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Teenagers start own businesses

Using the Web, one sells sound activated T-shirts, other hula-hoops

Posted: August 23, 2008 9:08 p.m.
Updated: October 25, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Jake Kassan, a 17-year-old high school student at Valencia High, designs and sells his own T-shirts that light up when sensing a sound.

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Jackie Kasaback believes hula hoops are a fun way to get into shape.

Jake Kassan sees his sound activated T-shirts as a unique wardrobe choice for teenagers.

The two may not know each other, but 14-year-old Kasaback and 17-year-old Kassan have become young entrepreneurs through their passion for building products, establishing their own companies and, someday, making an impact in the business world.

Hula girl
Kasaback became exposed to hula hoop dancing at the end of last year. Through the Web site YouTube, Kasaback started watching hula hoop dancers online and soon found herself buying DVDs on how to hula hoop.

“It’s a workout,” she said while sitting in the living room of her Saugus home. “Anyone can do it.”

Kasaback, who is home schooled, said she picked up hula hooping quickly and moved on to learning various tricks, like how to move the hoop up and down the body and even hula with the hands. She can hula for hours, as long as she has her hula music of techno and dance music.

Kasaback decided to turn her hobby into a business by making her own decorative hula hoops and selling them through her Web site, Hoop du’ Jour.

Along with custom hoops, Kasaback offers a handful of designs, including a pink and white pattern that supports breast cancer.

But Kasaback believes the Santa Clarita Valley is home to a population that would value hula hooping as a form of exercise.

Through the required constant hip motion to keep the hoop going, Kasaback hula hooping increases the heart rate and tones the body.

Next month, she will travel to San Francisco to become a certified hula hoop instructor. “I want to be able to teach classes,” she said.

She believes “soccer moms” will be able to use hula hooping to get into shape, especially because it can be done at home. As she anticipates her certification, Kasaback is now looking to “spread the word about hula hoops” through her Web site, friends and family.

In the meantime, she is teaching her mom, Cathy Chang, and her friends how to hula hoop and getting acquainted with other California hula hoopers.

Earlier in the month, Kasaback and Chang attended “World Hoop Day” in Eagle Rock, a hula hoop fundraiser that raised money for underpriveliged kids. Kasaback hopes to one day host her own hula hoop event in the Santa Clarita Valley for anyone to come and learn the tricky skill.

As she continues to be home schooled, Kasaback plans to build her business.

“I just really love to do hula hooping,” she said.

Eye-catching design

It was Kassan’s uncle who first exposed him to the sound-activated T-shirts he sells through his Web site, Night Life Designs.

“I fell in love with it,” he said while at home in Valencia.

The T-shirts are equipped with a sound sensor. A wire tucked into the seam of the shirt hooks up to a battery pack that fits inside the pocket. When the shirt comes across the sound of a person’s voice or music, colors and graphics dance on the T-shirt’s design.

Kassan said the pack has an on/off switch to give customers control over when their shirts light up.
The Valencia High School senior offers three T-shirt designs, but plans to offer customers a chance to create their own designs. He recently donated a portion of each T-shirt’s sale to buying a classmate who has cancer a birthday present.

To promote the shirts, Kassan said he and his siblings wear them to school, and regularly goes to Southern California hotspots, like Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, to get others interested.
So far, Kassan said the shirt’s eye-catching design has people turning their heads.

“You feel like a celebrity,” he said about wearing the shirts.

Kassan said he comes from a line of entrepreneurs as his uncle, grandfather and father have started their own businesses.

As a result, he frequently gets business advice from his dad Gary.

“My dad is the first person I go to for help,” he said.

Running his own online business has been a worthwhile experience for Kassan.

“I’ve learned so much out of it,” he said.

Specifically, he’s gained people skills, along with marketing and online skills.

As he continues to build customers, Kassan wants to make enough money from the shirts to move to Santa Barbara to attend community college before transferring to UCSB. He plans to some day start his own business.

Pleased parents
Kasaback’s mother and Kassan’s father are impressed with how their teens have developed their own businesses. “I don’t know how she does it,” Cathy Chang said, later adding, “She’s hooping all the time.”
Chang said her daughter has a talent for starting her own business.

“I encourage it 100 percent,” she said.

Kassan’s father, Gary Kassan, is also pleased with his son’s business. “He has matured immensely through this process,” he said.

He considers Night Life Designs a step towards getting Kassan to understand what he wants to pursue when he’s older.

“It’s a start for Jake to explore what he wants to do with his life,” he said. “He will be very successful.”


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