Entrepreneur Spotlight: Flare & Square Co-founder Mawukle Yebuah
Right after Mawukle Yebuah shared a few business lessons with some teenagers at the Denver Urban League back in 2016, he sat next to one of them and taught him how to tie a bow tie – a lesson that wielded much more weight than just wardrobe or fashion.
“It was all about connecting, about inspiring him, helping him realize he could succeed and turn his passions into a business one day if that’s what he decides he wants to do,” said Yebuah (BSBA 2016, MS 2017).
It’s just one of many of Yebuah’s community service efforts, and it sums up his approach to entrepreneurship. For him, giving back is just as important as accounting, marketing and all the rest.
“There’s a ton of power in purpose-driven entrepreneurship,” he said. “Government and nonprofits handle social issues, but there’s a role for business, too.”
Turns out, business comes naturally for Yebuah, 26. As a middle schooler, he’d take the trail mix his dad bagged for him and resell it to classmates facing pangs of hunger on the bus ride home. And he hails from the microbusiness mecca, Ghana. He immigrated in 2000 while his father was finishing a doctorate at the University of Denver. Some family friends and professors sponsored the family to come to the United States so they could be together.
“It was a massive culture shock,” he said. But he’s clearly found his way. “My parents taught me about hard work and helped me see all the opportunity that’s available here.”
He said those opportunities became even clearer studying at DU and getting mentored by DU’s Chancellor Emeritus Dan Ritchie. “He’d talk to me about learning from my internship, interacting with colleagues, developing relationships and leaning into starting my own business.”
Yebuah absorbed Ritchie’s input and soon spotted an idea. During his internship in 2014 at a financial services firm where the dress code was business attire, Yebuah found himself in fix with just two suits. “I had to make them last for a whole week,” he said. “I’d seen co-workers with pocket squares and thought they were really cool, so I looked into it and realized that it was just sewing a fabric pattern into a square.”
He hit up his childhood friend, Fatima Rashad, who studied fashion design, to sew some squares.
“Co-workers noticed them,” he said. “They started seeing me as the stylish intern.” People began asking about buying the squares and in 2015 he and Rashad launched their clothing company, Flare & Square.
Yebuah admitted it’s been a bumpy road. “We didn’t know a lot, we lacked capital, and some didn’t take us seriously because we were black and young, but we learned, we built our skillset and got comfortable growing a little bit at a time. My advice is don’t rush the process and just keep moving forward.”
The approach appears to be working. The company has expanded into socks, bracelets, custom suits and neckwear, including yes, bow ties – that evidently make a lasting impression.
The teen Yebuah helped that day, four years ago, still has his.
“Yes, that’s true and he loves it,” Yebuah said. “He’s graduated high school and has started a career in construction with hopes to become an independent contractor.”
Entrepreneurship@DU has a focus on purpose-driven entrepreneurship, following your passion to solve social and environmental issues. Yesbuah’s company is a perfect example of a purpose-driven company. Whether you’re a student, community member, alumnus, alumnae, we welcome your engagement. Visit Entreprenurship@DU to get involved.