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Toby’s Ties Allows CBA Student To Give Back To His Kenyan Hometown


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Senior Toby O’Kong’o with Peer Ministers & Principal Matt Keough. Photo Courtesy of Judy Salamone.

Toby O’Kong’o, a senior at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, provides living wages for families in Kenya by selling bowties.

Toby came to Syracuse to receive a good education just a few years ago. Growing up he had no electricity or running water in his hometown. Toby came up with the idea for his mother and other women in the village to start ‘Toby’s Ties’ by making artisan, african bowties.

The women use foot pedal operated sewing machines and have produced and sold hundreds of bowties. The women’s average wages are only $1 a day and by selling these bowies each woman makes over $100. Toby’s Ties has helped them earn a livable wage living in a town that has just enough produce and livestock to get by.

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There are 14 different patterns available. Photo Courtesy of Judy Salamone.

Each bow tie is unique in production and design. Many students and staff at CBA have purchased the bow ties in support to wear as part of the school dress code. The bow ties sell for $30 with every penny going back to the women in Kenya. A third of the money goes the women’s salaries, a third goes to buying new equipment, like electric sewing machines and the remaining is used to expand the market. Toby does this out of the goodness of his heart, he doesn’t keep one dollar of profit.

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Toby O’Kong’o shows Principal Matt Keough how to tie a bow tie. Photo Courtesy of Judy Salamone.

They have not yet expanded the business to ship out bow ties. They are available to purchase in the main office at Christian Brothers Academy.

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