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Bartram High School Senior Runs Ad Agency Out of His Bedroom

Christopher Skraba is an advertising guy. He owns his own firm, has a staff and talks about things like branding campaigns. But if you want to talk to him, you’ve got to do it first thing in the morning, before he has to go to school. The owner and CEO of Ralston & Anthony Advertising is a 17-year-old senior at Bartram High School. He moved from North Carolina with his family in August.

First of all, you’re neither Ralston nor Anthony.
“When I turned 18, I wanted to change my name to Christopher Logan Anthony Skraba-Luciano to reflect my Italian heritage. Anthony is a family name.”

And Ralston?
“It’s a Russian name that we found favorable. It’s very masculine and prominent. But it doesn’t roll off the tongue too hard or too soft. We first called the company Ralston Media, but then we rebranded to better reflect what we do.”

So, how did this get started?
“In 2009, when the job market was pretty tough, my friend Ann Marie and I were coming back from a photography adventure in downtown Charlotte. We knew we needed jobs, but we also knew we wouldn’t find one. So we thought about what business we could start. We’re both very artistic and we knew we couldn’t deviate from the arts. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you won’t make any money. So we thought about advertising and spent the whole summer making our plans.”

And how’d you get clients?
“The first one was a small business in Monroe, N.C. I was going to a magnet school much like Douglas Anderson. The business owner approached the school looking for actors for her haunted trail. I contacted her and told her that we were trying to start a business and we needed a portfolio. Would she allow us to work for free so we could get the portfolio?”

What did you create?
“We shot a commercial that ran online. She’s still a client, 13th Acre.”

And it went from there?
“Yes, I was very shocked at how receptive people were. Most of my clients don’t even know my age. As far as they’re concerned, I’m 25 and fresh out of college.”

How many clients do you have now?
“It varies, but it averages about eight. The biggest is Cloudstar Consulting, which started in New Jersey and is now based out of Jacksonville. You may have heard of Safeway Optical in Jacksonville. We’re working on branding a vision benefits program for them.”

And you have a staff?
“I have three still back in North Carolina. A graphics designer, a social media manager. We’ve got a promotion now — 3,000 Facebook likes in 30 days or your money back. And my right hand man, he’s almost like a vice president, double-checking everything I do. Everything in business is about balance.”

It is all online? Have you done a TV commercial or magazine ad, for example?
“We’ve yet to produce a commercial that runs on TV. We haven’t found a client with that budget yet. One almost did.”

Give me some sense of the dollars involved?
“We do not like to take a client with a mom-and-pop budget. Just because we’re young doesn’t mean we’re cheap. The average website starts at about $4,000.”

What’s your gross revenue?
“About $5,000 a month.”

Does the business leave you much time for anything else?
“Honestly, I spent most of my time at school sitting and doing nothing. I have two theater workshops, a musical theater class and a study. And my teachers are pretty lenient about homework. So that gives me ample time at school to work with my clients.”

What’s after high school?
“I want to spend a year growing the company. Then I would like to get a college degree. Maybe in advertising.”