JUNEAU, Alaska — Noah Spengler is a 17-year-old with a business he’s created by hand.
It began with his creative outlet — Spengler paints and draws, keeping sketches in a notebook and paintings on the walls of his family’s home. Earlier this year, he found a way to get his artwork out into the world, and customers’ closets, when he started a silk-screening business, Noah Spengler Limited (NSL). And though it’s just getting started, he’s shipped t-shirts and sweatshirts with his designs as far as the United Kingdom and Australia.
He built the press himself, by hand. He put together his screens himself, by hand. And, of course, all the drawings are his own, culled from his notebook and adapted for the wider world of apparel.
“Just about everything is made by hand,” he said. “From the screens to the presses.”
He taught himself everything about the process of silk screening online, including how to build the press.
He began drawing when he was 5 or 6, he said, and when he was a freshman in high school, he and his mother went to Juneau artist M.K. MacNaughton’s studio, where he began painting. Though he’s the one that came up with his own funding, his parents, Kasia and Tim Spengler, have been a big support for the business, he said.
Drawing, though, is still his favorite — he likes the simplicity of its needs.
Right now, he has four total designs that he prints on his shirts. One design is mountains and clouds, but others are more abstract, things he figured out through the process of creating.
“Once I start drawing, I just draw more and more and more,” he said.
He’s been skiing since he was a kid, too, moving from racing to freeskiing when he was in his early teens. Now, freeskiers are his biggest clients.
He posted on a freeskiing website, www.newschoolers.com, this spring.
That website is what “brought it to life,” he said. “What people wear, a lot of people (in the freeskiing community) sort of value it.”
Now he’s got a website and is ready to grow.
He sponsors four freeskiing athletes around America, and is adding a few more to the roster, he said. He’ll soon have business cards and a company logo, and is looking at getting his designs into local, and out-of-town, stores.
“That’s something I’m looking forward to getting into,” he said.
He’s also thinking beyond his bottom line. Spengler donates 10 percent of the profits from his business to the nonprofit Bread for the World.
“I’ve been lucky enough all my life to have food, but many people don’t have that. (It’s) just something that I can do to help people,” he wrote in an email.
That’s not to say being a high school junior with a business is free of challenges.
“Time can be kind of (limited), with a lot of homework and skiing in the winter,” he said. “But it does all fit together ... It’s really just cool to see where it’s going. It’s just the beginning, I think.”