Welcome to Becoming the Boss, our series celebrating small business owners who have made the transition from solo-entrepreneur to employer. Check back periodically for new installments.
While most teenagers spend their summers hanging out with friends or working part-time jobs, 14-year-old Moziah ‘Mo’ Bridges fills his time with business meetings in an effort to grow his bow-tie centric fashion startup, Mo’s Bows.
Since the Memphis, Tenn.-based company’s 2012 launch, Bridges (with help from his mother, Tramica Morris) has been featured in Oprah’s O magazine and Esquire, and snagged “Shark Tank” investor Daymond John as a mentor.
The precocious kidpreneur, who has sold about $200,000 worth of his bow ties so far, says he hopes to serve as an example to other young entrepreneurs and eventually turn his enterprise into a multi-million dollar company. He has also hired seven employees – including his mom, several seamstresses and a social media manager – making the all-important transition from a solo-entrepreneur to a job creator.
While the company is officially listed under his mother’s name, Mo is the creative mind and chief decision maker, and he’s blazing a trail that other teens can follow. We had a chance to ask Bridges about why he decided to launch his business, what motivates him, and where he hopes to take the company from here.
1. Why did you decided to start a bow tie company?
I started hand-making bow ties when I was younger because I couldn’t find any that really fit my style, or that fit my personality. My grandma taught me how to sew when I was little, so I could make my own designs at home. I realized other people liked them too, so starting a company seemed like a good idea.
2. What’s been the best part about running your own business so far?
The best part has been appearing on [the reality TV show] Shark Tank. It was scary, but at the same time, we still got what we needed, and we got to keep 100 percent of the company, so it was great.
Editor’s Note: Reality TV investor Daymond John advised Bridges and his mother on the show—which gives entrepreneurs the chance to secure investment funding in return for company equity— to not seek out investment and retain total control over the company. He also later offered to mentor Bridges for free.
One of my other favorite parts about running this business is that I get to learn from people like Daymond about how to make Mo’s Bows better. Also, because I own my own company and I get to make my own decisions in the business world, I don’t have to work for anyone or wait for approval. I’m in charge of my future, and with help from my mom, I decide what happens.
3. What are your future plans for the business?
My future plan is to get more publicity for the brand so more people know the Mo’s Bows name. I also want to be in more stores and eventually start my own clothing line that has blazers and neckties by the time I’m 20. I really want to make Mo’s Bows the best it can be, and I plan to keep working to make it better as I get older.
I also, of course, want to go to college and get my own Range Rover.
4. What’s it like running your own business?
I’m busy, but I like it. I work on the business every day, and make sure I manage my time by having my mom help me out. She helps me keep everything balanced and make sure I’m doing the right thing at the right time.
It’s fun being the boss because I get to make the decisions at every step of the way and provide [manufacturing] jobs here in the U.S. All of our work takes place in Bradford Springs, Tennessee, and the factory has three to four ladies that make the bow ties, print them, and put tags on them before they’re shipped out.
5. What’s your favorite accessory from the line and why?
My favorite bow tie is the Go Mo Bow, because 100 percent of the proceeds go to help kids go to summer camp. It’s hot in Memphis in the summer, and kids just need to be kids and go swimming. Also, [summer] is when childhood hunger is at its highest, so I figure [kids] can get a good meal, attend summer camp, and just have fun.
6. What’s your advice for other entrepreneurs who want to follow in your footsteps?
I would tell them to figure out what they like and find out how they can make money from it; figure out their passion and just do that. I liked fashion, I liked making bow ties, and we [my mother and I] turned it into a business. Now I get to spend my summers working with people to make my dream come true—it’s not easy, it doesn’t happen overnight, but I wouldn’t want to do anything else.
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