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Bowties are cool

Apr 2, 2012
by Carrie Pack Chowske, '00

Alumnus Ben Meredith builds business out of love for ‘preppy Fashion’

In an effort to stand out in the vanilla world of business casual, attorney and Flagler alumnus Ben Meredith, ‘07, began wearing bowties to work. Nearly a year later, he’s turned his personal style into a profitable business.

Meredith owns Starboard Clothing Co., selling more than 20 styles of bowties, with a new winter line that came out in late 2011.

Meredith says he was always a fan of dressing “preppy,” but also knew that as an attorney, he would have to wear more traditional suiting. And that’s where the bowties came in.

“I ran through my seven–tie collection pretty quickly and began looking for other options,” he said. “I decided, on a whim, to wear the sole bowtie I owned to work one Friday.”

To his surprise, he got a lot of compliments. Meredith said he was hooked and began buying more bowties, but he never really intended to start a business. He was really just looking for a way to stand out and still look professional.

“After looking at the construction of the ties and fabrics in person, I thought to myself, ‘Well I could do this,’ ” Meredith said.

He started making the ties for himself using an antique Singer sewing machine he found on Craigslist for $35. With a little help from his grandmother, Meredith taught himself to sew from reading about it online. He admits, though, that his first project wasn’t exactly his best work.

“It was not adjustable, and it was not very good, but it was a start,” he said.

As he got better at making bowties, he began wearing some of the ones he made, using gingham and other fabric that wasn’t widely available.

When he told a few people that he was making his own neckwear, friends started asking him to make bowties for them. After putting up a website to deal with the orders he was receiving, requests eventually came in from all over. He gradually turned his initial $70 investment into a gross profit of more than $10,000.

“It has brought me to a place I never expected to be,” he said.

Still, the popularity of his bowties doesn’t surprise him all that much.

“In a world where business casual is becoming the norm, more and more people are splitting the difference by wearing a bowtie with a sweater and jeans,” Meredith said. “It allows people to stand out, but to do so in a good way. People are embracing that.”

Read Ben Meredith’s blog, Bowties and Boat Shoes.

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