Chapman Students Convert Art into Commerce

Most artistic professions are notorious for being unremunerative, but some Chapman students are already making money from their artistic creations. Noah Jacobs, Genevieve Geller, and Dane Nakama are three Chapman students who have already launched real-world businesses while juggling crazy course loads.

Noah Jacobs

Noah Jacobs is the creator and owner of the clothing company Spilt Milk, which sells shirts and accessories and can also find on Instagram.

Photo courtesy of Noah Jacobs.


Noah is a junior business administration major with emphasis in marketing and minor in data analytics who serves as the parliamentarian of Chapman’s professional business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi.

Q: How did Spilt Milk start?

A: In spring of 2017, while planning to release my work, I made the mistake of waiting until the last minute to check the trademark databases. I found out that someone had already taken the name that I wanted to use. I had to scrap everything in my portfolio. At that point, I was completely discouraged about continuing the company. I talked to my dad, who is one of my biggest mentors, and he told me not to cry over spilt milk. That really resonated with me, and I thought it was a great name for a company. I wanted to promote the “don’t cry” philosophy- accepting that failure is something we can use to motivate ourselves towards our goals in life.


Q: How much money do you typically make from Spilt Milk?

A: I’ve made a little over $2,000 off of a $2,500 total investment. I have recovered all of my initial investment in the company and the money that I make always gets reinvested. But, honestly it’s never been about the money. It’s something I’m passionate about, and being able to run the company and be creative has totally enhanced my college experience.


Q: As a full-time student, active member of AKPsi, and having part-time jobs, how do you fit Spilt Milk into your schedule?

A: It’s pretty difficult. There are only so many hours in a day and with school work, it’s always a challenge. Because it’s something that I am passionate about it, I leave time for it. It’s not a chore to me.


Q: From building your campaign, what have you learned about promotion?

A: The key to promotion isn’t just handing things out and blasting people with information. The key is taking the time to focus on every individual and make a connection between them and your company whatever you are promoting. It is so important to have a central message or theme people can really connect with. I have definitely boosted sales with pop-up shops on campus and getting that in-person contact. I’ve been a part of the House of the Arts show, Chapman’s art festival that happens every semester since Fall 2017, for the past two semesters. Being able to promote my art and being around other artists is where most of the sales come from. It’s very valuable, because customers can see the connection between the art and the artist.


Senior Becket Edwards modeling Spilt Milk’s Winter 17/18 “Black Outline Long Sleeve” ($24.99)

Photo Courtesy of Noah Jacobs.

Friends of Noah Jacobs and Chapman students Tiffany Orite, Grace Moon, and Becket Edwards modeling for Spilt Milk’s Winter 2018 “White and Black Outline Long Sleeve”($24.99) 

Photo courtesy of Noah Jacobs.


Genevieve Geller

Genevieve Geller is a junior graphic design major and runs her design and illustration business selling prints and custom art.

Photo courtesy of Genevieve Geller.

Genevieve has worked at Chapman Student Engagement as a graphic designer since spring of her freshman year and has interned at and an apparel company and design studio this summer. She also served as the creative director for the Alpha Phi sorority last year.


Q: How important is the Internet / social media for promotion?

A: The Internet and social media are absolutely essential for promotion of my work. Besides the initial connections I made in person when I was first starting out my design business, I have pretty much gotten all of my projects from people finding me on Instagram.


Q: What alliances help you to promote your work and keep your business running?

A: I definitely have strong alliances with other people in the graphic design program at Chapman. I have a core group of design friends who lift each other up by promoting each other’s work, critiquing each other, and collaborating on projects. Within the Chapman community I’ve also definitely received a lot support from House of the Arts. Their festivals have provided a place for me to sell posters and stickers, and just get my work seen.


Q: What inspires your artwork?

A: Many things inspire my artwork, so it’s difficult to place just a few things. I’d say my use of color is inspired by Impressionism, which was a big part of my early education. In general, I think my work is very playful, and I definitely attempt to convey my own sense of humor through my illustrations.


Q: What was your toughest profitability challenge and how did you overcome it?

A: My toughest profitability challenge is definitely school-work balance. I make most of my money from freelance projects, which means that at any given time, I could have multiple deadlines for work outside of school while simultaneously trying to finish projects for four different graphic design classes. I had to pull an all-nighter the night before I left to study abroad, because I had a client project due the next day. I’ve had to turn down freelance projects just to maintain my own sanity and a decent sleep schedule.


Q: How much do you typically make?

A: So far this year, I’ve made just over $3,550 on freelance projects and selling prints and stickers. The average per project is $100-$150, but I have had larger projects in the $300-$500 range. It all depends on who the client is and the scale of the project.


“I’m also very inspired by surrealist imagery – my logo, which is a fish with legs, was inspired by a work by Rene Magritte.”

Courtesy of Genevieve Geller.


An original digital sketch done last year and its process!  

Courtesy of Genevieve Geller.


Dane Nakama

Dane is featured here with his floral logo and runs his business selling stickers, prints, and clothing on his website and Instagram.

Photo Courtesy of Dane Nakama.


Dana Nakama is a sophomore studio art major and minor in VR and AR.  He is also the president of Chapman University’s Art Club (CUAC) and juggles being an on-campus gallery and studio lab assistant.


Q: What inspired you to hand-sew?

A: My line of fashion and merchandise is primarily based on my artwork, and in my artwork, the medium of embroidery lent itself to my practice. The expressive power of lines is a reoccurring attribute in my work. I place an emphasis on intention, and embroidery asks me to consider every little detail. Unlike painting or drawing, I can’t simply cover it up or erase it.


Q: How much money do you make on average from your line?

A: It depends. I can’t gauge my pay off of an hourly wage like most people, but within a day of good sales at an event or fair, I can make an average of $700-$900. During the summer season, if I’m taking orders, I make around the same amount over the course of a couple of weeks.


Q: Do you hope to continue your clothing line after college?

A: I definitely hope to sell clothing and merchandise after college, but not as a priority. My main focus is the artwork. The clothing, prints, and stickers I sell are to make my artwork more affordable and accessible to a wider audience.


Q: What alliances do you have to keep your business running?

A: I manage all the merchandise I sell, including clothing. I have worked with local companies in the past to mass produce items such as stickers and printed shirts, but I produce all of the handmade products such as embroidered fashion and prints. However, I truly would not have been able to do as much without the support of my friends and customers. Not only have my friends volunteered to help man my sales booths and model for my clothing line, but also they have provided positive feedback and constant encouragement.


Q: What was your biggest profitability challenge and how did you overcome it?

A: Working in any creative field is difficult for one main reason: you have to trust your own creativity and gut to produce items that will sell. Profiting from your own creative ability is anything but clean cut. My main sales demographic is primarily high school and college students, so I want to keep my items affordable but also be able to compensate myself for the time and money I’ve invested. After purchasing materials and accounting for efforts, there is very little room for a large profit – but maybe that’s just because I am bad with numbers *haha*. There is a reason not many people choose to do their own business: It takes a lot of work, and you really have to have a love for what you do.


Dre Durisic, friend of Dane’s and non-Chapman student, modeling “Rippled Reflections” ($85).


Aki Shigeyama, sophomore business major, modeling “Bloom Collared Shirt” ($30).

Loriann Bilal, sophomore strategic and corporate communications major, modeling “Bloom Dress” ($90).

Jon Le, sophomore business administration and data analytics major, modeling “Flower Shirt (black)” ($20).

Photos by NativeFour and queenbsart, courtesy of Dane Nakama.






Julia Ha and Alyssa Harrell

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