This conversation provides details into how Jalen founded and grew his multimedia company AFTR PRTY in New York City. Jalen built the company through social media and networking, evolving it from a fashion focus to a full-service brand offering creative services like photography, videography, and writing. Jalen aims to make AFTR PRTY a leading media company in New York through authentic storytelling and representation.

You’re the founder of AFTR PRTY. It’s labeled as a multimedia company and creative agency based in New York. Tell me about how the company started. 

I started the business or just the idea of the business when I was in school. I went down to the University of Virginia. It was a cool time but while I was there I just always felt like I didn’t connect. A lot of people there went for banking, consulting, medical school, or whatever. I felt like for the creative arts and the entertainment industry, which I had a background in, there weren’t a lot of resources. I took some time off school for financial reasons and while I was working, I had this idea of like…I really want to start some shit. At the top of these media companies that we see, a lot of the people don’t look like us. There aren’t a lot of people of color, but at the same time, they’re reporting and profiting off the stories of a lot of people of color. I wanted to create something that had a more authentic and genuine feel to it. When we’re reporting on music, fashion, arts, and culture, Black people are really at the center of it. I don’t care what you say. I feel like in the past however many years we have been dictating the culture, the fashion, and music. What’s popular right now has just been from us. That was the first motivation for it. I wasn’t in school, so I just had a lot of time to plan out what I wanted to do with it. Funny enough, because AFTR PRTY originally was supposed to be a fashion brand, I was like, I’m just gonna make this brand. It was kind of funny how I came up with the name. I was out one night. And it was like, 3 am. I was like, I want to do something else. What’s the next move? I was out and I was like, damn, like, where’s the after-party? I just thought about it. I feel like our generation is just always seeking the next thing. What’s the next step? Our slogan is “Where culture pops.” That was the basis of it. Creating a place where I could represent my culture and represent the cultures around me, especially being from New York. There are so many things happening all at once. The voice behind it had to be a little bit more genuine. When you look at Complex, GQ, or Conde Nast, there aren’t people in place who look like us who are running things. For the most part, a lot of the people who are dictating what’s going on are people of color. We started in 2019. We got the LLC in 2019. Five years later it’s definitely been a journey. It’s definitely been a ride.

You said you were on a break from school when you came up with the idea. Did you end up going back? What were you studying?

I ended up going back to school, which was dope. I knew I always was going to finish out school. Me and my siblings are the first generation of students to go to school and graduate. It meant a lot to me to go back and finish. I was a Media Studies and Foreign Affairs double major. I work in media now, so it’s cool that that panned out. A lot of people who go to school don’t necessarily know what they want to do. They get degrees and things that don’t necessarily translate to what they end up doing. 

Now it’s been around for some time, and the idea seems to have evolved. Did you know when you started it that you were going to do events? What was the original goal?

At first, it was very fashion-focused. We dropped some merch. We had a whole launch and everything. I was thinking we can really do something more with this name. And just more with this idea. I didn’t want to limit myself to just doing merch. When we fully launched it was in the middle of COVID. I launched in June of 2020. Events were always in the back of my mind, but at the time I had no timetable of when that could happen. Creating my presence was the biggest thing for me. Telling stories, connecting with people who were like-minded, and connecting with smaller creatives who are trying to get a platform to share their stories. I always knew events would be attached to a name like AFTR PRTY. You think of a party. It was cool to see how it transformed. The idea has definitely evolved. This is not only a platform for people to reach out to us and be featured. Internally also, giving space to these young creatives who are trying to figure out what they want to do. You may see a job application that says three to five years of experience. You’re a college student. Where in the world are you getting that? It’s about giving this platform to young, creative, like-minded, very hungry, people that want to share their stories and talents, but don’t have the means to do it. I think I’ve stayed strong on that in terms of building my staff out and building the support around me. It went from just being an idea of printing a few shirts to becoming a media company and creative agency where people can lease this out and use our various services.

How do you go about building a team? And what are some of the things you’re looking for when you’re building a team? 

We really built our entire staff through Instagram and social media. I was looking for writers, graphic designers, and photographers. When I first came up with the idea I didn’t know how many people would be on board. I think the first-round applications, I had about 80 or so people that applied. I talked to a few professors and was like I don’t really know how to build up the staff. They told me to reach out to the Department of Education and try to get an internship situation. Now we’re accredited. I think we’re at like eight different universities right now. At the beginning, it was just me. I was writing and creating the essence of what the brand was. When we launched, we already had a team of five people. We had a photographer on board, a videographer on board, and we had three writers at the time.

I think an important thing you mentioned is that you reached out to some professors. Understanding that colleges have jobs that reach out to them for externs or interns, and you can be one of those jobs, that kind of information is invaluable. Someone not in the college system may not know that. 

It’s gotten to a point now where kids are getting college credits just for working with us as well. My visual director is in his last year, and I think he’s gotten like 15 credits working with AFTR PRTY. It’s been two and a half years that he’s been on board. I felt like I was in place at the university I went to, but at the same time, I still felt very out of place. It was a PWI so I didn’t really connect with a lot of professors out there. But I do think one of the biggest things that my school had was called the Office of African American Affairs. That was one of the few places I would go, and I felt like I connected with people. I’m super appreciative of having that kind of resource at my disposal. I was able to use the most out of that resource.

You’ve mentioned photographers, videographers, and writers. A lot of people hear multimedia company or creative agency, and most people don’t really know what that is. What are some of the services that AFTR PRTY offers?

We do all the creative services that you could think of. I wanted to make sure that if we’re working with these people and we’re trying to tell stories. Everything was holistically ours. 100% is coming from us. We offer photography, videography, writing, and more. We offer graphics in general, as well as illustration and animation. The writing has been a big thing. People need press for press releases or interviews when you’re dropping an album. Going forward I want to do more branded content. I want to work with these bigger brands out here. So really creating the aesthetic of our brand and kind of what we do. That’s really been a big way that people have gravitated towards it.

At some point, you guys started publishing a magazine, which is physical. What informed the decision to get into print? 

Our first magazine was printed in October. We had a smaller issue. My longer vision of the brand was like a GQ or a Complex. A lot of these brands really did start in a print world. As we’ve moved into a more digital world, the desire for printing dropped off. In the wave of nostalgia, that’s always been something I’ve gravitated towards. That has been the inspiration for why I wanted to start AFTR PRTY to begin with. We put in hours to rent out a studio, take pictures of an artist, interview them, do the video, and everything. I realized some of these stories don’t just need to live online. I do think that some of this stuff should be put into a physical magazine. There’s a collector’s feel to it now. People want to put it on their coffee table. The first issue that we tried was in 2021. It was a smaller book. I think that one was 40 pages. We are on to our fourth issue, or third issue right now, which is awesome to see. Expanded in terms of pages. I think this one is 104 pages. Magazines are here to stay. 

In a perfect world, what does this become?

I think in a perfect world, we become synonymous with some of the names I mentioned before. I think that I want to become the media agency and multimedia company out of New York. If you come through here, you have a contract through here. You have to tap in. I think that comes with creating an authentic brand. Even if we gain a follower a week or gain a couple of 100 followers. I think that those little goals and those steps to create that presence are an uphill battle. But I do think that by staying authentic and genuine in what we do, expanding the work that we do, and putting the right energy into anything, we’ll get the best results. Even when it’s tough, the biggest thing I remind myself is that this was never a one-year goal. I want to create something that’s here to stay. The end goal is to be in the same conversation as a GQ, Complex, or Pitchfork. If you want to know about pop culture, or if you want to read about your favorite artists, or if you want to hop out to an event with like-minded people, you’re gonna know AFTR PRTY.

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