18 years in the Spokane, Washington, area.

“He taught us to be passionate and to work hard. We were always included in his business,” Lopez says. “You know, I’ve been working as long as I can remember.”