A precocious Memphis sixth-grader named Moziah Bridges has decided to bring the classic and cool bowtie back, a gesture that has gotten attention from Steve Harvey, Forbes, British GQ, and even Oprah. You may have seen Mo's Bows on ABC's hit show 'Shark Tank' as Moziah recently unveiled his handcrafted bows before the show's panel of five investors. He received one offer from businessman Kevin O'Leary for $50,000 in exchange for $3 for every tie sold. But standing in the way was shark Daymond John, founder of the $6 billion dollar FUBU fashion line, who advised Moziah not to take the money and instead offered a valuable mentorship. Not a bad partnership to have for the blooming entrepreneur.
"I started this business when I was 9 years old, when I was in the fourth grade,” he says. Now his business has expanded to include over 20 different bowtie styles, and wholesale orders from over 10 luxury menswear stores.
Moziah's mother, Tramica, says, “He was three or four years old and I remember I let him dress himself and he’d come in a full suit and tie and I’m like, we’re going to the grocery store, what are you doing?”
It’s probably just in his blood. “Mo’s father and grandfather were involved in the fashion and music business. He just comes from a long line of sharp dressing men,” his mother says.
Moziah says of his grandfather: “My grandfather would wear nice clothes just to go to McDonald’s. I absorbed it from him.”
Moziah explains, “I chose the bowtie because I couldn’t find anything that I liked and I just wanted to look good and feel good…So I asked my grandma if she’d teach me to sew, and then I just started wearing them every day.”
His grandmother had been sewing for over 50 years and had lots of vintage fabrics and fun patterns to work with. Moziah started modeling his bowties at school, and though other kids found it “a little weird” at first, Tramica says he kept going. Soon strangers were stopping him on the street, asking where they could find bowties like his.
It was after such an encounter that Mo first expressed an interest in starting a business. Tramica asked what he’d call his business and she remembers, “Right away he said, ‘Mo’s Bows.’ And I was like oh my gosh, that’s perfect.”
Tramica helped Mo get started by printing business cards and setting up a web page and store on Etsy where his ties and pocket squares are available anywhere from $40 to $60. Eventually they shopped the bowties around to local stores, which led to his first wholesale orders. Then, Tramica says, "the media started calling for interviews.”
Since Moziah sold his first bowtie in 2011, he’s gone from a one-boy-band to recently hiring his third seamstress to keep up with orders. His first year brought in just about $10,000. Three years later Mo's has pulled in almost 10 times that, with about $90,000 in profits. Besides each of them getting a "salary," Tramica says the business will one day help put Mo through college. It's a good thing: he has his eyes set on Parson’s School of Design in New York.
It was his idea to help other kids less fortunate than himself, so he started the Go Mo’s Summer Camp - a scholarship program that sends between one and five children to summer camp each year. This has landed him a nomination to the Grio100, and makes Tramica a very proud mother.
Since school is his priority, Tramica works behind the scenes to oversee the business and attend to all sales, scheduling and production. She lets Mo choose his own hours, consulting with him before scheduling him for travel or trunk shows, to make sure he wants to do it. “I try to keep a balance with making sure Mo can be a businessman, but also, so Mo can be a 12-year old." Besides reading GQ and working on the business, he lists reading, riding his bike, and going to the movies with friends among his favorite past-times.
These days Mo says there are certain tasks he's happy to hire out -- like the sewing -- so he can focus on what he does best: selecting patterns and fabrics, being the face of the business, and styling clients' entire outfits around his bowties. (Mo even styled a teacher’s wedding party last year.)
He still makes sure to oversee quality control however, by carefully inspecting each and every bowtie that ships out and if necessary, sending it back to be re-ironed or re-sewn. “I just have an eye for things.”
Meanwhile, Moziah says of his mom: “She motivates me and tells me to keep going. I’m lucky that people are able to support me and help me run my business.”
Video produced by Sarah Lybrand; co-produced by Jessica Ashford. Production by Michael Manas, Richard Rella, Josh Kesner, Edwin Boco, and Maryann Vanderventor. Edited by Sean Elms. Graphics by Todd Tanner and Adam Saul For Yahoo Studios. Executive Producers: Russ Torres and Peter Gorenstein.