Photo courtesy of SHADE Agency
Social media has created a gateway for creators and influencers to express themselves and ultimately generate an increase in viewership, sales, and visibility for companies. Today, becoming an internet sensation can be the perfect start to your career. With many creators and influencers trying to break into the market, one agency is on a mission to address the lack of diversity within the influencer marketplace while helping Black and Brown creators thrive. SHADE is for creators, influencers, and tastemakers who have a footprint and influence online. This innovative company was created by two seasoned marketing professionals, Dahcia and Jacques Bastien. With content everywhere, the Bastiens created SHADE so creators can continue to be dope in their lane while tapping into new opportunities and entrepreneurial endeavors. The two professionals share their journey and tips for millennials who aspire to create.
What is the background story on the creation of SHADE?
Dahcia: While in college, we launched our marketing agency, boogie, to help brands capture the attention of today’s generation. That agency has grown a lot over the years to calling names like the NBA, Kinky Curly, and the Never Settle Show clients and partners.
In 2016, we ran a few influencer marketing campaigns for various clients and we started noticing a lack of diversity in the space. It seemed like the same talent archetypes were being booked by other agencies and brands while influencers of color were being overlooked. In addition, a lot of the influencers that we cast for our campaigns, especially the Black and Brown influencers, often came back to ask us for advice on ways they c[ould] get more consistent, paid gigs from brands. This piqued our curiosity so we started to do some more research into the influencer marketing space. Throughout that process, we spoke with both influencers and brands to get a better understanding of their needs and concerns with influencer marketing. Three months later, we launched SHADE, an influencer management agency for Black and Brown social media creators.
Jacques: With SHADE, our goal is to help influencers of color become self-employed while doing what they love; and at the same time, we help brands reach a more niche and diverse audience while helping to increase representation of POC in media and advertising.
What are some ways you make sure SHADE agency stands out from other agencies?
Jacques: SHADE was born out of the need for diversity within the influencer campaigns we were leading, but a part of the company’s inception was “for the culture,” we consistently have this need to scratch our own proverbial itch. We are young Black consumers who are also on the other side of the table as a result of running our own marketing agency. Therefore, prior to launching SHADE, we interviewed representatives from brands, marketing agencies, and Black and Brown creators to really understand what each group truly needed in this new space. We knew that as long as we built SHADE to solve a very specific problem (the lack of diversity in influencer marketing) we wouldn’t have trouble standing out alongside other agencies who may prioritize other things.
Dahcia: Based on our conversations and research, we learned that influencers cared about management, transparency (when it comes to pricing), education, and mentorship. So we made sure to build all of those into the services we offer influencers. For brands, they care about campaign planning and management, high-quality content and reporting. So we made sure to also build all of those into the services we provide our brand partners.
What is a mistake you feel Black millennials make when creating and sharing their dopeness?
Jacques: First and foremost, many are failing to call their content what it is– DOPENESS! I’ve noticed that a lot of us don’t necessarily see the value in the work that we do because it either comes easy to us or we’re not making any money from it (yet). That couldn’t be further from the truth. The biggest mistake that we make when it comes to our dopeness, our side hustles, and our content is that we don’t take ourselves serious enough. There are tons of people out there getting paid for their dopeness and there’s no reason why it can’t be you. We believe in this so much that we made that the tagline for SHADE: Be dope, get paid.
Dahcia: Our advice to black Millennials is to continue creating dope content, continue working on your craft and leveling up your skills, and keep hustling!
What are three tips you can give those who want to start their own brand? Both Dahcia and Jacques shared:
I. You can’t have things you’ve never had without doing things you’ve never done. It’s not going to be easy at all but nothing easy is worth having. Take risks, do things that make you feel uncomfortable, and believe in yourself.
II. You need to out-hustle everyone — there are 24 hours in a day and if you want to have things you’ve never had then you’re going to have to work harder than everyone you know. You have to work as if there’s only one spot left and everyone is hustling to get to it.
III. You need to be better than you were yesterday, every day. In addition to doing things that make you feel uncomfortable and hustling harder than everyone else that you know, you have to also spend the time and money to improve all aspects of your life; your talents, your health & well-being, your mental health, your business savvy, and much more. You have to continue to invest in yourself in order to continue to grow.
SHADE is all about expanding diversity in the influencer marketplace, what are three key moves the two of you execute with each client?
I. Social media strategy – All of our creators receive a social media plan focused on the types of content they should create, what their audience reacts well to, the best times to post, and also ways to continue growing their followers.
II. Media kit – Most brands are busy and they don’t have the time to look through every influencer’s social properties to determine if they’re a good fit. We create a media kit (4-6 pages) that provides an overview of each influencer. The media kit includes a bio, photos, reach, audience, and contact info. For example, one of our creators is Michell Clark, writer, event host, business coach, curator and all-around creative. Here’s a look at his media kit.
III. Quality content creation – The last thing we do to ensure that our creators stand out when pitching to brands is ensuring brands that all of our campaigns are powered by professional photographer and videographers. This increases the perceived value of the relationship because the brand will then be able to reuse and repurpose the content.
What’s next for SHADE?
Dahcia and Jacques: We have a lot of things planned for the future but the most immediate thing we’re looking at now is how we can expand beyond the typical social media influencer to open SHADE up to different types of creators — artists, dancers, actors, and more.
We’re also working on a study about young Black consumers in the U.S., sponsored by SHADE, to dig deeper into what influences our buying decisions.
For more on SHADE, check out: