Paul Kaster, a senior at Rockhurst High School, is building a wooden bow tie empire.
He received a wooden tie as a gift a few years ago — really chunky and poorly finished. The woodworking hobbyist knew he could do better.
So he launched a Kickstarter campaign for equipment to make them, opened an Etsy shop and started wholesaling to retailers. Last year, his Crooked Branch Studio made a $20,000 profit.
“The biggest compliment I receive is that the bow ties look just like fabric,” said Kaster, who recently turned 18. “I’ve worked hard at refining them so that they’re three-dimensional. Most wooden bow ties are either too thin or chunky like the one I received. These are somewhere in the middle.”
Locally, you can find Crooked Branch Studio bow ties at Made in Kansas City stores, Flying Pig Local Mercantile in the Crossroads Arts District and Varnish and Vine in the West Bottoms. The wooden ties — for people and pets — sell for between $35 and $50.
Ten percent of the profits go to Harvesters regional food bank. Through that, and a matching donation, Kaster says the wooden bow tie sales have helped feed 10,000 people.
No one in Kaster’s family is surprised he’s started his own business at a young age. “I’ve been a hustler since day one,” he said laughing. When he was small, he’d ask what work he could do around the house for pocket change.
Next up for Kaster: college. He doesn’t know where yet, but he knows he wants to pursue engineering. He’s into figuring things out.