By BRENDA BARGER
Young entrepreneur Jake Johnson of Davidson has revolutionized the bow tie, and people in high places are taking notice – very high places. The 15-year-old ninth grader at Woodlawn School won the individual grand prize Monday at the “Grow Your Own Business Challenge,” hosted in Omaha, NE, by a man who knows a thing or two about business – billionaire Warren Buffett.
Jake was among five individuals and three teams picked as finalists at the competition. He wowed Buffett and the judges with his Beaux Up, a new version of the classic bow tie.
Buffett’s goal is to encourage good financial habits in young people. More than 4,000 entered the contest.
When the judging was over, the “Oracle of Omaha” was decidedly impressed with Jake’s business proposal and awarded him the Individual Grand Prize of $5,000, plus 10 shares of Berkshire Hathaway “B” stock (valued at around $127 each).
Parents Robin and Emily Johnson also were in Omaha for the exciting competition to cheer for their son and Beaux Up.
Jake is known for his bow ties. So earlier this year he decided to create a business customizing bow ties.
His mother tells DavidsonNews.net that Jake’s “Aha!” moment came in January when he thought of a way to cut his bow ties in half and create a unique clip to reattach the halves, making it possible to put any two bow tie “halves” together to create cool combinations.
Feeling conservative? Simply attach two-halves of the same fabric. Ready for adventure? Create any number of color, pattern and fabric combinations. The bow tie wearer is only limited by his imagination.
Jake had learned to sew in class at Woodlawn School, north of Davidson, but to perfect his invention, he leaned on grandmother Suzanne Hurley to refresh his skills. He found interesting fabrics, sewed the tie halves, researched the idea with his Uncle Brian, a patent attorney, filed a provisional patent, and his business “Beaux Up” was born.
Jake also created a logo and the tagline, “Redefining the Gentleman,” in hopes of raising seed money and publicity for his venture through the Buffett Challenge.
Jake’s experience on the speaking circuit as part of the Teen Entrepreneurship Network (TEN) served him well in presenting his Beaux Up idea to Buffet personally. He also gave Buffett a small box of bow tie halves.
An Omaha TV station featured Jake in a nice overview of the contest: http://www.ketv.com/
Jake is already a veteran entrpreneur. Three years ago, he and sisters Lachlan and Erin appeared on TV’s “Shark Tank” with their invention “Flipoutz,” a bracelet for kids with collectible, tradable “coins.”
He’s also an actor, and had a role early in his career in the movie “Talladega Nights” as well as a role on the Lifetime Series “Army Wives.”
Many in our community will remember when the Johnsons’ River Run home burned to the ground a few years ago and so many in the community reached out to help. As a result Jake feels strongly about helping those less fortunate and has pledged 10 percent of his Omaha prize money, plus 25 cents of every tie sold, to Davidson’s Ada Jenkins Center.
We’ll let you know as soon as the bow ties are available locally. Jake is ordering inventory now and wants interested persons or retailers to check on his Beaux Up Facebook page or email him at Jake@BeauxUp.com to get on his list for updates on his product.
In the meantime, Jake offers this preview of his new product:
“Guys can buy their first ‘whole’ tie for $24 and then exponentially increase their collections and fashion options by buying half of a tie at a time for only $10. I will take samples to independently owned boutiques, haberdasheries, and college stores in the Southeast and offer to let them carry the product on a consignment basis first. This will also help me gauge interest and improve the product. We want everyone to tie their own bow ties and will include a QR code on every tag that links to a teaching video of my sister and her friends teaching guys how to tie a bow tie.”
Brad Reddick, John Kuykendall, Joe Grooms and other bow-tie enthusiasts in our area had better pay attention.
We can’t wait to see these innovative tie designs showing up all over town! Congratulations to Jake and his family!
May 2, 2014, “Woodlawn students excel with National History Day projects.” – Jake’s next big trip will be to the National History Day finals in June, as one of a handful of finalists representing North Carolina.
See previous stories about Jake Johnson on DavidsonNews.net.
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to add that the stock prize was in Berkshire Hathaway “B” shares.