Champaign-Urbana loves to support ambitious creatives types. Whether you want to be as an artist, an entrepreneur, an activist, or whatever, this is a place that supports those with ambitions. So, a musician who is an entrepreneur with a skateboarding and apparel company has the perfect launchpad in C-U, and Andrew Valentine, owner of skateboarding and apparel company Skeuwep and hip hop musician under the moniker Anamoli, has already started preparing for liftoff.

His hip hop duo, OG Temple, is preparing to release an album they’ve been working on for years, and his skateboard brand has continued to gain more attention online, recently having a video shared by The Berrics, one of the most popular skateboarding websites on the web. I interviewed Valentine to learn about his company, his music, skateboarding culture in Central Illinois, and the challenge of marketing a startup skateboard company online.

Smile Politely: You started a skateboarding and apparel company, Skeuwep, and you also make music under the moniker Anamoli and with the group OG Temple — how did you get started with these projects?

Andrew Valentine: I been skateboarding for 10 years. Skateboarding has been a deep part of my life forever. And music ties directly into skateboarding because in all skateboard videos have music. And it’s mostly hardcore rock and roll and metal and hip hop. And I really like hip hop. Hip hop has been a big inspiration in my life. And so when the weather wouldn’t allow us to skate I would write hip hop.

OG Temple, photo from their Facebook page

SP: What made you want to take this passion and turn it into a company?

Valentine: I always wanted to do something like that — skateboard, apparel, anything like that. I was always liked that. Apparel, and brands, and designs, and art, and especially word art. So, I always paid attention to other brands and I always wanted to do my own thing too. And where I’m from — where we’re from — nobody really kept with it. But JW — shout out to JW — shout out to Big Wheel. That’s the most happening skate shop Champaign has ever seen from what I heard. He told me about it. He’s the guy that owns Elusive Society. Back in the late 90s or early 00s he had a skate shop called Big Wheel, I think by where Fat Sandwich is more or less, and he was selling mad boards. But he’s one of the only people who stuck with it. He killed it, left, and now he’s back and he’s trying to kill it. He’s the most one hundred supporter out here. He reached out to me about working on the physical location in Urbana at See You CD and Vinyl. JW and Jesse of See You CD and Vinyl linked up with me to set up the skateboard section of the shop.

SP: Aside from selling in stores here in C-U, I know you’re getting in stores across the state and building a following online. How does a start up skateboard brand stand out in 2018?

Valentine: You have to give the right skateboarders skateboards. You have to give the skateboarders who most need a skateboard a skateboard. The ones that are snapping boards like every day. They are out there. There are kids without board sponsors that need board sponsors, they are just kind of tricky to find. And you also gotta think — there’s a million kids hitting you up that don’t really deserve it, so you gotta go through all of those. The key is — it’s not really say, it’s what you do. If some kid sends me some footage that’s bad ass, that just stands out for itself. So that’s how you stand out as a company too. Kids want to see the best shit. They want to see badass skateboarding. And they want to see the right people get what they deserve too. So really the key is just to listen to the kids.

SP: So if you sponsor a guy and he gets a lot of views for his tricks, that helps your brand, right? Like I saw that guy on a Skeuwep board was featured by The Berrics, and that got a ton of views. How do you go about sponsoring someone like that?

Valentine: Frank is from the UK. His good friend is Zander. Zander and Frank are two ideal candidates that need board sponsors that don’t have them. Frank is the man who did the four block and Zander is how I met Frank. Zander is an amazing skateboarder also, he just wasn’t in this clip. They are young as fuck and always snapping boards and they are well deserving. Frank has a Nike sponsorship too. He’s really doing his thing.

SP: Aside from recruiting riders you also have to make the products. Tell me about what you make and how you make it.

Valentine: We’re selling skateboards, man. Get you a board haha! We got all sorts of stuff, but we really got boards. I get board designs from a couple people but I have one main friend who helps me with damn near everything. His name is Fanny White. Check out his instagram. We’ve got some more t-shirts coming soon. At See You CD and Vinyl they have a limited selection of what is left, but we’ve done t-shirts, tank tops, hoodies, sweatpants, beanies, and stickers. We’ve got more designs, just need to raise money to get them done. We’ve got rolling papers and lighters too. And grip tape. You can see what kind of stock we have in those things at See You CD and Vinyl. And also at Dark Matter Collective in downtown Champaign — shoutout Wade and Jason at Dark Matter Collective.

Skateboards at Dark Matter Collective

SP: What’s on the horizon for you with music?

Valentine: OG Temple has a new album coming out soon, Geminarius. Big Mike and me have been working on it for a couple of years. It’s 10 songs. It’s got some features from some local artists — Cici LaCole, Humbly G, and a couple others. Finishing up getting the release lined up. I don’t have a date yet but it will be this year.

SP: What’s the state of the union for skateboarding in C-U and Central Illinois?

Valentine: It’s difficult to be a skateboarder here. It’s not easy for a skateboard to skateboard in Central Illinois. There are some parks that are decent, and there are definitely good skateboarders here. But the weather is fucked up. The weather is really fucked up. That’s the main problem. But here I feel like the main thing we really need is a bigger skate park that’s on campus or right off campus. That way it’s most available to all of the students, and it will support skateboarding in the community, and keep kids from skating in the streets on campus. There’s a lot of good locally owned shops in the area though. Bloomington has Shock Wave. Peoria has Crew Board Shop. Springfield has Boof City skateshop.

A Skeuwep sponsored skater, @MarlinMcfly