Before the completion of his Business Economics or Film and Media Studies major, Garrett Gerstenberger already had something incredible to put on his resume-he created his own business.
Isla Vista Screen-Printing and Embroidery is located on 6565 Trigo Road, directly across from International Café, Gerstenberger is a 21-year-old student who started screen-printing as a sophomore at UCSB. His business partner, Jose Cardoso, is a 47-year-old Mexico native who has been in the business of screen-printing for 25 years.
Gerstenberger’s interest in screen-printing began as a sophomore in high school.
“It was a bummer when you got to school and ten other people had the same shirt” said Gerstenberger.
Eventually, his interest expanded past simply designing the shirts, and soon he was hitting up doughnut shops at night designing shirts and reading up on the technicalities of screen-printing. By his senior year, he was the go-to guy for shirt design at Castro Valley High School.
For Gerstenberger, freshman year at UCSB was a time to get to know the market and to network within the dorms. When searching for housing in Isla Vista as a sophomore, Gerstenberger managed to convince his friends they needed a house with a garage, pointing out it would be better for beer pong and parties, when in reality he was planning to take over the garage with his four color, six station press.
Gerstenberger taught himself how to screen print, but the young entrepreneur needed some outside guidance. One faithful Friday night, when Gerstenberger had a shirt order, he ran into an issue he could not fix. He called around for help, and got in contact with Cardoso.
“Jose said he would come by to help, checked out the equipment and solved the problem in 10 seconds,” said Gerstenberger.
“Jose offered for me to come to his place and see it in action, to see how it is really done.”
The timing could not have been more perfect; two years ago as Gerstenberger moved his business out of his garage, Cardoso was about to give up on his dreams of a big screen-printing corporation.
“I was ready to go back to the strawberry fields,” said Cardoso.
“I was in the position to retire from printing.”
Instead, they joined forces and bought the venue on Trigo where they now employ part-time workers. Though they share responsibilities, Gerstenberger is mostly involved with the artwork and designing aspect while Cardoso with the technicalities of screen-printing.
The two men have just expanded into a second commercial space off of Hollister. They plan to transform their Trigo store into a multipurpose community space including a local art gallery, collaborative studio, film exhibition space, study or working lounge, and of course, a local apparel shop.
While most fourth years will be entering the frightening job market, Gerstenberger already owns a business.
“I plan to stay here and take it as far as we can,” said Gerstenberger.
“The thing I’ve learned through this is never in my life do I ever want to work for anybody… I do not want to just come in to work and work that nine to five day.”
But just because he does not work a 9am to 5pm job does not mean that he does not work often.
“I don’t work anymore, its more like the business works me,” said Gerstenberger.
“If there’s a demand we have to respond to it and there is usually a constant demand.”
Cardoso agreed, “Students are busy people too so we have to be here; we can’t make them come to us,” he said.
“We deliver the shirts to the houses. We work for the convenience of the people.”
Running a business and being a full time student is admittedly the hardest thing Gerstenberger has ever done. But he does not think he would have been able to start a business if he were not a student!
As a student, it is easier for him to build stronger relationships and connections with his peers. Though most of the business is IV or UCSB based, it is expanding and they are currently working on shirts for a sorority at UC Berkeley.
In accordance with their motto, “Be Local, Stay Local,” this year, Isla Vista Screen-printing and Embroidery plans to up-sell their local apparel. “We want to keep expanding this opportunity,” says Gerstenberger.
Photos: Kerry Beeman