Student entrepreneurs find success

Lauren Hansen

While many students enjoy Friday night football games and study for exams on the weekends, others spend their time perfecting special skills with their own businesses. Kayla Panos, sophomore, keeps busy baking specialty cakes and Nick Harral and Nick Flinton, seniors,  have established their own clothing line with screen printing.

About two years ago, Panos’ parents gave her cake pans, spatulas and decorating books and her baking career began. “Kayla’s Cakes” is a small out-of-the-house business that Panos started about three months after her introduction to cake-making. Kayla’s Cakes specializes in novelty cakes. Panos has been known to make cakes in the shape of cars, fire trucks, soccer balls, a Guitar Hero guitar and even the state of Texas.

“I had watched the Food Network Cake Challenges for years and I was always captivated as to how the chefs did what they did,” Panos said. “It was amazing to watch and I began to wonder if I could maybe do the same.”

There was really no need for advertisement. Friends and family recognized the skill and talent in Panos’ new hobby and began to spread the word themselves.

“In hardly anytime at all, people began placing orders for one of Kayla’s Cakes,” Panos said. “The speed of it all was shocking and still is.”

Most of her business comes from friends of friends and neighbors and her volleyball and soccer coaches have also helped to get the word out. her website, www.kaylascakes.com includes pictures of all the cakes she has made as well as details or problems she had while baking. In addition to links to Panos’ favorite cake decorating websites, customers can look up prices and order custom cakes.

Panos makes all the cakes herself, although she admits that when she has an order on a school day, her mom helps out a bit.

 “She might make the actual cake during the day, and then I will do all of the decorating when I get home,” Panos said. “It’s like a tag team production.”

Running her own business is not always easy. According to Panos, decorating cakes from start to finish can be very time consuming and meticulous.

“I’ve been known to be a bit of a perfectionist, so the cakes I make tend to reflect that,” Panos said. “I won’t stop until they’re perfect, or as close to it as I can get.”

Panos isn’t the only CPHS student getting a head start on their career path. “The Nicks” thought it would be cool to combine art and screen printing to create their own clothing line, although the two really had no clear vision in mind.

“Well, Nick and I have always thought it would be cool to make our own shirts, so we did some research to learn how the pros do it and just kind of went from there,” Harral said.

After researching screen printing and the process, the boys found a screen printing machine on Craigslist for $200 and began what would soon become “Gnar Streetwear.”

“Gnar is the brand name we picked,” Flitton said.  “It was simple, yet it made sense. All of our friends use the word, so we figured, why not use a name that actually represents who we are in a sense?”

For now, Flitton and Harral have one print of the word “gnar.” They’ve printed their catchphrase on various articles of clothing ranging from sweatshirts to shorts, each one with its own personal touch. They’ve even begun to sell their prints among students at CPHS.

Screen printing is a technique used to transfer ink from a mesh screen onto a t-shirt. Though it may sound easy, the process is long and tedious, filled with important steps.

“It is pretty difficult to learn everything; it mostly comes with experience,” Flitton said. “We have been [printing] for a while and we still mess up screens just because it’s a long complicated process. Sometimes you don’t even know you’ve messed up until you’re five steps in and you have to start all over.”

All three students have successfully started ambitious businesses at such a young age. The Nicks’ Gnar Streetwear has become a fast seller and Kayla’s Cakes has also become a popular party treat. Both businesses are an inspiration to youths everywhere, encouraging others to pursue their dreams while they can.