By Nguyet Tran
Opening a new business as a 21 year-old student is rare, but not for Carolina Chavez.
An alumna of Schurr High School, Chavez has taken her experiences in graphic design and opened up a clothing printing shop directly across the East Los Angeles College campus called Stencil Art Studio about three months ago.
“My major is graphic design and I wanted to show my skills and do something that had to do with art. I came up with the name Stencil Art Studio because stencil is what we use to make our designs and art studio because you can come here to do your art,” Chavez said.
With options ranging from T-shirts and sweaters to backpacks, customers are able to print any design either through the website or walk-ins.
The printer, located in the back of the store, prints black-and-white and color for only $20 an item and the wait for the finished product takes about 25 minutes.
Before opening Stencil Art Studio, Chavez had to work hard in order to save up, even with the help of her family. “Before I had the store, I opened a small booth at a swap meet selling already designed shirts. I did that for about a year or more,” she said. Besides the swap meet, Chavez also saved up for about six years while she was still in high school.
When asked about what difficulties she faced as a young entrepreneur, Chavez says, “Only economically. It’s challenging, and I’m still shock I have a store. I’m learning more and working as hard as I can.”
Currently, Chavez is taking one graphic design class two times a week in the evening so she can focus on the business during the daytime.
A majority of Stencil Art Studio’s customers are ELAC students and, as a way of giving back to the community, Chavez has donated a free shirt to ELAC’s Football Player of the Week every week for the past three months.
“All throughout high school she had been motivated to open her store. She saved and saved, and I would always tell her she’d be able to open it, and she did! She chased her dream and she did it,” said Summer Gomez, a model for Stencil Art Studio and also a close friend of Chavez.
“(Chavez) is a very hard worker and very dedicated to accomplishing her goals. I am so proud of her,” Gomez said.
Gomez is not the only person close to Chavez who is proud. Although Chavez is usually the only person managing the store by herself, her mother and sister also come help out on occasion to make things easier on her.
“My family is very supportive of me and I am very glad to have them by my side,” Chavez said. “Everyone in my family helped me pay for the location. Even though I am the one always at the store, this is just not my store. I also consider this my family’s store.”
In the future, Chavez intends to incorporate her own artwork and canvas into her store and put them up for sale as well. “Right now we’re doing good, and I’m very happy on sales, but hopefully the business grows and we can open more chains, like at The Citadel,” she said.
After ELAC, Chavez plans to transfer to Cal State L.A. where she would continue to pursue her passion in graphic design and art to better her skills as an artist and an entrepreneur.