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40 Under 40 - Class of 2020
Business Observer Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020 1 month ago

Travis Ray, 35

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Dapper Bowtique, owner; Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, associate managing director
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Bow ties are big business for Travis Ray.

Ray, the owner of Dapper Bowtique in Sarasota, creates handmade bow ties, pocket squares and other accessories. He sells them online, in five retail stores and at vendor shows.

Ray’s day job is in another creative field — he's associate managing director of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in Sarasota. He works on his Dapper Bowtique business before work, after work and on weekends. “Usually, I sew very early — 6:30-8:30 in the morning,” he says. He often works at night, too, from about 6-0 p.m., doing more sewing, cutting fabric, buying fabric, running marketing efforts, managing his website and responding to customers. He makes his products in the sunroom of his home, a room full of natural light that’s ideal for sewing.

As of July, the name Dapper Bowtique is a registered trademark — a point of pride for Ray, who started the business in 2017. At first, he just made bow ties for himself and some friends. When people kept telling him he should turn it into a business, he listened.

Courtesy. During the pandemic, Travis Ray has focused on adding more items to his website for Dapper Bowtique.

Early in the pandemic, Ray used his sewing skills to make 500 masks, primarily for family and friends. He made another batch of masks for a vendor show at an area boutique. Ray regularly does custom orders for weddings and other events, and for a recent wedding, he made both bow ties and matching masks. “I do love doing the sets,” he says. “I find that that’s so fun.”

There haven’t been as many in-person vendors shows during the pandemic, but Ray has harnessed the time to focus on adding more items to his website. “It’s fun to see now how much my website is thriving,” he says.

Lately, Dapper Bowtique has also gotten more attention through the Support Sarasota-Manatee Black-Owned Businesses Facebook page, which has led to new social media followers and more sales. “I see a lot more people who are allies supporting my business because I am a man of color,” he says.

With more growth likely ahead for Dapper Bowtique, Ray is considering hiring people to help, possibly with sewing, marketing and financial aspects of the business. Another future goal is to sell his items in a major retail store. He says, “I would love to be able to look one day and see my stuff in Nordstrom.”

 

GAME STATS

Age

35

City of Residence

Bradenton

Employer

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe and Dapper Bowtique

Title

Associate Managing Director at WBTT and Owner of Dapper Bowtique

Birthplace

Tuskegee, Alabama

Years on the Gulf Coast

Six

Marital Status/Children

Married

Alma Mater/Degree

The University of Alabama — theatre management and arts administration

What community group or organization are you most involved with?

Kappa Alpha Psi, Fraternity Inc.

What's the weirdest job you've ever had?

Doing horror makeup at a Haunted House in Atlanta

What's your top tip for being productive?

Focus on a "power hour." A power hour is an hour a day where you strategically tackle projects that have been on the back burner for days, weeks or months. The power comes in because you make a mental note to power through that task non-stop until you complete it.

If you could have a side hustle, what would it be?

I do have a side hustle — I'm the Owner of Dapper Bowtique, which is an online handcrafted bow tie and accessories brand.

What's your favorite off-hours activity?

Watching "Project Runway"

What's your favorite board game, game show or video game?

I'm a tarot card enthusiast.

What’s your go-to delivery service? (DoorDash, Uber Eats, GrubHub, Bite Squad, etc.)

None. My hubby and I either cook at home or only go out to dinner only on special occasions.

What do you use most — Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams or Google Meetings?

Zoom

What’s the best binge-worthy show you have enjoyed during the pandemic?

"Charmed," the older one. Not the most recent. LOL

What’s the longest virtual meeting you’ve been on since mid-March?

A staff meeting at WBTT that was three hours

How many times had you used video for a work meeting prior to the pandemic?

None

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned during the pandemic?

That there were a lot of projects that I needed to do for my side hustle and at home that I had been putting off. And that this was the best time to focus on my mental and spiritual well-being.

What do you miss most about the world pre-pandemic?

I miss having the freedom to travel — anywhere!

What have you been spending more time doing during the pandemic?

Catching up on side hustle projects, yoga and dieting

Do you prefer working from home or working from an office?

Home

How have you kept up camaraderie with colleagues during the pandemic?

Zoom is actually the best way for me to see everyone. Every so often, if I go to the office to work, I get to see colleagues and with social distancing, we play in-person catch-up.

What’s the first thing you’ll do after the pandemic?

Go on a vacation for at least a week

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