A creative agency owner who has worked with big, national brands is now sharing what she’s learned about business with students.
BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — In the media room at Brooklyn Center High School Tuesday, teens like Rowella Charles showed off photos of T-shirts and hoodies they designed in groups during a year-long enrichment class.
“I learned that I could start my own business,” Junior said.
Instead of a traditional teacher, five young entrepreneurs from Scranton lead the class. The school district pays its businesses to work with its students twice per week.
“These kids didn’t know before [anything] about the benefits, but now they’re leaving this class knowing the formula,” said product developer and art director Antion Jenkins, also known as Antion the Artist.
The Skntones figured out a formula for making money during the 2020 unrest, when a semi-truck driver ran into thousands of people on an Interstate 35W bridge.
“We were basically in shock after being on the bridge,” Jenkins said. “So after that, I felt like I should move somewhere or use my talents to protest.”
The group turned to art, creating a mural outside the Spyhouse that attracted national media coverage. The Uptown Coffee Shop also gave him $1,000 to create and market a specialty drink, and eventually his business was born.
“We are a brand and a creative agency,” explained Creative Director Stéphane Etuti. “We are set up to do idea sharing, content production, as well as events and activism.”
Skntones has since partnered with Ye’s Donda Academy, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, and Urban Outfitters. The brand frequently 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 of smaller versions of themselves and decided to pursue it in Brooklyn Center. In class, they cover topics such as the importance of collaboration, effectively using social media to market a brand, and navigating unconventional paths to success.
Media director Anthony Brown said, “We talked and thought about how we could make a big difference earlier and catch the kids when we thought we’d be at our peak.” “Having done this has been fulfilling for us and we are looking forward to continuing.”
“Once we decide who we want to be and what we want to do, it always comes back to the community,” Atuti said.
As for Charles, she says the class gives her a sense of confidence to shout out ideas knowing her peers and teachers might totally shoot her down.
“This class comes with criticism and it comes with support,” she said.