‘Skntones’ teaches Brooklyn Center students business skills

The owners of a creative agency that has worked with big, national brands are now sharing what they’ve learned about doing business with students.

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — In the media room at Brooklyn Center High School on Tuesday, teenagers like Rovella Charles displayed images of T-shirts and hoodies they designed in groups during a yearlong extra class.

“I learned that I can start my own business,” the junior said.

Instead of a traditional teacher, the class is led by five young entrepreneurs from Skntones. The school district pays their company to work with their students twice a week.

“These kids didn’t know at first [anything] about profit, but now they leave this class knowing the formula,” said product developer and art director Antione Jenkins, who is also known as Antione the Artist.

Skntones came up with a formula for making money during the 2020 riots, after a semi-truck driver plowed into thousands of people on the Interstate 35W bridge.

“We were basically traumatized after being on the bridge,” Jenkins said. “After that, I felt like I had to take or use my talents elsewhere to protest.”

The group turned to art, painting a mural outside the Spyhouse that attracted national media attention. An Uptown coffee shop also gave them $1,000 to create and market a specialty drink, and eventually their business was born.

“We are a brand and a creative agency,” explained creative director Stephon Atuti. “We are built for thoughtful partnerships, content production, as well as 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 what they learned about business to themselves, they thought about younger versions of themselves and decided to pay it forward at Brooklyn Center. In class, they cover topics such as the importance of collaboration, how to effectively use social media to market your brand, and navigating non-traditional paths to success.

“We talked and thought about how we could make a bigger change earlier and catch kids when we thought they would be in their prime,” media director Anthony Brown said. “This fulfilled that for us and we look forward to continuing to do so.”

“Once we sort of 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 gives her a sense of confidence to voice ideas knowing that her peers and teachers won’t completely shoot them down.

“This class comes with criticism and it comes with, like, support,” she said.

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