Dapper Bowtique, owner; Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, associate managing director
| 12:00 p.m. October 15, 2020
40 Under 40
Class of 2020
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.
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.”
City of Residence
Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe and Dapper Bowtique
Associate Managing Director at WBTT and Owner of Dapper Bowtique
Years on the Gulf Coast
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?