Millennial Moves: The Serial Entrepreneur Diversifying Influencer Marketing

Millennials are always up to something. And a lot of that “something” is finding ways to put other people on to opportunities and make money. Or in their own vernacular, securing the bag. Two of those millennials happen to be Jacques Bastien and his wife Dahcia Bastien, the co-founders of SHADE, an influencer management and talent casting agency for black and brown creators. As serial launchers and naturally born hustlers, the couple decided to come up with a solution to the diversity and representation issue within the influencer marketing space.

By definition, influencer marketing is a form of marketing that focuses on the amount of influence a person has in a particular space. And while there are thousands of influential people in the digital space, very few of them are of color and receive prime opportunities from major brands. So in 2016, the Bastiens built and launched SHADE, which now represents influencers and celebrities like Everette Taylor, Necole Kane, Michell C. Clark, Elise Neal, John Henry, and over 80 other clients.

We caught up with Jacques, 28, to talk about the business side of influencer marketing, how SHADE was built, and how they are shaping the industry for black and brown creators through their business.

While the world of influencer marketing seems effortless and glamorous when you’re scrolling through your timeline, Jacques emphasizes that there is a business element to it. Like contracts, negotiating, pitching, strategizing, and producing content. And that is what motivated him and his wife to represent and educate creators on entrepreneurship and marketing as they pursue social entrepreneurship full-time.


What we found is that there are these people who have an audience and a niche for their content, but a lot of them don’t really fit into what some of the bigger agencies are looking for. Which is a common issue for a lot of creators. They have the talent but they might not have a team to handle the business aspect of their career and that’s where SHADE comes in.

SHADE has over 80 clients. How much does it cost to be represented by the company and what are the requirements?

SHADE is 100% free for the creator. But we require that they have three to five years of experience, at least 20,000 followers, as well as one paid gig. In terms of the way that we do business, we do a 75/25 split with the creator. And that’s stated on our website because in this industry, there’s not a lot of transparency.

So their cost as a creator is 25% of the opportunity. But in terms of some of the things that we’re able to contract, like someone being paid $8,000 for two posts on Instagram. As a creator, you receive a call saying that you’re going to make 75% of whatever, then 25% doesn’t seem like a lot to lose especially when that opportunity is being brought to you and you didn’t spend anything.

Over the last year and a half, we’ve learned what types of creators and people we mesh well with, as the executives of the company, to what people we can sell better as it relates to the business aspect of what we do. So it’s about who makes the most sense and we’ve put creators into three different tiers.

What does the client-management relationship with SHADE look like?

Most of the time, we are talking to our creators about ways to improve themselves. We’re also having conversations about contracts and going over them making changes. So we act as their assistant, agent and everything in between. We’re also talking about future business opportunities and whatever entrepreneurial endeavors that they want to pursue and how we can use our creative team of in-house developers, designers, and marketers to help them achieve those goals and dreams.

How does SHADE help talent land deals with major brands and what goes into the process?

Brands usually come to us with a budget and say that we have a certain amount to spend and we’re looking to reach more women, black men, or whatever their audience is and they’re looking for a creator that fits X,Y, and Z.  That can be “x” amount of followers or other criteria they’re looking for. And we put all of that together, send them a proposal along with a number of creators with lists of what they can do, an estimate amount of reach based on their following for a certain amount of days with the price.

There are so many different conversations, whether it’s organizing content, a photo shoot that might be used for Instagram, video content for a TV show, or organizing a speaking engagement.

There seems to be a huge educational component when working with influencers to keep them on their game and up to speed on the latest trends. How does SHADE  assist creators with that?

We have [a digital] community and it has articles that we write about social trends, services, and how our clients can best use them. So our creators get information three ways: direct one-to-one conversations; video responses; and articles on what’s going on with social media to help them grow and take advantage of the platforms and execute their strategies.

How has SHADE grown over the last two years since it launched?

Over the last few months, the market has required us to become more than just an influencer marketing agency. Companies are coming to us because there’s a need for more than just the traditional Facebook, Instagram and YouTube influencer.

With all of your company’s success, what is some good advice for someone looking to grow their own business?

Take yourself seriously the same way you would if you were a business. And, invest in learning how business works.