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Southern Ties, a business started by two local high school students, has changed its name and expanded its offerings.
Mike Wood (right), owner of Dogwood Black, sits with company investors Charles McDaniel (center) and John Tompkins.
Marie Sicola/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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BY CATHY JETT
With a few clicks of a mouse, Michael Wood customized a cotton dress shirt from collar size to cuff style, and then added a preppy bow tie.
The website for the fledgling company he runs from a small office in Westwood Office Park in Fredericksburg lets him see how the two look together in 3-D.
"Whenever you look at this, you're seeing within 98 percent accuracy what you're going to get in the mail," Wood said.
He's the CEO of Dogwood Black, which two local then-17-year-olds started last year. It began as James Adams' Commonwealth Governor's School research project, which longtime buddy Sam Thomas III urged him to turn into a business called Southern Ties.
Its specialty was bow ties, which Adams loves to wear. They made the first ones using a pattern they purchased at Hancock Fabrics and a sewing machine belonging to Sam Thomas' mother, Linda.
Both teens are now in college, and Adams has largely bowed out of the company. Wood, who joined it early on, has taken the business to the next level by lining up investors, sourcing high-end fabrics and finding manufacturers in the United States.
It debuted Saturday with its new name and high-tech website. Besides bow ties, the revamped company has expanded into regular ties and dress shirts. Seamstresses in Stafford County make some of the bow ties. For everything else, Dogwood Black uses manufacturers in Georgia, New York and New Jersey.
"We've spent the last year really figuring out the business," said Wood, whose previous business handled IT for health care systems. "I now understand distribution, manufacturing, getting product SKUs. It's really been fascinating to learn the entire process."
He's also gotten help from a trio of investors, starting with Thomas' former football coach, Charles W. McDaniel, who's also president of Hilldrup Moving & Storage in Stafford County. Thomas contacted him to see if he was interested in investing in the company, and Wood followed up by asking for a meeting to discuss what he was doing.