The smell of ink fills the small, dimly lit room. Holding a squeegee in both hands, communications senior Serena Batali runs it back and forth down the length of the wooden frame, spreading out the ink. She is careful to apply an even amount of pressure to ensure the ink properly transfers onto the sweatshirt.
Batali’s room is the home base for her brand, Cheap Trip, a developing lifestyle brand built from a creative imagination.
“I’ve made it my little jungle sanctuary,” Batali said. “I could seriously spend all day just creating in there and be perfectly happy.”
Once done with the screen printing process, Batali treats the ink with a heat gun and hang the sweatshirt to dry. She then folds it, puts it in a box and waits until she gets a notification that someone purchased the sweatshirt from her website.
Batali does not just sell sweatshirts, she sells a lifestyle.
A lifestyle full of drawings of little creatures, each with a different story, that come to life with tie-dyed shirts, elaborate wire-wrapped seashells and beer candles made out of beer cans sucked down the night before by Batali and her friends.
“Beer candles are my favorite thing to source because all it takes is a big case of beer, good friends and a night to kill,” Batali said. “A fun-ass night and then voila, I’ve got some potential money-makers left over.”
According to Batali, whether she is screen printing on clothing, making beer-candles, or crafting jewelry, she has a great time doing it.
Though Cheap Trip is Batali’s very own brand, she is not without help. Her childhood friend, and now boyfriend, Troy Welby, often lends a hand.
According to Welby, he acts as a partial business adviser for Batali and the two bounce ideas off each other.
“We see eye-to-eye on a lot of things,” Welby said. “We both have the same style, we like trippy things.”
Welby, an avid skater and biker, not only helps Batali out with ideas, but is also sponsored by Cheap Trip. On any given day, Welby can be found sporting Cheap Trip merchandise and ripping it up on his dirt bike.
According to Batali, ever since coming to Cal Poly, she has taken 21-24 units per quarter. However, she still manages to make Cheap Trip her primary focus.
“All day in class I think about new products, new ideas, how to be more sustainable, how to market better, connections with important people — I’ve really let it consume my life and I’m stoked that it has,” Batali said.
According to Batali, she stays busy when it comes to Cheap Trip. When she releases a new product, or restocks an old one, the product typically sells out within a month, sometimes in two weeks.
Cheap Trip in the San Luis Obispo community
On Saturday, June 9, Batali hosted a zero-waste fundraiser and SLO creek cleanup with communications senior Stevie Elzinga for her senior project. The fundraiser, Cheap Trippin’ on Trash, raised money for the Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit environmental organization working to protect oceans and beaches around the world.
The fundraiser cleanup began at 9 a.m. at the San Luis Obispo Mission Plaza and went until 2 p.m. Attendees were rewarded with free beer from Bang the Drum and SLO Brew, as well as root beer from Pismo Brew.
Batali graduated Spring 2018 and she said she has big plans for Cheap Trip. Batali and Welby are planning a road trip to make a name for the brand and go to trade shows where they can showcase Cheap Trip to skate and surf shops looking to sell new brands.
How it all began
Cheap Trip began with Batali’s passion to create, whether it be wrapping crystals or painting and tie-dying clothes. She found herself gifting her work to friends and at times even selling what she made.
One late night, while kicking back with her friend from community college, the two sat and talked about selling Batali’s “trippy” items at a low price. Hence the name, Cheap Trip.
“So Cheap Trip kind of just emerged and then it started making sense for everything I believed in,” Batali said.
Batali, from Fallbrook, a town in North County San Diego, attributes her creativity to the environment in which she grew up.
“I actually grew up on a little avocado farm there with no neighbors. It was all just rolling hills of trees and land and I loved it,” Batali said.
According to Batali, she would spend her time in nature, creating stories for the rolling hills and wildlife she would often encounter.
With no neighbors for miles and a youthful imagination, Batali would come up with backstories for her surroundings. To her, the hills were secretly giant camels taking a nap that to us would be thousands of years.
Her mind would wander and wander, and unlike most who grow up, she maintained her imagination and it is what drives Cheap Trip today.
Editor’s note: A previous version of the title incorrectly referred to the brand as Cheap Trick.