The owner of a creative agency who’s worked with big national brands is now sharing what they’ve learned in business with students.
BROOKLYN CENTER, Minnesota — In the media room at Brooklyn Center High School on Tuesday, teens like Rovella Charles displayed images of the T-shirts and hoodies they designed in groups during a year-long intensive program.
“I learned that I could start my own business,” said the junior.
In place of traditional teachers, five young entrepreneurs from Skntones lead the class. School districts pay their business to work with students twice a week.
“These children, at first, did not know [anything] About profit, but now they leave the class knowing the formula,” says product developer and art director Antione Jenkins, also known as Antione the Artist.
After a semi-truck driver plowed into thousands on the Interstate 35W bridge, the Skntones came up with a formula for making money during the 2020 riots.
“After being on the bridge, we were basically traumatized,” Jenkins said. “So after that, I felt like I had to take my talent elsewhere and protest.”
The group turned to art, painting a mural outside the Spyhouse that drew national media coverage. Uptown Coffee also gave them $1,000 to make and sell a specialty drink, and their business was born.
“We’re a brand and a creative agency,” explains Creative Director Stephon Atuti. “We’re set up for thought collaborations, content production, and events and activations.”
Skntones has since partnered with Ye’s Donda Academy, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and Urban Outfitters. The brand often hosts pop-up events and plans to expand to New York this year.
Instead of keeping all their business knowledge to themselves, they considered their younger selves and decided to carry it forward at Brooklyn Center. In class, they cover topics including the importance of collaboration, how to effectively use social media to market your brand, and navigating unconventional paths to success.
“We talked and thought about how we could make a bigger change earlier and catch kids at a time when we thought we were in their prime,” said media director Anthony Brown. “Doing that has delivered for us. That goal, and we look forward to continuing to do so.”
“Once we decide who we want to be and what we want to do, it always comes back to the community,” Atuti added.
For Charles, she says the class gave her the confidence to speak her mind out loud, knowing that her peers and teachers wouldn’t completely dismiss them.
“This class comes with criticism but also with support,” she said.