Student Entrepreneurs Find Success with Bowtie Brand
By Lindsey Derrick, Dalton Public Schools Contributor
In the summer of 2011, four upcoming juniors in high school came up with an idea to make a little spare money.
Instead of letting the idea go, Cole Calfee, Robert Hardaway, now both seniors at Dalton High; Cole Townsend, now a senior at Christian Heritage; and Sam Wilson, a senior at Morris Innovative High pursued the idea and made it reality. The end result was Bowtie Brand.
“We were broke,” Calfee said. “It was a group a friends thinking of ideas to make money, and we made the decision to actually do it.”
“Few actually go through with the ideas,” Hardaway said. “That’s the difference between us and others. We acted on it, and great things have come from it.”
At first, the boys were just going to have a clothing business and have the bowtie as their logo, but they perused the bowtie idea further and decided to specialize in it.
“Everyone looks good in a bowtie,” Hardaway said.
Once the idea was in place, they needed a way to make the ties.
They bought a 1953 Singer sewing machine on Craigslist, and started building Bowtie Brand.
The boys designed their own templates, bought the fabric and supplies, decided the shape and length, and of course, had to learn to sew.
“Yea, we’re 18-year-old guys who can sew,” they both said with a laugh.
Both Hardaway and Calfee, now both 18, admit that it took a while for them to produce a presentable bowtie.
At the beginning, it took around two hours to complete a tie. Now they can churn a bowtie out in around 30 minutes.
They launched the website last spring, and had around nine cotton ties that they made once an order came in.
The cotton ties sell for $38, a price that they decided was a happy medium to turn a profit—the boys haven’t even kept any money for themselves as of now. All the money they have made has gone back into Bowtie Brand.
“If the price was too high, no one would buy them, but if it was too low, people would think they were cheap,” said Hardaway.
The number of orders varies per week, but business got booming around Easter when they sometimes had to make 14 ties per night.
“We spent too many night sewing,” said Calfee. “We knew we had to get someone else to do it.”
Recently, they found a manufacturer in New York that is going to produce the ties. With the new manufacturer also comes a new product: silk bowties. The more expansive fabric will draw in a new type of customer, but the guys decided to also keep some cotton ties to appeal to both markets.
Bowtie Brand also has a huge following on college campuses around the nation. Some customers have taken on the role of campus representative at their colleges. To be a campus rep, those interested must apply for the position and send in their resume to the four founders. The boys then decide if they want this person to represent their company.
“It’s been awesome to see how interested they are in spreading the word of the company,” Calfee said about the campus reps.
As of now, Bowtie Brand has a campus representative in 17 colleges, including all schools in the SEC.
“If you have an idea in your head, make it happen,” Hardaway advised. “Just do it. It’s simpler than you think.”
“It’s more successful than we could’ve imagined,” Calfee said of their business. “It’s been rewarding to see the vision play out.”
To shop Bowtie Brand visit http://www.bowtiebrand.com/
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