Woman with a beautiful smile holds up a tablet computer.

In this article, we are going to discuss our upcoming ethnic microstock service MochaStar! and how MochaStar! was designed to address the biggest foundational challenges of African-American people – taking control and ownership of how we black people are portrayed in the media and marketing.

MochaStar! was an accidental concept developed over a year ago while me and the 3rd Strategic Institute was researching self-branding solutions for the sistas. We were looking for a way to facilitate "street snaps" exchanges where models and photographers can meetup and do fashion snaps and sell the photos to bloggers and magazines who cover urban street fashion. We talked about this scenario the article on http://dreamandhustle.com/2014/03/sista-guide-to-swagger-jacking-the-harajuku-fashion-scene-to-establish-one-in-atlanta/ if you want the background.

To make a long story short, we expanded this "street snaps marketplace" concept realizing there is a bigger need for authentic brothas and sistas in authentic black environments so non-fashion bloggers like us can use images of brothas and sistas when targeting brothas and sistas with technology solutions and life solutions and scenarios. So in this article, we are going to talk about the problem we identified, how we implementing MochaStar! as the proposed solution and the opportunities and benefits to the marketplace.

We Do Not Have Control of How We Are Portrayed


You and I know both know how brothas and sistas are portrayed in the media. We saw for decades how non-black media (mostly Jewish) operations would portray and showcase only light-skinned blacks as the "model representation" of our people. We even saw these Boule characters running media operations pulled that uppity "light-skinned better than dark-skinned" crap in their media portrayals of African-Americans. Then you see dark-skinned rappers like Wale "Pretty Girls" featuring only light-skinned chicks in their music videos as the symbol of black male desire and beauty. And the news media show dark-skinned black people as criminal and thugs and actively censor and refuse to broadcast dark-skinned brothas and dark-skinned sistas doing anything positive. And we sit back feeling helpless watching others portray us the way they want to portray us African-Americans.


But then again, we have to look at our own people and our marketing material. When it comes to business and marketing like a club, our black entertainment venues promote hypersexual material and drinking like the image above. The problem with the image above is you cannot send this flyer to many black professionals in their work environment who are looking for something to do after work – they cannot show this photo at their job. Also, this flyer objectify sistas who are now the ones who spend the money in these clubs – these awful flyers are based on some outdated sexist BS concept that sex sells. The origin of these hypersex photos were when non-blacks (mostly Jews) ran these clubs in black communities, that's the origin of these sexist photos. If you looked at many black-owned black clubs historically like a juke joint advertising, the photo would show black men and black women having a good time together doing the latest juke dance together.

Honestly, do anybody out here go to a club or a party based on an image of a sexy seductive black chick with bottles of alcohol behind her? Really?! I mean, why we black businesses do dumb marketing stuff like this without thinking? That's why all these black clubs are going broke and have basic chicks and brothas in the parking lot drinking and cats be fighting and shooting because these black clubs peddle cheap sex and bring out the knuckleheads and police surveillance and complaints by the community.

Smiling Friends 2003

But where do you find photos showing street brothas and around-the-way sistas that we can incorporate into our independent black media content? When I go to stock agency web sites, they only have interracial couples and you will never see for example, a black photographer photographing a black model, it has to be one race or the other and someone is having a serious problem not showing images of black dealing with other blacks in these stock photos. We don't have these kind of images. Same with black relationships – you see the image above, cannot show a brotha with two pretty black women as if that would be "too black" for some of these stock photographers – instead of giving us the kind of stock photos black media needs, some photographer is trying to tell us they don't do black with black stock photos because it may be "too ethnic" for their bigoted behinds.


Then the other images are extremely vanilla and cornball. Look at the photo above - the sista don't even have booty or hips, the brotha look like a cornball with that crazy shirt and look how they dressed up the kid looking like a dork with the dark-skinned dude from Kid N Play haircut. What black people you know look and take a photo like that on a miniature golf course? We in black media cannot use these images and it must be some cornball photographer or a non-black person saying this is how we African-Americans should be portrayed but it ain't us real brothas and sistas putting out these kind of images.

So as you see, we are in an environment where we African-Americans do not have ownership of how we are portrayed. We allowed bigots and self-hating people for too many years promote colorstruck nonsense separating light-skinned from dark-skinned people. We do not even have images showing two black couples who are from Harlem or Westwood together as a couple doing things in a black community. These are the kind of images we in independent black media need to have available to us so we can portray ourselves accurately in our black media and black marketing materials.

How We Plan to Use MochaStar! to Take Ownership of How We are Portrayed


The MochaStar! service is known as a microstock agency and this is a term for stock photo web sites like iStockPhoto or Shutterstock and so on. We are going to create our own microstock agency and our service will specifically address the shortcoming by these major stock agency services by providing to the marketplace royalty-free and rights-managed media of real black people in real black communities doing stuff that black people like. I have been a blogger for almost 10 years and know the type of images our people are looking for so I have more than enough experience to see this through and we are also addressing the sistas self-branding aspect at the same damn time. Our goal is MochaStar! is to let the black media marketplace determine what images or media is used to portray us as a people, not some non-black (mostly Jewish) media executive or the Boule who is pushing that "light-skinned is better than dark-skinned" stuff upon our people and our identity in media channels.

Let's talk about the type of media MochaStar is offering:

Photographs. These are going to be royalty-free and rights managed photographs that feature black people in everyday settings and scenarios that can be incorporated into black media channels.

Illustrations. These are similar to the photographs except these files are designed for design creatives to load into professional editing software like Adobe Illustrator to resize and recolor and remove/edit layers and text. Good example would be a book cover for someone selling an e-book or white paper.

