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CVHS grad uses T's to tell, sell story
The fertile imagination of 2009 Central Valley High School graduate Luis Castle has blended creative writing, computer graphics and an entrepreneurial spirit to come up with a unique business enterprise.

The 21-year-old CVHS graduate, who recently earned a bachelor's degree from DeVry College, has stumbled upon a clever marketing scheme designed to pique interest in his line of T-shirts adorned with his own original art, which follows a story line he wrote and published on line.

"It's like a comic book on shirt," said Castle, who runs his own company - out of his parents' Eastgate home in Ceres.

A year ago, Luis developed and designed characters under the Bestia (Spanish for "beast") name. He is releasing a chapter at a time on his website and designing six shirts per chapter, each illustrating a scene and also referring people to the website. The fictional story he wrote is intended to inspire.

"It's a way to promote and sell a clothing line with a story line," further explained Castle.

The website, launched in July 2011 and now getting about 300 to 400 hits a month, is also where he sells T shirts featuring images from his story.

"Bestia lives in the city where he is shunned by people because of how he looks because they don't know if he's a robot or an animal," said Castle. "So they call him 'beast,' stay away from him. He minds but he understands it's because he looks different from them and he keeps hope alive that they'll understand him."

Bestia is really a robot, according to its creator, as evidenced by the prominent power button on his forehead. He has no brain, nor heart. "He doesn't have the confusion of the heart and the brain. I kind of wanted to play on the thought, what if our heart and mind were one. When you want to love there's always the fear that comes with that from your logical side."

Castle is issuing his story in chapters with illustrations that are featured as art work on T shirts. Anyone who buys a T-shirt from the website receives a slick chapter booklet as well as stickers of the characters. The shirt images are printed with the corresponding title from the story, such as "Chapter 1, Scene 2."

Castle, who graduated from DeVries University in Fremont in February with a bachelor's degree in multi-media design with a major in graphics, designed the characters on paper and created them on the computer using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

"I've been drawing since I was one," said Castle. "That's what led me to graphic design and I guess I got the influence from a lot of cartoons and comic books.

"I wanted to make clothing that was innovative, that actually had a story behind it that people could actually follow. And the other reason I wanted to do it, I kind of wanted to remind people of the innocence they had as children. There's something when you're a child and you really believe you can do things. I want the clothing to be innocent and remind people of that time."

Bestia merely wants for someone to love him. He finds that in Lil Nicole who asks him for the moon and he naively tries to bring it down for her.

Castle's enterprise also involves partner George Dullos of Livermore who is assisting in sales. The pair promote at break dancing events and anime conventions in Fresno.

"It's pretty cool because the crowd there already like the style. A lot of the cute anime characters kind of look like him. They like it and wonder what it's about. I like meeting the fans that we have and talking about new products coming out."

Sales are slowly picking up, he said. Castle invests all of his profits back into the company while making a living performing commercial graphic designs.

"It's getting better. It was very slow in the beginning. But as people are starting to understand it a little more - I think it's kind of hard to grasp at first -they buy the shirts and actually read the book and start getting it a little more, it's getting better. Our sales on line and at events are increasing."

A small sign posted by his computer in the living room of his parents' Eastgate subdivision home reminds him to sell at least three T-shirts a week.

Castle is designing a hand-made plush doll of Bestia, which he plans to release for limited edition of just five to test the waters for mass sales. The dolls are being made by the relative of his girlfriend.

"With a bigger company you have to order 10,000 of them so we have to test the waters first.

Castle's typical customers are young people between the ages of 15 to 25. About three people in total are devout fans who buy all the shirts, which retail for $21.95. Castle knows the biggest fan, who is a Livermore resident, by name.

"I'd like to see how far I can take it but keep it for what it started for, influencing and inspiring people."

"His website will help young people to believe in themselves," said Milinda Ortiz, whose daughter is dating Luis. "I believe we as a community should embrace this endeavor. We should encourage our young citizens to get out there and dare to dream, which happens to be one of his slogans. Ceres is the hometown of this up and coming new enterprise."

She said Castle, who volunteers with youth groups and regularly attends church, is trying to "make something of himself."