James and Judy Hill

James Hill ’10 and his mother Judy ’78 are true believers in Carolina’s minor in entrepreneurship.

With James months away from graduating, Judy turned her idea for a business into a reality.

She began High Cotton Ties in January 2010 after seeing a need for bow ties that are washable and fashionable. Her older son Cameron was in medical school where neckties had been discouraged during the H1N1 outbreak because they are easily contaminated. She created a cotton bow tie, which could be washed, so that Cameron looked professional and stylish.

Meanwhile, James was engrossed in the minor in entrepreneurship in the College of Arts and Sciences and finishing a bachelor’s degree in Economics.

“The minor in entrepreneurship gives you a framework of how to begin and the mindset of how to think through issues and challenges that come your way when starting a business,” James says.

Realizing that what her younger son was learning at Carolina could help with the new business, she brought James into High Cotton Ties.

“She was the pioneer of the brand,” James says. “She had the vision and got it going. She showed that you don’t have to have everything planned out. Just have the idea and get crackin’.”

James spent time in his last semester researching fabric and stores, then “hit it full force after graduation.”

“Carolina prepared me well. I always felt like I wanted to own a business and had the drive and personality, but UNC gave me the tools to apply that ambition and drive to make my business a success. I refer to the things we covered in class every day,” James says.

The growing company wants its ties and cummerbunds to represent the best of Southern culture and style, James says. Accordingly, the ties are manufactured in North Carolina.

This Charlotte, N.C., family’s business rounds out with father Frank, a former UNC Morehead Scholar and the director of The Institute for the Public Trust. “He’s our number one advocate,” James says.

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