By John Cooper Lawton
The South has a distinct and classic style. Jason Welch and Steven Nelson have sought to keep the tradition of Southern style alive through their line of bow ties.
Co-owners Welch and Nelson founded The Good South, a clothing company that specializes in bow ties while also selling hats and T-shirts, on Nov. 21, 2013. The company has seen great success in its first year of business. It has been featured by the Ole Miss Alumni Association in its Rebel Insider and has had a product worn by ESPN columnist Gene Wojciechowski on television.
“We have been very fortunate to have great support from the Ole Miss family,” Nelson said. “That’s one thing I think has been overwhelming.”
They credit their success to the support from their university and to their dedication to details. Welch and Nelson diligently make decisions, even to the point of studying which colors on their website elicit different responses.
“You’ll hear a common theme of things taking a long time for us because we really research everything we can before launching them,” Welch said.
The bow ties are designed by Welch and Nelson. To ensure a quality product that instills Southern style is produced, the bow ties are sewed in the South.
“From the beginning, we really wanted our bow ties to not only be made in the United States of America but to be made in the South,” Nelson said.
The dedication and effort that they put into The Good South has been noticed by many. Logan Dodson, a model for the company, said he loves seeing people who work hard succeed.
“They took the extra time,” Logan Dodson said. “They actually designed it. They write notes and letters to everybody after they buy their product no matter where they are at.”
Welch and Nelson also work full-time as admission counselors for Ole Miss. Through this, they have seen firsthand how many students need help financially in order to afford college.
When they first began developing a business plan for The Good South, Nelson and Welch made sure to include a scholarship portion. Using a portion of the company’s profits, The Good South Scholarship Fund handed out its first four scholarships in May 2014.
“We come across thousands of students each year, and while the students are all extremely diverse, we have found that they all share the concern, and that’s need for scholarship money,” Welch said. “So after repeatedly hearing this concern, we decided we wanted to do something to help, and we knew when we started the business that was going to be our call.”
The scholarship is for students who excel in the classroom, give back to the community and are involved on campus. It applies to any student in the country. It is not limited to southern students. The scholarship application had over 650 applicants in its first year.
“Our email did not stop for a good month and a half. And over 650 students later, we were very amazed,” Welch said.
Olivia Dear, an Ole Miss freshman majoring in journalism, was one of the four recipients of the first round of scholarships. The four recipients came from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
“I am very grateful for the scholarship because every penny counts,” Dear said. “You don’t realize that until you become a student and start adding up all the expenses.”
Welch and Nelson, both Ole Miss alumni, met each other while working as admission counselors. They realized they had many of the same passions — Ole Miss, southern style and higher education — through discussions they had in car rides back to Oxford.
Nelson sprung the idea of creating a clothing company in the spring of 2012. He pulled over one day while driving separately to Oxford. Nelson called Welch to ask one question: “Jason, what are your passions?” He knew the answer before he asked.
“That was really the biggest spark,” Welch said. “It got serious there, and we started brainstorming.”
The Good South goes farther than selling clothes and giving out scholarships. It also strives to make sure every Southern gentleman knows how to tie a bow tie and how to match a bow tie with an outfit.
“The bow tie is quintessentially southern,” Nelson said. “We feel it best represents the South. And, we feel that a lot of people can be easily intimidated when thinking about tying a bow tie. We feel like our How to Tie a Bow Tie tutorial really breaks it down to the easiest process.”
The Good South plans to continue its success by expanding its brand. Welch and Nelson have many plans that they hope to implement soon, including: adding a style guide to the website, creating a group of college ambassadors for The Good South at various universities, expanding the product line and to begin selling products in stores.