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Students prepare to launch apparel startup

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Students prepare to launch apparel startup

Jennifer Lechowski

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Seniors Renee Portenlanger, Olivia Glowacka and Krupa Patel are in the works of creating a student friendly business called Hala Kai. They hope to make a difference in student loan debt by having students enter into a monthly scholarship drawing when purchasing one of their clothing items.

“Our business is determined to help people exactly like students here and we want to ensure we listen to our potential customers in order to further and better our company,” Portenlanger said.

In their entrepreneurship class, they had to come up with a list of things that upset them and wanted to see change. They brought up the issue of high tuition costs. Portenlanger thought of the idea to have a clothing brand like, Vineyard Vines and Ivory Ella, but instead of donating to animal organizations, they would donate a scholarship to one student per month who purchases one of their clothing items.

“We were so surprised that nothing like this exists yet.  It’s such an easy way to not only get a trendy clothing item, but also  to be entered into a scholarship instead of having to fill out a repetitive application or writing an essay,” Glowacka said.

Student loan debt continues to be a burden on many students in America. The United States has a $1.48 trillion student loan debt. It takes the average student 21 years to pay off their student loans from their bachelor degrees, according to “Business Insider.”

“We hope Hala Kai can be an additional source to lowering students’ tuition by lowering the amount of money in loans they would take out,” Glowacka said.

Hala Kai has a unique meaning to it. In Hawaiian, Hala is a type of tree that grows on landscapes and grows fruit that are shaped like pineapple. Kai means ocean.

“We wanted a name that had a tropical feel. A pineapple is also known as the fruit of hospitality,” Patel said.

Many high school and college scholarships require certain requirements to apply. Hala Kai is open to every student who wishes to be entered. As long as they buy a clothing item, they are in the monthly drawing.

“Even if a high school freshman wins, they can save the scholarship through the years and apply it to their college tuition,” Glowacka said.

Hala Kai is worked on everyday in school and independently out of school.

“Things like answering emails, Instagram DM’s, making new shirt designs and logo is a continuous process,” Patel said.

They each take certain roles within this business. Glowacka has been heavily working on their Instagram page ‘halakaiapparel’ trying to increase their followship. As of right now, they have just over 2,000 followers.

“My friend, Maia, who lives on Miami, Florida shared the post on her story and from there we have gained more followers in Florida, as well as the northwest suburbs of Chicago,” Glowacka said.

They also released a post asking for students to model their clothing for their launch of the business. They received over 900 direct messages and gained many followers.

Patel has been mainly in charge of designing unique logos and apparel.

“To start off with, we will sell long sleeve t-shirts for $20, but we hope to expand our clothing line later,” Patel said.

They also are selling stickers to try to get their business more notice.

“We have two designs being sold for one dollar, and we would appreciate people to purchase those,” Portenlanger said.

Portenlanger has been working on the Facebook page as well as contacting with the people who will manufacture the clothing.

“I am currently trying to gain more popularity among parents. I post updates similar to the ones on our Instgram page to build a popular image and see how many people think our idea could be successful,” Portenlanger said.

As a team they work together on many different parts of the business.

They plan to launch Hala Kai towards the middle or end of March. For more information, people can email them at

“Overall, we hope we can get as many students and their parents involved in our company to provide the best product and service possible,” Portenlanger said.

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Jennifer Lechowski, Editorial Board

Senior Jennifer Lechowski is an editorial board member and has served on staff since 2015.  She has received numerous awards in broadcast news from the...

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