Nov. 16 2016 12:50 AM

MSU Student turns love of bow ties into a business

MSU student William Murphy founded Reign Bow Ties, an online bow tie and accessories store.
Courtesy Photo
One day in middle school, William Murphy decided that he wanted to stand out. So he came to school wearing a bow tie. Just a few years later, the 19-year-old MSU business student created his own online bow tie shop, Reign Bow Ties. The Canton resident took his love of the accessory from a fashion statement to a hobby and then to a business.

“When I first started, it was just something I was doing for fun,” Murphy said. “I was sitting in the house, and I didn’t have anything else to do. I started making them out of fabric and hot glue.”

Soon after, Murphy decided to step things up a notch. He got some sewing lessons from his mother, Sherrie Murphy, and taught himself how to properly make bow ties. Eventually, Murphy taught his mother how to sew them.

“She’s way better than I am now,” Murphy said with a laugh. “She’s definitely on a whole new level.”

By 2014, Murphy’s senior year in high school, he had opened up an online shop and earned the nickname “the bow tie guy.” His 100 percent cotton bowties range in style from solid colors to floral prints and more. The business was originally called Benson-Roberts Bow Ties, but Murphy decided that was too “old school” and tried to come up with a fresher sounding name.

“My original idea was to have a bow tie of each color, each solid color, that way it could match all the outfits in my wardrobe,” he said. “It could be a rainbow of bow ties, so I had Rainbow Ties.”

Murphy’s mother pointed out that the colorful name might not broadly appeal to men, the target market for his accessories. So Murphy tweaked the idea.

“We want to reign over the bow tie industry, so why not Reign Bow Ties?” Murphy said. “It’s a great play on words, and it’s really worked for us marking-wise.”

His online store, reignbowties.com, offers both pre-tied and self-tied bow ties. Since the company’s launch, Murphy has branched out to offer other accessories like pocket squares, bracelets and baseball caps, which he calls “dad hats.” Murphy pictures the company expanding further to include items like suspenders and book bags, but he also doesn’t want to stray too far from his signature product.

“I’ve been so consumed trying to take it from being a bow tie brand to being an accessories brand that we’ve kind of strayed away from the bow ties,” he said. “I’ve started to think maybe we should go back to our roots.”

Murphy keeps a close eye on millennial fashion trends, and he pulls inspiration from fashion-forward musical artists like Kanye West and Tyler, the Creator. While most of his customers are men, he is hoping to establish Reign Bow Ties as a unisex brand and market his ties to women. And the ultimate vision is to have a brick-and-mortar production company.

“Our real plan is to have our own factory where we have people making our products — still hand made but in a big factory," Murphy said. “We want to be a part of rebuilding Detroit, because that’s where I’m from. That’s definitely the direction we’re going in.”

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