Look out, St. Louis fashion scene! The next big names in clothing might be closer — and younger — than you think.
Founded by three Webster Groves High School seniors, BBE Fashion Co. offers custom styles and accessories to create fresh, colorful new looks. The business was founded through Webster Groves High School’s Thrive Entrepreneurship Incubator, a class in which students create and run their own small businesses.
Senior Clothing Director Ja’mise Bailey started sewing at the age of 14, influenced by her aunt and grandmother — both seamstresses.
“I always wanted to make different items because everyone was wearing the same thing. I wanted to stand out,” she said.
Bailey started by selling socks and pillowcases on her own social media, eventually incorporating custom “upcycled” jeans, jackets and leggings. After applying for Thrive, she joined like-minded students Dana Buford and Hailey Evans to form Bailey, Buford and Evans — BBE — Fashion Co.
Buford is the veteran of the group, having participated in the Thrive program her junior year. Last year, she ran a non-profit group helping redistribute sports equipment. While she enjoyed the experience, Buford wanted to try something that appealed to her artistic interests for senior year.
Serving as BBE Fashion’s “CEO of Customizing Shoes,” Buford revitalizes sneakers, and sometimes other items, with unique designs and pops of color.
“I started looking at hydro dipping and I decided to try it just to see what happened,” said Buford. “I tried it on a pair of shoes and fell in love with the process, and started trying it on a bunch of different things. I realized it didn’t take well with some materials so I started airbrushing, and that’s most of what I do now.”
Evans, who supplies jewelry for the company, started her entrepreneurial journey making beaded bracelets for herself.
“My friends saw them and said, ‘Hey, can you make me some?’” said Evans. “I would create things using inspiration for colors from outfits.”
In addition to creating custom jewelry, Evans serves as BBE Fashion’s social media and marketing manager, handling the company’s Instagram account and customer service.
BBE Fashion was formed under the Thrive Entrepreneurship Incubator, a program in which students create and run their own small business. Students sign up for the course, which takes the form of a three-hour block counting as either an elective or practical arts credit. They can also earn college credit.
“We’re a true incubator. It’s a safe place for budding entrepreneurs to start businesses,” said Program Director Kara Siebe. “In a business world, it would be low rent, connections to funding and a workshop space. Once it grows and can stand on its own, it is released into the world to help the economy grow.”
Open to juniors and seniors at Webster Groves High School, the Thrive program connects students to professional mentors and business professionals to help with critique, guidance and goal setting. Some names include Holland Saltsman, owner of the Novel Neighbor; Andre Nelson of Edward Jones; and Rebecca Ortyl, co-founder and executive director of the Mighty Oakes Heart Foundation.
Students and groups receive startup funds of $250 and participate in “Shark Tank”-style pitch competitions to receive more funding from local businesses, who play the role of investors.
In December 2020, the Thrive Entrepreneurship Incubator received a grant for roughly $24,000 from the Innovative Technology Education Fund to provide Dell workstations for student use.
Fashion With A Mission
While BBE Fashion serves as an outlet for creativity, Buford, Bailey and Evans founded the business with a goal in mind. Through upcycling articles of clothing, the company can breathe new life into tired or damaged pieces, sparing them from a final resting place in the garbage dump.
“We do this because we want to reduce textile waste in landfills,” said Bailey. “It’s about trying to inspire people to donate their clothes or make something new from it.”
For those with old clothing in need of transformation or touching up, BBE Fashion is open for commissions. Premade items are also posted to social media. Learn more about BBE Fashion or contact the team @bbefashionco on Instagram and @BBEFASHION1 on Twitter.
To learn more about the Thrive Entrepreneurship Incubator, visit webster.k12.mo.us/domain/3999.