By Valerie Shelton, Editor
Young entrepreneurs Emily Liang and CJ Harris, owners of CEAL Clothing, are continuing to expand their growing business, which sells stylish garments that meet the standards outlined in the Clovis Unified School District dress code.
Liang and Harris started their business venture in the fall of 2014 as students in the Clovis Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneurs’ Academy (YEA). Liang, then a freshman at Buchanan, and Harris, then a sophomore at Buchanan, came up with the clothing line to solve the problem that they and so many other CUSD students have—finding tank tops and other clothing items that are in dress code. Their business immediately took off, as the Buchanan student store started carrying some of CEAL’s tank tops and T-shirts, and the pair also won YEA’s local “shark tank” competition in Spring 2015 and advanced to the regional competition in Arizona.
While some YEA graduates never fully formed their business concepts, and others abandoned their businesses in favor of a new idea or put their business on the backburner because of school and other obligations, Liang and Harris have forged ahead, making the business a top priority. Liang even transferred from Buchanan to Clovis Unified’s online school so she would have more time to focus on the business.
Now, Liang and Harris are taking CEAL beyond the Buchanan student store, introducing their new fashion line in a show on April 30. The date of the show also marks the launch of CEAL’s website, where customers can directly purchase CEAL’s clothing.
“We’re calling it our CEAL clothing spring launch,” Harris said. “We’re going to be talking about CEAL and we’ll have a mini fashion show where we are going to have models line up and show off some of our clothing.”
And you can expect to see more than T-shirts and tank tops, Harris and Liang say.
In the past six months, the duo has added several items to the CEAL fashion collection. They’ve added shorts, dresses and more—even a line of sports shorts, which Harris said actually are not in dress code.
“We’re not planning to switch our market but broaden it a little bit,” Harris said. “Not everything will be in dress code, a few things will be for students to wear on weekends.”
CEAL is also adding a children’s line, offering elementary school aged students clothing items in dress code. For the original line, they also offering varying sizes depending on height—they have a normal size and a tall, which, for example, adds four inches onto girls’ shorts.
With the exception of the printed T-shirts, Liang said all the clothing is handmade.
“We bought the material and we have a seamstress so all the shorts and dresses and patterned shirts are made by CEAL,” Liang said. “It is all high-quality and each piece is unique. Some of our products, we only have one pair of shorts with a certain material so everything is very unique and you are not getting something that 100,000 people have. There might only be a couple other items like it and they are all really well made.”
While the fashion show will be an opportunity for those in the community to see CEAL clothing, Harris said the launch of the website will be a game-changer for CEAL. While the student store was a great start for CEAL to get its brand out there in front of the targeted demographic, Harris said he and Liang realized that most student’s don’t carry around a lot of cash to purchase clothes at school, and if they do, many don’t want ton purchase something and carry it around all day from class to class. This is why having the website is vital.
Liang said the Clovis Chamber of Commerce has provided great resources that made the launch of the website and that fashion show possible. She is also grateful to friends who have volunteered to be models.
“The Clovis Chamber of Commerce has been very helpful and supportive,” Liang said. “Diana Hunnicutt gave us some contacts and that is how we got the hotel to let us use a couple of their rooms. The models are mostly just contacts and friends at school. We’re trying to get together a whole bunch of students so they can promote CEAL at school and we might be using some of the current YEA students as models as well.”
Rob Harris, CJ’s father, said the YEA program taught them so much they needed to know to launch their business.
“It takes time for them to understand how to successfully, not just run but launch a business and all the steps that go into doing that they learned through YEA,” Rob Harris said. “The YEA program was really a catalyst for them in helping them with their vision in figuring out what they wanted to do with their futures.”
The CEAL Clothing Spring Launch will be held on April 30 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the Fairfield Inn and Suites at 50 N. Clovis Ave., south of Herndon on Clovis Ave. During the event, there will be a runway showcasing CEAL’s collection and the cealclothing.com website will be launched. Purchases can be made at the event and online. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.