Student entrepreneur talks turkey feathers

Posted on March 23, 2017

Joseph Long photo by Ryan Teems

Joseph Long (photo by Ryan Teems)

Not many college sophomores can say that an item they made sold for several hundred dollars. Among the few who can say just that is Joseph Long, a business major from Anderson, S.C., who makes beautiful bow ties—from turkey feathers.

One of his handmade creations, nestled in a custom gift box, recently fetched $500 at a Wild Turkey Federation fund-raising banquet. So while Long did not receive the money himself, he had the satisfaction of seeing a high price paid for his work.

Long is a business administration major and has been interested in entrepreneurship at least since his senior year in high school, when he attended an annual gala in Charleston sponsored by YEScarolina (Youth Entrepreneurship South Carolina), an organization dedicated to teaching young people the principles of entrepreneurship and free enterprise.

“I saw a turkey bow tie [at the gala] and thought it was amazing,” he says. “However, there was no personal aspect to it.”

Bow Tie in box peacock colorsDuring the following spring, though, Long went wild-turkey hunting and brought home a bird. “I made a tie from its feathers as a sort of keepsake,” he recalls. “Before I knew it, people were asking me for bow ties from birds they had harvested, and so I just went to work.”

Long’s favorite ties are those made from wild turkey feathers because of their “incomparable” colors, but he uses plumage from farm-raised birds because it is illegal to use wild turkey feathers for bow ties to be sold.

“I have had the opportunity to start turning my business commercial through self-marketing and making business connections,” he says.

“I am working on making my business into an LLC currently. However, I have supplied ties to an online retailer based in North Carolina and am now working on an order from National Wild Turkey Federation South Carolina for 50 bow ties.”

Bow tie EC colors in boxMaking the bow ties is difficult “because matching the feathers is key in a good final product,” Long says.

“Basically, making the ties comes down to a bow-tie form and strategically matching and layering the ties, until you are pleased with the final product. However, it can prove challenging to even crafty people if you do not take your time, and a steady hand is a must!”

When he’s not studying, socializing, or sorting feathers, Long is active in For the Kids (FTK), formerly Dance Marathon, which raises funds for the Greenville Children’s Hospital; the Erskine Entertainment Board (EEB); and the South Carolina Student legislature (SCSL), in which he holds the state position of comptroller general, with responsibility for auditing the group and signing off on purchases.

Long also serves as chairman of Erskine College Ducks Unlimited, an organization he is eager to promote. He notes that the Inaugural Erskine College Ducks Unlimited Conservation Banquet is planned for Tuesday, April 11, at 6 p.m. in the Founders Room of Moffatt Dining Hall. He invites students, alumni, or others interested in tickets or sponsorship information to contact him at 864-314-1784.