History in the Making
They say everything old is new again, especially in fashion. That’s what Ali Muhammad is counting on.
His company, StoryWood Bowties LLC, sells wooden products like belt buckles, earrings and, of course, bowties. The wood is salvaged from historic buildings, like Churchill Downs, Maker’s Mark and the barns that once housed horse racing legends, Man-O-War and Secretariat.
“We do more than make wooden bowties,” said Muhammad, the company’s CEO. “We tell the stories behind iconic buildings with historic significance.”
But while so much of his business is focused on preserving the past, the company’s present and future wouldn’t be possible without the University of Louisville.
The products themselves were developed at the FirstBuild, a micro-factory and makerspace backed by GE Appliances, a Haier Company, on the U of L Belknap campus. Muhammad worked with the advanced manufacturing equipment, such as electronics benches and laser cutters, and bounced ideas off fellow makers.
“I wouldn’t be able to be where I’m at, physically, as a company, if FirstBuild did not exist,” he said. Working with others “helped me innovate my own product up until the point where it’s at now.”
StoryWood has also enlisted Dr. Dan Vivian, an assistant professor in the U of L history department, to research the backstory of each piece of wood. The resulting text and photos are included with the product packaging.
"History is all around us," Vivian said. "It’s too important to live only in textbooks and classrooms."
Maya Williamson, Storywood's co-founder and chief marketing officer, agrees.
“We always tell the story behind that bowtie, so that history will never be lost,” she said.