- Associated Press - Saturday, December 19, 2015

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) - A sophomore studying business analytics at Loras College, Brendan Doyle looks forward to a career in the business world.

These days, he is getting part of his education outside of the classroom.

Nineteen-year-old Doyle launched a custom bow tie business in April 2014 when he was still a high school student living in the Chicago suburb of Hawthorn Woods, Illinois. He continued to run the business, Whoa Ties, when he moved to Dubuque in the fall of 2014.

Doyle said he takes much of his inspiration from rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z. Doyle’s favorite Jay-Z quote underscores his approach to running a business — “I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man!”

“I really look at myself in my entirety, not just my product, as the business,” Doyle said Monday. “I want people to like me and my product because if they like me, they will come back to me.”

The Telegraph Herald (https://bit.ly/1I9HuP4 ) reports that since launching the business, Doyle has used a strong social-media presence to raise awareness of his products.

He generates many of his sales through his Instagram page and also accepts orders through email.

Doyle also benefited from a close connection with Dubuque retailer Zazou’s Bridal Boutique.

General Manager Khi Shireman said customers can purchase pre-made Whoa Ties products at Zazou’s or stop in to order custom bow ties.

“I think it is the diversity of the prints that really attracts customers,” she said. “So many times, when you choose your outfit for weddings or formal events, it’s because it’s been done already. I like the idea of encouraging someone to be unique.”

Shireman first met with Doyle in late 2014 to discuss his business. She said she came away impressed by his dedication.

“We love encouraging any young person who has the tenacity to be an entrepreneur,” she said. “We wanted to give him a platform where he could bring those items to be viewed.”

When it comes to selling his product, Doyle always has taken a hands-on approach. In high school, he would bring a bag of bow ties to school and sell them to classmates.

“I would get texts from people while I was in class,” Doyle recalled. “So I’d raise my hand and ask the teacher if I could go to the bathroom, then I’d find the person out in the lunch room or wherever they happened to be and make the sale.”

That salesman mentality has stuck with Doyle at Loras, where he frequently dons formal clothes and a bow tie when heading to class to help promote his product.

Doyle admits he had plenty of help getting his business off the ground.

“I’m the youngest of five kids, so I really get all my style from my siblings,” he said.

Doyle’s mother, Jane, does all of the sewing for Whoa Ties. According to Doyle, each bow tie requires about seven inches of fabric and takes about 15 minutes to complete when he and his mother work together.

While Doyle is eager to credit his mom for her role in the business, Jane is quick to deflect any praise back to her son.

“Brendan is always going for the gold,” she said. “Whatever situation he is in, he’s looking for ways to improve that situation and create opportunities.”

In the early stages of running his business, many of Doyle’s sales were from bow ties featuring logos of athletic teams or universities. Citing concerns about trademark violations, Doyle said, his business recently shifted toward floral, plaid and other designs.

He said these custom designs are perfect for customers looking to match colors with their date at prom or other formal events.

As his business and his entrepreneurial mindset continue to evolve, Doyle is confident he is in the right environment to keep growing.

“This whole experience (with Whoa Ties) has given me a lot of confidence,” he said. “And I think my time here at Loras has really opened doors for me and taught me a lot about business and how to get your name out there.”

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Information from: Telegraph Herald, https://www.thonline.com

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