Cheerleaders manage a business off the sidelines


Courtesy of TopTailgaters

Seniors Emma Schackart and Angelina Buonavolanto started a college apparel business earlier this year.

An unsuccessful shopping trip to find stylish college apparel for an Indiana University football game led two of  Central’s senior cheerleaders, Emma Schackart and Angelina Buonavolanto, to brainstorm cool designs to create their own shirts. 

“This was just the beginning. The days following we started taking old shirts and started experimenting. We then started ordering supplies and we were able to come up with so many unique and trendy styles,” Schackart said. 

This sparked the creation of their college apparel business, TopTailgaters, which the two girls now run on a daily basis. By January 2020, Schackart and Buonavolanto were meeting every day to come up with new designs before they officially launched their website. 

TopTailgaters is a one-of-a-kind college apparel company inspired by LF with a more affordable approach. All items are hand-made and only available once, and custom orders are encouraged. 

“The ultimate goal of our business is to provide teenage girls with trendy and unique college apparel. We saw a large demand for this type of apparel, especially in our town,” Buonavolanto said. 

Since launching their website on March 1, 2020, TopTailgaters has sold about 60 products. 

“We have customers from all over. It started off last year with Hinsdale Central seniors committing to college and promoting us through social media, now we have grown our following and customers from community colleges to big universities all around,” Schackart said.

The girls have a designated workspace at their homes to customize products. (Courtesy of TopTailgaters)

Former Central student and TopTailgater customer, Olivia Parillo, was very pleased with her custom Indiana University denim jacket purchase.

“The style of TopTailgaters is truly one of a kind. I have never seen a company make apparel like this,” Parillo said. 

Both Buonavolanto and Schackart have taken business-based courses at Central, including Introduction to Business, Investment Planning, Marketing, Business Law one and two, Economics, Entrepreneurial Studies, and Accounting. Additionally, Buonavolanto completed a marketing internship at Buona Beef, a fast-food corporation, and Schackart has interned with William Blair and Hearts N Sons, a global investment banking and asset company.

“[These opportunities] helped us not only learn more about business, but it has given us insight on what business is like in the real world,” Buonavolanto said. 

The girls have had to make adjustments to their daily responsibilities to juggle school and running a business. 

“The hardest part of running a business as a high schooler is the work and school balance. Although we are managing it well right now, when we go back to school in-person we both know we are going to have more work, and that balance is going to be difficult to find,” Buonavolanto said.

Both girls work together to create new shirt designs but they have different tasks to manage the logistics of their business. Buonavolanto works on marketing while Schackart focuses on financing. 

“On a daily basis, we post on our social media platforms, update our website with our newest apparel, update the homepage, respond to messages, package orders, etc.,” Schackart said. 

Beyond high school, the girls plan on continuing TopTailgaters, though it will no longer be in “full” production. 

“We will only be selling products that we have in inventory. All custom orders will only be taken under certain circumstances. For example, if we are home during Christmas break and customers need apparel for the holidays, we will be able to produce it,” Buonavolanto said. 

The girls have gained important insight on how to successfully run a business which will help them in their future careers. 

“Find a business partner that is just as passionate as you are. Finding a partner that has the same goals and aspirations as you do will help the business be successful. Don’t rush into anything and take time planning out your business before it launches; analyze every detail,” Schackart said. 

In college, Schackart said she would like to major in accounting or finance to pursue working in Chicago for a top firm. Buonavolanto plans to major in marketing and minor in graphic design, and she also wants to start her career working for a firm in Chicago. 

To shop TopTailgaters you can visit their website,, or follow them on Instagram @TopTailgaters. For custom orders, you can direct message TopTailgaters on Instagram or click the “customization” tab on the website.