Regional entrepreneur starts business with handmade bow tie

Update:13 Mar 2020

Ray traces the beginnings of his side hustle to custom […]

Ray traces the beginnings of his side hustle to custom ties a dream. The image of a woman in African attire holding fabric appeared to him and dropped a bow tie in his lap. He paid attention to the dream and started making bow ties in 2017. At first, he only made them for himself and friends as gifts, but he realized demand was bigger. When people saw him wearing a bow tie, they would ask him where he got it.

They also started telling him, “‘You need to turn this into a business.’”Ray learned to sew in home economics class in seventh grade. When he studied theater in college, his sewing skills got another boost. Once he started making bow ties, his mother-in-law, who used to own an alterations shop, gave him tips.The Dapper Bowtique headquarters is in the roughly 200-square-foot sunroom of Ray’s home. He’s dubbed it “The Dapper Studio.

There he sews, works on his website and displays fabric and finished products.Everyone knows me for my bow ties, but I’ve added pocket squares now,” he says. The move allowed him to make use of leftover fabric — and increase sales. “I do the set, and I’ve gotten more business because of it.” Now the majority of customers want the matching set. Dapper Bowtique bow ties sell for $25. With a matching pocket square, it’s $35. Custom orders for a bow tie and pocket square are $45.

The amount of bow ties he sells each month varies, he says. Through mid-February, he had sold 25. The bow ties Ray makes use fabrics that range from cotton and silk to canvas and linen. “I love being able to work with different types of fabrics,” he says. “I’m challenging myself. My favorite TV show is "Project Runway." I want to use unconventional items — maybe leather and lace that you might not see with pocket squares and bow ties and utilizing embellishments.