20th April 2015

Life behind the bangle

What started as a gift for family + friends has quickly spiraled into one of the most coveted accessories, and necessity to any worthy arm party. Although this idea birthed from the south, Bourbon and Boweties is now sought after across the globe by famous names including Lilly Pulitzer, Katie Couric (worn on the cover of People Magazine), and has now found a home in Nordstrom.

Bourbon and Boweties is now stocked in over 700 stores in the United States, selling more than 30,000 bracelets a month. Empowering and employing locals is one of the ways that Bourbon and Boweties gives back. This product is made in America by ‘proud southern hands’, employing over 300 women in the Tampa Bay area who go through a training course to construct the fashionable accessory.

Carly Ochs, designer and owner of Bourbon and Boweties, believes that empowering women and other businesses is important, paying it forward is an integral part of the business. We are so glad she is here today to share a little more from behind the bangle, what it’s like owning a successful company, and some of her personal fashion tips.

Carly Ochs

divider What's the best part of your job?

Empowering women and men of all ages and backgrounds and providing jobs to my community. Bourbon and Boweties has created a thriving cottage industry of over 300 men and women from Brandon and surrounding communities – with some stay-at-home mothers making bracelets as their sole income and other people with full-time jobs who work for us to provide supplemental income.

Is this something you always wanted to do?

I always wanted to work in the fashion industry, but I never could have imagined creating something like Bourbon and Boweties. After studying textiles in college, I hoped to source materials and fabrics for a clothing manufacturer. I guess it goes to show, life rarely turns out as you expect. Something that started as a hobby for me, is now my career.

What was your biggest fear when starting your business and how did you overcome it?

Acceptance. Yes, of course, my friends and family would support me, but would everyone want to buy my creations? I took a chance and walked into a store in Charleston, SC, where they purchased all of my inventory and asked when I would have more. That’s when I knew I could make this bigger. I cannot leave out financing. When starting the business I used my entire savings to purchase supplies. Once I sold inventory, I would buy more supplies, and so forth. I never wanted to feel like I owed anyone or that I was in over my head.

What would your advice be for those, like yourself, who want to start their own business?  

This may sound cliché, but never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. During each stage my business has gone through, I have had people trying to prevent me from growing, ideas that were turned down and stores that didn’t want to carry my product. There will always be someone willing to help you better yourself, and your company. It just may not be the way you have planned. I’ve had people who I don’t even know offer advice and support, so I have made sure to do the same for other people I have encountered along the way.

What are your ambitions for the future and how do you keep yourself on track?

I would like nothing more than to create longevity for the Bourbon and Boweties brand, to make it a “lifestyle brand.” This would involve adding new designs and offerings to the product line. We have some following outside of the United States, so I would love to grow our business internationally as well. All of this would, in turn, create more jobs in my hometown as well. Bourbon and Boweties has grown faster than I could ever imagine, so sometimes it is very hard to stay on track, but I try to take strategic moves and created important relationships with others that will help me achieve my goals.

What does a typical day in the life of Carly look like?  

Is there such a thing as organized mass chaos? I am typically on the road, driving to have trunk shows with our retailers across the US and meeting with our stone suppliers, which leads to me using my car as a mobile office. I’ve taken some time off the road recently to spend more time in our main office – working on new designs and creating our schedule for the year.

If you could give us only three fashion tips what would they be?  

Never edit — your style is you! If you like what you’re wearing and feel comfortable in it, don’t let anyone talk you into changing.

Wear vintage — fashion repeats itself. Don’t underestimate what you can find in your grandmother’s closet or at a vintage store.

Don’t be afraid of color — Being a Florida girl, color is always in style. Even if you’re wearing a neutral outfit, throw in a pop of color with an accessory.

What is the arm party trend for this spring/summer?

Mixing metals and mixing in pieces made with different textures and shapes. Boho chic — a lot of bright color.

      If you could pick anywhere in the world to travel where would it be?  

I love to travel, so there is not way I could pick just one place!! I want my feet to touch every continent.

  Describe your journey so far in three simple words?

Original. Unexpected. Humbling.


bourbon and boweties

…And because we know you’ll become as much of a B&B fan as we have [if you aren’t already], we’re giving away a four piece set! Follow the giveaway instructions below to get yourself entered!

a Rafflecopter giveaway