By Lindsey Murray | ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship
CYstarters Spotlight: A 15-part series highlighting student entrepreneurs pursuing their business ventures as part of the CYstarters 2023 summer cohort. Through this program, students have the unique opportunity to prioritize the development of their own startup or business idea. Each individual receives $6,500 and access to resources such as mentorship, networking opportunities, and educational sessions on entrepreneurship and business startup.
Foster Caspers (19) lives by the saying, “Take things as they come. Handle what you can. Everything will work out.” If you spend a few minutes with Caspers, the one thing you’ll learn about him is that he is incredibly laid back and that his feathers are not easily ruffled.
He may also let you in on the fact that he is extremely passionate about streetwear. Streetwear is a casual style that originated in New York City and Los Angeles. The style includes comfortable and trendy clothing items, from graphic tees to sneakers, that convey a consumer’s style and identity.
A friendly wager
Late one night in his college dorm room, Caspers and his roommate made a bet to see who could make the most amount of money in the shortest amount of time. So, they put together a spreadsheet to track their profits, and started brainstorming their business ideas.
Caspers knew he wanted to love what he did so much that it didn’t feel like work. “I really wanted to come up with something where I could work all day, but it wouldn’t feel like I was working all day.” So, he combined his love of streetwear with his laid-back attitude, and ultimately, driven by a little friendly competition, Caspers founded the Kickback brand.
Kickback is a streetwear brand with the goal of spreading positivity and promoting a stress-free lifestyle. Caspers currently designs hoodies, t-shirts and racer jackets. Each item of clothing is casual yet fashionable, with a graphic that encourages a culture of relaxation.
In the spring of 2023, shortly after devising the Kickback brand and pitching it at the College-by-College Pitch Off, Caspers ran into CYstarters alumni, Collin Gauck and Jacob Kautman (co-founders of Campus Town Trading). Gauck and Kautman hyped up the CYstarters program to Caspers, encouraging him to see how far he could take his brand.
As he prepared to pitch his business in hopes of being selected to the 2023 CYstarters cohort, Caspers felt like the cards were stacked against him. With only $600 in sales and a shell of a business plan, he was certain he wouldn’t make the cut. When he received the results weeks later, his lack of confidence made the news of his acceptance into CYstarters that much sweeter.
Fostering a culture of comfort
As much as Caspers loves a laid-back atmosphere, he also enjoys the energy and risk that comes with being an entrepreneur. He is driven by the understanding that the success, or failure, of his business is in his own hands. That being said, the CYstarters program has helped him to put one foot in front of the other and establish a plan of success for the Kickback brand.
Caspers is working diligently to find new ways of marketing Kickback to his target audience. He gave a shoutout to Megan Graettinger (CYstarters program manager) for encouraging him to be more assertive in asking for what he needs from his manufacturers and helping him explore new avenues for brand exposure. His many interactions with the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship staff and his community mentors have built up his confidence, not only in his business, but in himself.
Over the past 10 weeks, Caspers dropped the first sweatshirt design for the brand. The “Cloud Hoodie” encourages its wearers to relax and daydream. But Caspers claims that his biggest win for the summer was connecting with the manufacturer of Supreme – one of the world’s most popular and in-demand streetwear labels. Although he isn’t in a position to work with this manufacturer right now, he is excited to have made the valuable connection and hopes to stay in touch as Kickback grows.
Caspers has experienced immense personal and professional growth as a member of the CYstarters program. Being part of the team has provided a space full of support and encouragement from other student entrepreneurs. You’ll even find many of Caspers’ fellow cohort members donning the cloud hoodie in support of the Kickback brand.
As he prepares to launch a few new designs, Caspers wants to remind fellow student entrepreneurs to fake it until you make it. You may never be ready to share your idea, “…but if you can act like you’re bigger than you are and command the presence of others, you can do anything,” says Caspers.
As a community, we can support Caspers and the Kickback brand by following him on Instagram and Tiktok, and purchasing apparel from his website. Be sure to share his brand with the anyone wanting to kick back and relax, and keep an eye out for future Kickback popup events on the Iowa State University campus.