Meet Latosha Stone, creative force behind Proper Gnar, the first Black woman owned skateboard company.
“I think that little black girls should be able to pursue whatever interests that they're into. If they want to skateboard or start skateboarding, they should go ahead and do it,” Stone says. “Don't let people discourage you, just go for it.”
LATOSHA STONE: I think that little Black girls should be able to pursue whatever interests that they're into. If they want to skateboard or start skateboarding, they should go ahead and do it. Don't let people discourage you. Just go for it.
I grew up in, like, small-town Ohio. Not only was I, like, the only Black girl, I was, like, the only Black person there at all. I've been in love with skateboarding since, like, middle school. I first started on, like, a penny board, which was those little, like, plastic boards. Then I moved on to, like, a regular-sized skateboard, and that was way better.
Proper Gnar came into existence about seven years ago. I was working at this factory, and it was horrible. It was hot. I was, like, making windows. It was, like, minimum wage. And I was just, like, I can't do this forever.
I just took my tax return one year and just went ahead and did it. I love skateboarding, and, you know, it's just something that I've been into ever since I was a little kid. I have always had a passion for it, and, you know, what better thing to do than, you know, just to go on with your passion?
Getting into skateboards, it's, like, a big investment. I design all the skateboards for Proper Gnar. You know, every single one I have drawn either on my iPad or, you know, drawn on paper, and, you know, scanned it in. I kind of, like, taught myself graphic design. About six years ago, I decided I want to actually go to school for it. So I went and got my fine art degree and then finished with a graphic design degree.
It's really hard for women to break into the industry with, you know, being a professional skateboarder, let alone, you know, being on the sidelines and owning a skateboarding company. Nobody will tell you, you know, who their supplier is, because they don't want you to be able to go to the same person. And you know a lot of these companies, they get bigger by working with professional skateboarders. I haven't had access to those same professional skateboarders.
I'd say the last big challenge that I had would be business knowledge and being able to get funding. You know, I didn't have a big investor. It's been all my money or money that came from sales.
Definitely had people that have doubted me along the way, family members that were kind of, like, you know, shocked when they heard that I was, like, quitting my job to, you know, work in skateboarding. A lot of people online, too-- you know, I've had people, you know, say Black girls don't skate. You get the occasional person at the skate park that, you know, has something dumb to say about it. But I feel like I've definitely had more supporters than negative people, though.
The pandemic has affected the business in a positive way. And with people having more free time and doing more outside activities, skateboarding is an awesome outside activity. People have been buying more boards to get out and do that.
Beyonce, I am so thankful for Beyonce and her Black-owned business list. That was also one of the things that really helped my company this year. That kind of happened at the same time as around, like, all the protests and stuff. But I could definitely tell something was going on with my sales that day when I woke up to that list.
Right now, business is doing really great. It feels surreal seeing my art go out and going into people's homes. And people will send me videos of themselves skateboarding. I can, like, see my graphic. It makes me realize, you know, like, why I do what I do. It's an awesome feeling.