Student Turns Passion into Business

The REENO Vision: How One Student Turns Passion Into Business
Posted on 07/11/2019
Sam Mazzarino headshotBy: Janelle Puckering, SDPBC Communications Department Intern

One year ago, Sam Mazzarino was making minimum wage at a pizza place. Today, he makes five times that amount by selling his art, which is now seen by millions of people thanks to his collaboration with a popular musician, Billie Eilish.

“Success means inspiring one kid to be just marginally better than they were prior to my influence,” said Mazzarino, a visual arts senior at Alexander Dreyfoos School of the Arts.

Mazzarino attributes his passion for art to one distinct moment, when his third grade teacher said the dragon he drew was the “best she’d ever seen.” He took her praise to heart and decided to pursue art education by attending Bak Middle School of the Arts and later, Dreyfoos.

In May 2018, Mazzarino took his talent to a new level by launching an art company, REENO Studios, on Instagram. Mazzarino’s artwork is largely based on pop culture, as his drawings represent big musicians, current events, and styles.

Just a month and a half after starting his business, he got the chance to work with Billie Eilish, a popular teenage singer, who has been the number one musician on Billboard’s Artist 100 list for the first two weeks of July 2019. Her hit album, “WHEN WE FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” includes chart-topping songs “bad guy” and “bury a friend.”

Mazzarino attributes this collaboration so early on in his career to his self-marketing skills. He capitalized on Eilish’s popularity by contacting her fan pages on Instagram, asking them to repost a portrait he had drawn of her.

Mazzarino's drawing of Billie Eilish on a t-shirt“I [direct messaged] 200 of them and I got 15 people to repost it. If you’re an artist and you see 15 people repost one design, I feel like that gives the illusion that people really, really like the design,” Mazzarino said.

Eventually, the drawing made its way back to Eilish herself.

“Out of nowhere, I get a DM from her manager,” Mazzarino said. “He was like ‘Hey, Billie really likes the design. Want to put it on a shirt?’ We just started emailing back and forth and worked everything out.”

A shirt with Mazzarino’s design is now available on Eilish’s website. While Mazzarino gained acclaim in the infancy of his business, the achievements didn’t stop with Eilish. He has since released four seasons of T-shirt lines to his 11,000 followers and sold dozens of art packs that help other artists create work more easily. He is currently working on another collaboration with an up-and-coming rapper, Lucki.

“I'm either going to find a way to make money doing what I love or I'll just be broke doing what I love, but at least I'll be doing what I love,” Mazzarino said.

Mazzarino starts his senior year at Dreyfoos in August and he doesn’t plan to let his business get in the way of his studies.
“I have come to realize how I do anything is how I do everything,” he said. “So if I slack in school, I start slipping into the paradigm of a slacker in other aspects of my life. I really give everything my all, including school.”
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