Story and Photos by Miranda McDonald
Starting and maintaining a small business is always a challenge. However, what if you needed to factor in homework, extracurricular activities and the usual social angst that comes along with being a teenager? Meet Ethan Thomas: a 15-year-old entrepreneur who recently launched his first company, All Tied Up, and is proving that success doesn’t have to come after a certain age.
Even as a young child, Ethan had a deep appreciation for fashion. His eye for mixing fabrics and knack for building interesting outfits is something the young business owner has always prided himself on.
Wanting to add some panache to his wardrobe, Ethan bought his first pre-tied bowtie and instantly fell in love with the accessory. “I got to a point where I wore a different bow tie to school every day for a full year,” he explained.
However, as a young fashion enthusiast with limited income, his affection for the accessory became costly. So out of necessity, he decided to start making his own. “Eventually, people started telling me how much they really loved my bow ties and that I should sell them,” said Ethan. That is when he decided to setup his first booth at a local craft show last year. “I did a lot better than I was expecting, so things just kind of evolved into something much bigger from there.”
Now, Ethan regularly sets up booths at craft fairs and art-related shows – like the Flea Off Market – and fields orders for custom creations from those who hear about his company through social media or by word of mouth. This year, he is even expanding his line of products to include skinny ties, pocket squares and cufflinks that will all be made by hand.
However, even with this expansion of products, Ethan is still determined to stay true to his mission of creating accessories that are handcrafted from interesting materials. Many of his fabrics are sourced from local shops, but some are so unique that they date back as far as 70 years in age. He attributes the acquisition of these one-of-a-kind fabrics to a family friend named Mary Norris.
Ethan met Norris when his first sewing machine broke down. Her husband, Bill Norris, not only gifted Ethan with a high quality sewing machine from the1940s, but he also became a mentor to the young business owner. Because of this relationship, Ethan regularly pulls from Mary’s carefully-curated collection of fabrics. He was even able to acquire a fabric which features a colorful Van Gogh print he used to construct his favorite bow tie.
Choosing the right fabric is just a first step in the process of making a bow tie though. “After I choose the fabric, I cut out the pattern. Then I sew it, flip it and iron it out,” explained Thomas.
However, the process doesn’t stop there either. Thomas also handles the marketing of each of his custom pieces. His passion for selling at such an early age is extremely rare, but it is what has allowed Thomas to successfully grow his business in such a short amount of time. His motto? Everyone should “give a bow tie a try once.”
All Tied Up by Ethan Thomas
*Please message Ethan Thomas directly for orders and details.