Student entrepreneurs soar

How some turned pandemic into opportunity

We all know the feeling. Lethargic days becoming indistinguishable from one another, waking up to the latest soul-deadening reality show that accidentally got left on, sweatpants feeling like an acceptable replacement for more formal attire. The COVID-19 stay-at-home orders seem like a time where nothing is possible. However, a small group of student entrepreneurs from Oak Park High School have proved that, during this time, there may be a unique kind of opportunity. 

Drafting garments into the late night. Shipping hoodies and hats all with the distinct letters, “F-A-M.” In his home in Oak Park, senior Ethan Rinkov works to build a fashion brand with his brother and Oak Park High School alumnus, Sam Rinkov. 

With original designs and innovative new looks, the Rinkov brothers wish to reach global audiences with their lifestyle clothing brand, Fam Los Angeles. 

“Fam Los Angeles is a lifestyle clothing brand founded on our love and appreciation for our family,” Ethan Rinkov wrote to the Talon. “Our mission is to spread that same gratitude to others no matter who you call family and create a sense of belonging for those who may not have anyone to call family.”

The effects of the COVID-19 lockdowns have been a detriment to some businesses (according to the Washington Post, over 100,000 businesses have shut down for good); however, the Rinkov brothers feel that it may have benefitted certain aspects of starting an online retail brand. 

“I think that COVID gave us time that we would have never had on a regular basis. We are able to spend a great amount of time researching what made other brands so successful,” Ethan Rinkov wrote. 

OPHS has had its fair share of successful entrepreneurs. Take Oak Park alumnus Ryan Chan for example. Chan graduated from Oak Park in 2009 after being an active member on the cross country, tennis and soccer teams. Today he is the CEO and founder of Upkeep Maintenance Management and was featured in Forbes “30 under 30” list. 

Chan’s company works to support the unsung heroes of the modern world — maintenance teams. Upkeep helps teams collaborate with other maintenance people around buildings and facilities. 

In 2016 my friend and another OPHS alumni, Advait Shinde said, ‘Ryan, you should go work on UpKeep full time because you’ve got the business foundation already and I believe in you.’ That was the same day that I had the confidence to call my boss and let him know that I wanted to become a full time entrepreneur and build my own business,” Chan wrote to the Talon. 

From an empirical perspective, starting a successful business is not easy. According to,  there is an 18% chance of success for first-time entrepreneurs. With this in mind, it is vital for student entrepreneurs to take any advice they can get. 

“There’s never a great time to start a business, there’s never a perfect moment where all the stars align. Just go out and make it happen, choose today to be the day where you decide to pursue your dreams,” Chan wrote. 

Not all entrepreneurs utilize a traditional business model. Take for example the group of student entrepreneurs behind the band Cheach Billin’ (that’s “Beach Chillin’” with the first letters transposed). 

The band consists of trombonist Daniel Conway, percussionist Bob Emrich, lead guitarist Jalen Blank, rhythm guitarist Amit Maish, bassit Ali Wilson, keyboardist Nate Trux, trumpeter Vir Kolpe and saxophonist Liam Case. This group of students monetizes their music through ticket sales and by offering CDs and digital copies of their album on their website. The group has had to modify rehearsals and recordings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, holding some digitally. 

“The first real thing we got together to do was the Thousand Oaks Teen Center’s ‘Battle of the Bands,’” senior Nate Trux wrote to the Talon. “After that we didn’t really know where it would go, but it was definitely the start of something awesome.”

The band recorded their latest album, “Simple Songs,” in a semi-professional studio outfitted with equipment provided by a local community member. Trux explained that profit was not the original motivator for the band, but it came later on due to CD sales. They have also released several new singles since the release of “Simple Songs” like “Electric Alchemy” and “Dead Man’s Party.” 

“We put advertisements on our social media pages to let people know that we are selling CDs,” Trux wrote. “We pooled all our money together in order to buy around 50 CDs, and we’ve been doing well on sales so far.” 

With the increasing amount of free time due to COVID-19 lockdowns, as well as the lack of availability of conventional jobs, student entrepreneurship has become a useful outlet for young people to make strides towards success. Nonetheless, it is important to remember that it all starts from one day, one idea and one vision. 

“Don’t wait for the perfect time or the perfect idea, that will never come. Make the best of your situation and resources, create a solid foundation to build on, research your competitors, and have fun with it,” Sam Rinkov wrote to the Talon. “If it doesn’t make you happy it’s not worth it.”