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Meet Sequoia Houston of Mocha Stock

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sequoia Houston.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Sequoia. So, let’s start at the beginning, and we can move on from there.
I’ve been a marketer for a decade now, and I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the leading multinational organizations in the world. I currently work for myself as the owner of the Los Angeles-based agency, Sur-Ryl Marketing. As a marketer, I’ve often found myself being one of a small number of people of color on my teams– if not the only one. Why does this matter?

Well, when you’re working on world-class campaigns designed to reach the masses, you quickly understand the impact that the makeup of a team has. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been in the decision room, reviewing a campaign and was the only one who seemed to notice the lack of diversity – whether it was age, gender or race-based.

More than once, I’ve had to raise my hand and point out the elephant in the room that somehow only I was able to see. This is where my passion for diversity and inclusion in marketing began, and I have continued to cultivate it over the years. Even now, in my own agency, I consistently remind my team to consider the impact diversity has when we’re working to tell an authentic brand story. To be fair, while these oversights are far from rare, failing to include diverse imagery isn’t always due simply to an oversight.

Let me explain. I recently designed a website for a client that was launching a mobile app, and it was important to me to show a wide range of people using their cellphones and smiling with pleasure because the app was so easy to use. This sounds like an easy task until you start searching for the images. For giggles, I just pulled up one of my go-to stock photography websites and typed in “smiling woman on cell phone.” Over 1,500 images came back in my search.

I set up my page so that the first 50 photos would show up. Of these 50, only seven included any type of diversity at all. Of those seven, two were terrible, and three simply didn’t fit the tone of the campaign. Of the two that fit our tone, one showed the young woman looking away from the phone and not engaging with it at all.

That left only one viable option from fifty photos. Of the remaining forty-three photos that lacked diversity, twenty-two of them could have worked well for the project… and therein lies the issue. I started looking for other sites that had a good collection of diverse images, and at the time there weren’t many around. I decided to just create my own resource.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has definitely not been a smooth road – but one thing my grandmother would always say is “you can’t climb a smooth mountain.” I continue to learn so much on this journey. I honestly feel like I learn something new just about every day.

One of the biggest challenges is actually finding photographers who understand the vision and aren’t burned out on stock photography. It’s a challenging business. Mocha Stock has some amazing contributors, however – but since there is such a large gap in authentic images featuring diversity and people of color, we are always looking for new contributors.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Mocha Stock – what should we know?
Mocha Stock is a stock media agency that sells photos, illustrations – and soon videos – featuring diversity and people of color. We noticed that there was a huge need for authentic, diverse imagery and we work diligently to fill it. We are very proud to be building such a beautiful collection of images.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I have had such amazing support along this journey. Friends and family who listened to my vision and encouraged me. Those who are in my inner circle, who allowed me to run ideas by them. All of the people who share Mocha Stock with their networks and encourage people to either buy images or become contributors. I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t give a great deal of credit to the following people:

My buddy Jamal Murray, who promised to teach me everything he knows about photography – or will, after he reads the article. 🙂 Seriously though, he’s been a great support. I look forward to doing some shoots with him in the new year.

My dear friend Marshall Leathers, who heard me struggling with trying to get my trademark and did a lot of research to help me learn about a law school program that would help me do it for free – I simply had to pay the application fee to the Trademark office.

Last but not least, my amazing parents. They’ve invested in Mocha Stock financially plus, when I mentioned to them that I wanted to become a photographer and take pictures for the website, they purchased a camera kit for me that included everything I could ever need. They’re the real MVPs. 🙂

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Erickson, Andy DeanPhotography, Some Sweet Photography, Raeeography, Jelissa Carrol, Chester Roberts

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