Per Archmere Academy’s dress code, Shreyas Parab had to invest in neckties for everyday wear when he started attending the school.
He wasn’t enthused by the selection he found in stores: “Stripes, polka dots, nothing else,” he recalls.
That’s when he decided to start his own tie business, called NovelTie. The online business offers ties in four categories: the Jokester Collection, the Ladies’ Man Collection, the Sporty Collection and Archmere-themed ties.
Shreyas, who turns 15 Wednesday, has had much success in the venture. He began the project when he enrolled in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) at Rosemont College for business guidance. When he pitched his idea to a panel of local business leaders and entrepreneurs during the YEA! program, the panel invested $800 in NovelTie and chose him to represent the Greater Philadelphia Area at the Saunders Semi-Finals Northeastern Competition. There, Shreyas was one of six finalists in the country selected to present his business plan to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Summit and was also awarded a trip to the Sam’s Club/WalMart corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.
“Whenever I talk about it, I use the analogy of Willy Wonka, where Charlie gets a golden ticket to the factory, and that’s what’s it was like for me—I got the golden ticket,” Shreyas said.
He had the chance to talk to many top executives there, including Sam’s Club CEO Rosalind Brewer. He also met Chelsea Clinton, who was there promoting her book.
Did he sell her a tie? “I tried to, but she seemed to be a very busy person.”
He might not have swayed Chelsea, but the Arkansas execs were impressed: They featured Shreyas in an October WalMart blog post and offered him a pop-up store to sell his ties locally at the Sam’s Club Showcase.
NovelTie has been in business for about 8 months, and Shreyas manufactures his one-of-a-kind ties in China. He said getting a local manufacturer to take a young teen seriously – who was pitching the production of “chick magnet ties” – proved difficult.
He’s been busy growing his enterprise at home and now has a director of sales, another Archmere student, Joe DiGregorio. “He’s probably one of the most business-savvy men I’ve met,” Shreyas attests.
He also has eight other students from area private schools working for him as sales associates, and Shreyas called them invaluable to his business model. “They’re what makes NovelTie running,” he said. “They’re out there finding friends and uncles and … spreading the word.”
He hopes to expand the business to include bow ties, tie clips and other formal-wear accessories, and says he’s excited about sales in the forthcoming holiday season. Just in October, Shreyas said NovelTie made more than $500 in sales.
The main reasons for his involvement with the enterprise, he said, are because he finds it fun and he enjoys learning about business.
“I never want NovelTie to become something I have to do,” he said. “It’s something I get to do.”