For many, just being a full-time college student seems too much to handle, but for UCSB student Greg Classen, it’s the perfect time to start your very own business. Classen, an art student in his second year at UCSB, started Rion Surf, an online clothing company, earlier this year. The company aims to make “wearable art,” according to Classen, who designs all the shirts himself. The company sells T-shirts, hoodies, and tank tops that have been printed with handmade designs that capture Classen’s passion for surfing, art, nature, and life.

Most of Rion Surf’s sales are online at the moment, but Classen is looking to place his work in shops, and hopes to continue expanding. A dream coming to life, Rion Surf is not only inspiring for Classen’s ambition to make a living doing art, but also because the company donates a dollar from each sale to the humanitarian efforts of Last Mile Operations, which aids relief efforts following natural disasters around the world. (Currently, Last Mile is in Indonesia helping with the damages caused by the earthquake in early October.) Classen has also started a Facebook page for Rion. Once a thousand fans have joined, the company plans to give away 10 free shirts, while getting the word around about Rion’s clothing at the same time.

Classen, a frequenter of Isla Vista surf spots, has taken his passion for art and the surfing life and turned them into an operating business with the help of good friends and family. His aim is “to start with a good quality product, print it, and sell it at an affordable price,” while capturing his idea of the surf life in his clothing designs. Classen’s parents have been supporting him along the way (his mom designed the company’s Web page), but even a young man inspired enough to start a company faces the struggles of any beginning business, and juggling school and self-promotion is not easy. The goal is to graduate with a degree while maintaining the company, which is easier said than done; add another artist or two to Rion; and one day, he hopes, work with a company like RVCA, Quiksilver, or HippyTree. Though it’s not easy, Classen sees working toward something he’s passionate about as an enjoyable thing rather than drudgery. Check out the Rion Surf Web page or become a fan on Facebook to show your support for one of Santa Barbara’s young entrepreneurs.


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