10 min 2 sec

College Buddies Create $15,000 Bow Tie Hustle

After making the decision to upgrade their wardrobes, two Virginia college students start a bow tie side hustle.
Alibaba Clothing Manufacturing Product

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What It's About

Two college students start a bow tie side hustle that is both snazzy and economical.

Business Model
Skills Required
Research & Business Savvy
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

“Alibaba can be a great tool for entrepreneurs, it can also be a nightmare if you don't know how to navigate it properly. Reading reviews and tracking their ratings is a good first step, but I think you can get a much better understanding based off of your conversation with the sales people as well as the initial sample. The quality can swing wildly from very high quality to low quality on the same search page, so having the ability to figure out what one works for you is the most important task.” —Chris DiAntonio

Fun Fact

A week before his birthday, Chris’ mom called and asked him what he wanted. He thought about it and decided he wanted to improve his wardrobe with a button-down shirt and a bow tie. But when he started shopping around, he realized how expensive bow ties were, and came to the realization that even with all of his birthday money, he could only afford one measly bow tie. He was in a fraternity at the time, and bow ties were popular, but he knew he couldn’t just drop $60 for a Vineyard Vines tie, and thought others might be in the same boat.

Notes from Chris

Episode 129

We've received a lot of questions about how to find manufacturers—especially overseas manufacturers—either for a custom product that you want to make or for items you'd like to purchase and then resell. Well, there's a great resource you can use called Alibaba which is a global directory that connects suppliers, manufacturers, or pretty much anyone with an idea, and it can be used for lots of different things. In today's story, two friends use Alibaba to find a manufacturer for their bow tie side hustle that allows them to bring in a profit while keeping costs low enough to be affordable for their peers.

One fateful Thursday afternoon, a software sales rep and recent college graduate decided he wanted to sell quality affordable bow ties with a free matching pocket square. By Friday night, he had created a website, gotten a logo, put together an initial design, and just needed to pay for inventory and find someone to run the project with him. That’s where his college buddy, Kyle, came in.

They then started looking for a clothing manufacturer in the U.S. Although they found plenty of textile factories, they were cost-prohibitive if he wanted to provide great quality ties to college students at a good price, so they turned their attention to manufacturers overseas. That's when they discovered Alibaba and found manufacturers for everything they needed: bow ties, matching pocket squares, custom packaging, and even laptop stickers.

The final product was a high quality bow tie and pocket square combo that sold for $25 to $30 on their website, Virginia Southern, compared to the more expensive $60 to $80 ones that were currently on the market. They started selling school color themed bow ties in 10 different college bookstores bringing in a little over $15,000 in profit from their efforts. But now that they have broken into multiple retail locations, they're planning on making a big push this spring to get into even more bookstores nationwide.


  • Virginia Southern: Check out Chris and Kyle's snazzy bow tie selection on their website
  • Alibaba: The website where Chris and Kyle spent time researching and eventually found the manufacturer for their bow ties and pocket squares

Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,


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Quote of the Day
"On top of the experience gained, when I’m driving around Virginia, every once in awhile I’ll see a car drive by with our bumper sticker on it and I just think, 'Wow, that’s so awesome!'"
—Chris DiAntonio #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau