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On deck in Greenville

Meet Latosha Stone, owner of Proper Gnar, the first Black woman-owned skateboard company.

Latosha Stone at Greenville Skate Park near Dayton

On deck in Greenville

By Wendy Pramik

Posted On: Jun 16, 2022

Latosha Stone, a 35-year-old mom of a high-schooler, makes the scene at Greenville Skate Park in the small, western Ohio town 40 miles northwest of Dayton.

Latosha stone sitting on a bench next to a blue checkered proper gnar skateboard at Greenville Skate Park near Dayton Ohio

With her shock of pink hair and a noticeable limp, the result of a recent board slide gone awry, Stone fits right in with the teenagers and assorted young adults at the park. But it wasn't always that way.

Stone says she grew up a tomboy in Greenville, one who loved to play Tony Hawk's Pro Skater on her Nintendo 64. When she was in sixth grade, she wanted to skate just like the neighborhood boys who passed by her home on their boards.

They weren't always encouraging.

"There was always some dude who had something negative to say to me," Stone says, "whether it was about being a poser, being a girl or a Black person who was skating."

But that didn't stop her. It only fed her fire. So, she started teaching herself to skate, then to do skating maneuvers, even if she got hurt a few times in the process.

"You don’t have to accept me, but you are going to respect me," she remembers thinking.

lastosha stone in proper gnar tshirt holding a skateboard by her legs in front of a school bus in Ohio

That was the same drive and attitude that led Stone in 2013 to launch Proper Gnar, an online streetwear and skateboarding brand that she operates from a studio space in her house. Proper Gnar has been hailed as the nation's first Black woman-owned skateboard company, and that designation has garnered Stone national publicity.

Latosha Stone on a skateboard at Greenville Skate Park in Dayton Ohio

Stone and her skate shop have been covered in Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, Bloomberg, Elle Magazine and NPR. Her boards were featured on the HBO series Betty, which focuses on an all-girl group effort to stand out in New York's predominantly male world of skateboarding.

Then there was the shout-out from world-renowned singer Beyonce.

On Juneteenth 2020, Beyonce featured Proper Gnar in a directory of Black-owned businesses. Beyonce called it the Black Parade Route, a directory of Black- and African-owned small businesses.

"It was really crazy because I didn't believe it at first," Stone says. "I woke up and people were telling me that I was on her website, but I thought that maybe they were just seeing my ad. But then I went to her website and saw it and I started crying, 'Beyonce knows I exist.'" 

It was a monumental boost to Stone's company, taking her from a couple sales a day to 1,500 orders.

She scrambled to find skateboarding production facilities in Las Vegas and Colorado to work with. She faced supply shortages, including wood, during COVID. She stopped doing printing out of her house, and she changed her business model to include drop shipping, in which the manufacturer handles sending the merchandise to the customer.

Her efforts paid off, and strong sales continued in 2021, propelled by skateboarding being recognized as an Olympic sport for the first time at the summer games in Tokyo. Stone now has more than 73,000 followers on Instagram. She has three employees who work remotely and help her with marketing. She has an assistant who helps with shipping. 

Things are "going pretty good now," Stone says. "I'm able to pay my employees. I'm able to live off of what I love."

Proper Gnar offers skateboards and board accessories, apparel, stickers, pins and her own art prints. Stone describes her style as retro futuristic, cyber skate street-wear. She loves anime and drawing Black women and natural hair.

latosha stone holding a skateboard next to her and wearing a proper gnar shirt standing in front of yellow school bus for darke county in ohio

Her skateboards can be found in nearly a dozen skate shops across the country, including retailer Zumiez. Top-selling items include the Goddess Skateboard, which is inspired by Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam and features two extended Black women's hands with long nails and glitter. Another design, called Not Fragile focuses on the steely lime, green eyes of a girl with matching hair.

Stone has promoted her merchandise on social media, mainly Instagram and Facebook, through which she made connections in the skateboarding community with professional skateboarders such as Stevie Williams and Cindy Whitehead.

"That's the main thing that helped me be successful with where I live because you can reach people all over the world that you couldn't normally reach years ago," Stone says.

Stone earned a fine arts degree from Sinclair Community College in Dayton and a bachelor's in business and design from Wright State University. She started her business as a T-shirt shop, using $500 in tax return money to make four designs.

One was of a man with a long beard that spelled the word "Gnar," short for "gnarly."

"It's a skateboard thing," Stone says.

Stone felt skateboard and related apparel brands focused on men and lacked creativity.

"I didn't feel like the skate community made shirts for girls," she said. "Every shirt was like boxy, straight and men's sizes. I felt they were overlooking the girls who did skate."

"I don't want to say that every girl loves formfitting T-shirts or the color pink, but I feel like they were missing out on a whole demographic of skateboarders and I wanted to make stuff for girls and women."

Last year she got married to husband, Zach, a welder. "I want to get him into creating rails because I feel like it would be easy for him, but I still have some convincing to do."

She sponsors three female skateboarders on her Proper Gnar team and hopes to expand. "There are so many great teams that don't have female representation. In this day and age there isn't really an excuse for it. There's a ton of women who skate and are really good at it. They deserve more recognition."

In spite her worldwide success, she chooses to stay in Greenville. She's known around town, and it's where her cousins, uncles and grandparents, Queen Esther and Elee, who raised her live.

"They're like really proud of me," she says.

Latosha Stone at Greenville Skate Park near Dayton Ohio

Go Skateboarding Day, June 21

Stone plans to celebrate Go Skateboarding Day, June 21, by skating with friends. The annual event was created in 2004 by the International Association of Skateboard Companies to help make skateboarding more accessible through events in major cities around the world.

To others interested in skateboarding, she says, "Get out there and try it. Don't let others deter you from trying something new and different. You'll probably have a lot of fun doing it."

Besides in Greenville, some of Stone's favorite places to skate in Ohio include:

  • Joe Reardon Skatepark in Troy
  • Oak Creek Park in Centerville
  • Piqua Skate Park in Piqua
  • Rob Dyrdek/DC Shoes Foundation Outdoor Skate Plaza in Kettering
  • Skate Naked Indoor Skatepark in Columbus

For more skate parks and sports & recreation, check out #OhioFindItHere at Ohio.org

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