Moziah Bridges, the teenpreneur who recently scored a mega deal with the NBA, sits down with Black Enterprise contributor Rochelle Soetan for an exclusive interview.
Rochelle Soetan: What’s a typical day for you?
Moziah Bridges: A typical day for me begins with a full day of school, homework, and mail packaging. After school is when I organize my orders to be shipped, then I take time to write my customers a handwritten note to say, “Thank you;” letting them know how much I appreciate their business and support. After dinner, I may watch television or practice my speaking points for an upcoming speech. Then I start all over again. It’s a full day.
Soetan: Mo, how do you prioritize business with school, friends, and quiet time for yourself?
Bridges: Sometimes, I have to use my own best judgment. My mom is not always the best resource for me to go to because she doesn’t always know when I have an interview or when I have to speak at an event. I rely on myself to prioritize my day and find my own quiet time throughout the week.
Soetan: That’s very responsible at 15. You are starting to understand the importance of quality time for yourself. In the entrepreneurial world, things can get very busy. With school and all, you have to find time to honor the simplistic things that you enjoy. As an entrepreneur, you know it’s a lot of work. What I admire most is that you take time out of your busy schedule to write handwritten notes for many of your customers. From an etiquette standpoint, that’s important.
Bridges: Yes. It is important that I do this for specific customers, especially those who purchase more than once, to show them that I really appreciate their support to my company. I love them.
On Being a Fashion-Focused Kid
Soetan: Some kids know early on in life what they want to be, long-term, and what they want to do. Surprisingly, they are able to differentiate between their hobbies and their passions. Besides dressing well at age six, when did you know that going into the fashion business was something you really wanted to do?
Bridges: I knew that I wanted to go into the fashion industry at a young age. My dad was very fashionable. He would wear a suit and tie just to be going absolutely nowhere! I use to see celebrities on TV wearing bow ties, too. I wanted to do something more, something better, and something unique. One day, I went to the mall and saw these very beautiful and expensive bow ties. I decided, then, that bow ties was it. My grandmother is a retired seamstress and I asked her how to sew. I wanted to do something fun, something that no one else was doing. I think I found that.
Soetan: That’s very impressive and something we now have in common. I, too, grew up with a dad who wore suits and ties in and around the house. In the ’60s and ’70s, my father was always dressed in a sports jacket and I never once saw him in a pair of jeans. In fact, we had to dress in order to eat at the dinner table! So, I can relate to what you’re saying. Looking good propels you to feel good, right?
Bridges: Exactly! That’s pretty much my slogan. I love to say that in order for you to wear Mo’s Bows, you have to look good and feel good. Because when you look good, of course, you’re going to feel good!
Soetan: What was it, specifically, about the art of the bow tie? Why not neckties?
Bridges: As a younger kid, I wore neckties every day with my school uniform. I could see that bow ties were coming back in style. In school, I saw myself as a trendsetter. I figured if people were going to take my fashion advice, I was going to push it to the next level. From that moment on, I saw more kids at school wearing bow ties. That’s how the idea came to be. I decided to turn my passion into fashion and create a company.
Soetan: I’m really inspired that this is your passion, not only for the businessman but for teenagers of your time and little boys that will follow. By watching you, they’ll want to follow in your footsteps. You are setting the path as an influencer. What kinds of responses do you get from your peers regarding your business?
Bridges: My responses are pretty positive. They all want to figure out what it is they want to do and start their own companies. That is what my mission is all about. As a motivational speaker, I speak on dreams and aspirations. I encourage kids that they can do anything, be anything, at any age. Sometimes, kids don’t see much success, outside of their neighborhoods. I tell them to put courage, education, hard work and support behind their passion.
Soetan: That’s an excellent message. Who has had the most influence on your entrepreneurial path and why?
Bridges: My mother has had the most influence on my entrepreneurial path. As a young kid, seeing her work and come home really pushed me to work harder.
Soetan: What are three things you’ve learned as a successful teenpreneur?
Secrets to His Success
Bridges: I’ve learned to not get my personal feelings involved in my business. I’ve learned to work hard because it is important. And I’ve learned to just have fun and breathe. Being a teenager who is a business owner can be difficult. Sometimes, people forget that aspect. We have to learn how to lay back and just be a teenager.
Soetan: You officially started your company at 10-years-old and prior to appearing on the ABC Reality Show Shark Tank in 2012. Tell us about that experience.
Bridges: “Shark Tank” was a very interesting place for me. I was really scared and I considered myself to be a little fish in this really big tank that was going to eat me alive! What a lot of people don’t know is that we actually turned down Shark Tank the very first time they called us. After that, we decided to go on the show. It was a scary and thrilling experience. But at the end, I got something really great out of it which was working with mogul Daymond John on the practical aspects of having and running a company.
Soetan: You’ve been working with Daymond John for a few years now and he’s an admirable mentor and coach. As a mentee, what are some of the most important things you’ve learned from him?
Bridges: I’ve learned to always stay true to my company. Everyone is not going to like your product but you should never sell your product short. If someone is offering you a little money for your product, it’s not really worth how far you can take it. If you can’t see your ties in a particular store, you shouldn’t do it because that’s not your vision; it’s theirs. I’ve had to decline many stores that wanted my bow ties because it didn’t go with the theme of what my mission stood for.
Soetan: Are you doing any business on an international level?
Bridges: Yes. We have products in boutiques in Germany and the Bahamas, as well as a variety of shops within the United States. I am headed to Spain in September. In October of 2016, I had a fun opportunity to speak at a conference in Germany. It was inspiring for me.
Looking to the Future
Soetan: Is this a lot to take in at age 15?
Bridges: It is a lot to take in. I feel like people don’t always realize the level of energy it takes for me and my mother to put into the company. Our greatest challenges are finding organization and building a team we can trust.
Soetan: What can we look forward to and what will be your next best thing?
Bridges: We just signed a deal with the NBA and we’re creating long, skinny neckties with more popular prints as something new to the brand. We want to bring something fun to the table. We’re also collaborating with organizations like Saint Jude’s and expanding the platform to be a voice for charitable organizations, children’s organizations, and nonprofits.
Soetan: What would be the one piece of advice you’d give to a teenager who is considering starting a business?
Bridges: I would tell them to figure out exactly what they like doing and why. When you’re impacting others’ lives in a way that is both inspiring and meaningful, it adds value to your passion.
To listen to the complete podcast interview with Moziah Bridges, tune in to Tuesday Morning Love.
Rochelle Soetan is the creator and author of the international blog and book “Tuesday Morning Love.” She is a contributing author of the Award-winning anthology More of Life’s Spices: Seasoned Sistah’s Keepin’ It Real Volume 2, which was granted Honorable Mention Book for Women’s Studies across the country. She anticipates the release of her spiritual memoir Bridges: A Season of Surrender late spring 2017 and a debut chapbook comprised of more than 30 years of original poetry.