For several years after he finished college, Antjuan Tolbert worked without getting a paycheck. He provided local businesses and organizations marketing and design work, and they helped him in different ways – by spreading his name and work throughout the community.
"It's the natural law of compensation," he said.
On Saturday, along with business partners Mackenzie Doyle and Roy Shryne, Tolbert celebrated the grand opening of Empyrean Perspectives, a business specializing in web and graphic design.
Located in the heart of Kenton at 1907 N. Kilpatrick St., not far from Tolbert's church and home, the company is closely aligned with Celebration Tabernacle church and Po' Shines: Café de la Soul, where both Tolbert and Doyle are managers. More than just graphic artists and web designers, the employees at Empyrean Perspectives are business entrepreneurs.
"I'm looking at the bigger picture," he said.
And that bigger picture is the entire business. Doyle says she wants to help put a professional face on local businesses so they can compete with national corporations. They tend to focus on small businesses and organizations that offer services promoting people's talents. Their portfolio of work is as varied as their individual interests and talents – from restaurants and daycares to schools and festivals.
Assisting Po' Shines was one of those opportunities to help a small, local business in the heart of their neighborhood. The café is owned by Celebration Tabernacle and was in decline. Tolbert and Doyle came in and now the café is taking off more quickly than the design company. Part of that is because of the nature of the food business, but part of it could be the design of the menu and advertisements – all done by Empyrean Perspectives. But their motivation is not simply about money.
"We're not in this to be rich," Doyle says. They're pushing success and community involvement.
"The church has always been our foundation," Tolbert says. "Our pastor, E.D. Mondaine, always talked about community development and empowerment."
One aspect of that empowerment is the development of Perspect+ The Youth Initiative, a program that mentors high school and college students to expand their abilities in the arts. From photography to graphic design to fashion, the students are given mentors from Empyrean, as well as other community members. The free, three-month class is tailored to each student to expand on their own interests and abilities.
"Art classes in high school don't do much," says Doyle. For Tolbert, a similar industrial design mentorship program with Adidas helped push him on the career path he's on today, where he learned not to "be afraid to venture out into something new."
Students who are interested in signing up for the next Perspect+ class, which starts in July, can call Empyrean Perspectives at 503-342-8859.