DETROIT – It starts with sketches and drawings of a new fashion line from a Detroit-based designer. The mastermind behind it all is 26-year-old entrepreneur, Jaiden Shephard.
"This tie company started, basically, from a dream," said Shephard.
He says that dream was to find a way to leave his old life: "I used to have a career of male escorting."
About five years ago, Shephard was leading a secret life of prostitution and pornography. Raised by a single mother and sexually-abused as a young child, Shepard says he got involved with the wrong crowd in college.
"Someone had introduced me to a way to make more money because I was really financially strained," he said.
As an escort, his clientele paid him big bucks to keep their transactions private.
"My job was to really be discreet with them because a lot of my clients were high-profile clients, business people to professional athletes."
While the money came fast, it wasn't all fun and games. Jaiden often found himself in dangerous and potentially life threatening situations.
"I had been held at gunpoint," he said. "I had been held for ransom because I didn't do what my client wanted me to do."
One day after waking up in a hotel room with a client, he knew it was time to make a change. He packed up his stuff and went back home. It took a while, but he knew he had to come clean to his mother about his secret lifestyle.
"She said, ‘I've been praying for you all this time. I still love you son.' And then she stretched out her arms and then I hugged her and from that moment I knew that life would get better," he explained.
Back at home and with little money, Shephard had a vision to start a business designing ties.
"I had the dream about making vintage ties or making ties from recycled fabrics I just started cutting fabric and see what I could come up with."
From that humble start, he now has a thriving fashion business. His designs can even be found on fashion show runways.
But Shephard wanted to do more. He created the non-profit Finding My Way Home, partnering with others in the Detroit fashion industry with one goal, to help inspire others to find success.
"Basically [we] share their stories behind the scenes of how they got to where they are now. How they got to where they are today," he explained.
And Shephard certainly has a story he hopes can inspire other Metro Detroiters.
"You can totally win. You can totally win. It doesn't matter what you've been through," he said. "It does not matter you can win."
Shephard's ties range in price from $40-$55 and are available on his website.