(CNN)Tying strings of colorful ribbon with virtuoso velocity, Geraldo De-Souza shows off his skills as a bow tie-maker extraordinaire. The founder of Everyday Bowties grew up in Lagos, Nigeria as one of nine children, and got an early head-start in what was to become his career by helping his seamstress mother complete dress orders.
The man who made 9,000 bow ties
However, De-Souza's first profession was a far cry from the flair and flamboyance of a career in design -- he spent 20 years selling insurance.
"When I did my former career, I loved it," he says. "That door closed, and now here is another open door."
Here, he shares his story with CNN.
When his brother passed away, the American-based De-Souza couldn't make the journey to Africa to attend his funeral. So instead, he decided to start wearing bow ties every day in honor of his sibling, who was an aficionado of the neckwear. But De-Souza found the bow tie offering in shops lacking, so he set upon making them himself.
"I took apart the ties that I was wearing while I was selling insurance and made them into bow ties. The beauty was when I wore one to work the next day, somebody was willing to offer me enough money to part with it. And that's how it started," he recalls.
His flamboyant neckwear attracted attention wherever he would go and people started "buying ties off my neck," he says.
"So from that standpoint it was happening to me without me knowing it. (I didn't realize the potential) until my wife told me 'I know of 10 people that just bought what you made off of your neck. You know, you might have a career here'."
Five years ago, De-Souza was diagnosed with a tumor that made him reevaluate the priorities in his life.
"I had to decide what I loved to do and didn't love to do," he says. So on the encouragement of his wife, he started Everyday Bowties.
The designer says he makes bow ties for people who want to wear them every day, rather than just for special occasions.
"It doesn't have to be (paired with) a brand new shirt, or a silky looking shirt, or a tuxedo. You could wear it with a denim jean shirt. You could wear it with just about any shirt that you so desire. That's why I use cotton fabric. Because cotton, unlike silk, doesn't tell you it's time to buy a new shirt," he adds.
"If you never jumped when you got to that precipice, you'd never know what it's like to fly," he says.