Now clean, Utah brothers use business to fight opioid crisis

Local News

SOUTH OGDEN, Utah (ABC4 News) – Two sharply-dressed Utah brothers are working to modernize the classic necktie – and while they’re at it, they’re fighting Utah’s opioid crisis. 

Ryan Smith, 36 and his brother Daniel, 32, are just over 10 years clean from their bout with a severe addiction to prescription pills. Daniel was 18 when he said he and several members of his golf team tried Oxycontin. Soon after, his brother Ryan also tried the pills. In nine months, their lives had been turned upside down by addiction. 

“Really it can happen to anybody…we were two kids who really didn’t think we were going down the path of addiction…and it really changed our whole lives,” Daniel said.

Their company, ModernTie, featuring neckties which snap on and off from their plastic or metal stylized “knots” – allowing the user to change tie styles and mix and match ties (that are magnetized so they adhere to the knot), took off in 2017. 

Ryan Smith said one day he was struggling to get his tie on for a church activity when he had the idea to create a prototype for a sort of “snap-on” stylish tie – using a metal coat hanger. 

The company came to be with the help of Kickstarter – and now the pair ships about a thousand ties a week. The company continues to grow. 15 percent of each ModernTie sale goes to local initiatives working to fight the opiate crisis. 

It’s a cause close to these brothers’ hearts. 

“It’s just hit this state and this area so hard,” said Daniel Smith. 

 “One of our friends had gotten back surgery so he ended up using some of that and we ended up using too,” Ryan said. “We really just didn’t know what we were getting into at all.”

 “Everyday we had to come up with about $100 to get the stuff that we needed,” he said. 

The Utah Department of Health says nationwide about 24 people die each day due to an opioid overdose. The brothers said they had close calls, and Ryan Smith said at one point he was living in a hotel. 

The two got clean after a lengthy and difficult wilderness retreat in Arizona. They describe the detox experience as extremely painful, but despite the pain, their risk of relapse still exists. That’s why they have to watch themselves and stay away from bad influences. 

The two now are married and have children. Ryan Smith said he has never used while his children have been alive, adding that having kids further incentivized him to stay away from pills. 

ModernTie also accepts donations for their “Knot Another Life” cause, which helps individuals battling opiate addiction get clean. 

“It’s really been awesome to see how generous people are,” said Ryan Smith. 

“We recreated the modern tie, we gave it a second chance…we want to give them a second chance too,” said T.J. Mortensen, 17. He is the company’s marketing manager. A fan of extreme sports, he’s getting his peers to tell their friends about the dangers of opioid abuse, using ModernTie as a conversation starter. 

Both of the Smith brothers said they have had several friends pass away due to opioid abuse. Their startup is young, but they hope to choke the statistics out with these nifty neck accessories. 

We’ve taken those habits of destruction and turned them into habits of good,” said Daniel Smith. 

For information on resources available for those struggling with opioid addiction in Utah, click here

For more information on ModernTie, click here

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated 24 people die each day in Utah due to opioid overdose. 

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