Video. This will be released later after launch but we are just looking for video loops of black life and black activities that can be incorporated into commercials. For example, a 20 second film roll of a church choir and members in the black church singing along. Or black people walking through a festival gate. These type of b-rolls can be used in black media commercials that will appear on IPTV commercials.

Now, many of you are probably hearing about royalty-free (RF) or rights-managed (RM) for the first time so let's explain. Royalty-free means that you can download the image and use it without paying the photographer or the models royalties for each print and each use. Most royalty-free agreements do have a limit of 50,000 or less to prevent some character from using the RF image to print on t-shirts and sell 1,000,000 of them in Malaysia and China exploiting the image. Rights managed is where that media can only be used by one entity exclusively so for example, a cute street fashion model sistas take photos of her wearing different hair extension styles like and give a hair extension e-commerce web site the exclusive rights to her images to promote their hair extension e-commerce shop.

Let's talk about the MochaStar! application as it will be similar to other microstock agency services. We will have a keyword tagging and search feature and will be based on our previous MochaSpot engine if any of you guys remembered that service. We will also have your lightbox creation and also allow entities to place bids on rights-managed media when it is released to the marketplace. And the service will generate license agreements so those who are authorized to use the image will have the proper paperwork. So you will see that we have the services of both RF and RM media available.


Now, let's talk about the money – most microstock agencies pay out something like 20 cents to 50 cents an image. This can be tricky pricing and in terms of getting a profit by hedging the end user activities, kinda like how streaming music services work. For example, Shutterstock has something where 5 media downloads is $49 which is about $10 an image minus the 20 cent payout making an $8.80 profit off a download. But Shutterstock also have a service for 750 downloads a month which on a payout is $150 or could be $175 if some images are 30 cents, give and take. But Shutterstock is pricing $199/month for one year and pricing $249 for one month and these are thin margins and even worse, so what if the consumer does not download anything – this is a dumb pipe meaning Shutterstock does not gain anything if a consumer downloads nothing versus a consumer downloading the 750 max except bandwidth fees which are minimum. That is tricky.

Instead, I like Dollar Photo Club microstock agency model of where you just pay $1 for an image and they probably pay out 20 or 30 cents. Now, with MochaStar! because we are a niche service, this makes it better for everybody, we are going to pay out around 75 cents but the images may retail around $2 to $3 because they are more exclusive and niche-based based on the ethnic market. What's funny is these rates are more than what music artists get per download, just saying. And a little hint – we are using the same royalty engine that we are using for our upcoming music streaming service, ain't it nice to have reusable and modular code to build empires with?

How to Get Ready For the Service


In order to help create the solution where we take control of our image and portrayal, the entities involved will need to be fully engaged in making MochaStar! work. So let's talk about how the models, the photographers, the illustrators and the media buyers need to approach this service and get ready to establish a black media ecosystem. Because media buyers set the demand and the photographers and illustrators will have to engage models that will meet the demand expectations.

Models. Keep in mind that models can be a person, place or thing. In this discussion we are talking about people such as brothas and sistas. To those who want to self-brand or get into functional modeling, the best advice I can give you is do your research and see what sells on other microstock agency services. You see a stock photo model have hundreds of photos that can give them $500 to $2000/month in royalty payout for years and years based on that photo and number of downloads. And you can still work at your job and this builds up your experience modeling to get to bigger and better things. If you models want to own your own photos and not deal with a photographer, then make sure you own the camera and hire a photographer just to take the photos as a paid service.

Photographers. First of all, make sure you photographers have a signed release of any model that you incorporate into your photos – we cannot move forward without this. The best advice I can give you photographers is make sure your images are staged and planned out – this is not photojournalism and sudden snaps. Do research and see what photos are in demand and not in demand. Make sure you do deals with models and have arrangements where you pay out any royalties you receive to them as part of the deal as we only pay the license holder of the images we are selling – that's why you need signed releases. And use a lot of white background for green screen operations where we have to layer a pattern behind an photographed object.

Illustrators. Your best advantage as an illustrator is to be able to combine layers and create unique combinations and patterns. For example, you can create a hand drawn sketch model of a diva and layer different type of clothing, different type of backgrounds, different type of hairstyle and different shoes and sell thousands of combinations as your portfolio. Think of the George Rodrigue Blue Dog artwork that got dude real rich as your strategy. Now this is also very important – we are looking at a format other than EPS for brothas and sistas who work with open source stuff like Inkscape and GIMP – keep this in mind in terms of the formats that most black media buyers will have to use and work with.

Media Buyers. It is going to be your job to express what type of image and media you need or want. For example, I personally need media featuring black people using QR codes, buying products with their mobile phones and blank screens showing black people touching a tablet or smartphone to promote mobile software, mobile apps to sell worldwide here in the USA and in African markets. Make sure you keep a license generated on file and know what rights-managed means and do not abuse the rights-managed terms and conditions and share media files illegally with others. As you know, if you cats even try to bootleg these images, everybody from the photographer to the model to us can hold you legally liable for your actions. There is also a way for us to digitally sign the image with an invisible watermark to trace where an image came from to know who leaked the photo, do some homework before thinking you smarter and slicker than real technologists.

So who will be using MochaStar! service? We see bloggers using it to get photos for their articles. We see magazines using it as a caption to their articles and also magazine covers. We see hair stylists using images to build up a latest list of hairstyles by photographers smart enough to focus only on the hair photo market. We also see event promotors who promote church events and social events and we also see retailers using billboards and in-store signage to promote images of black people shopping or providing customer service support. So as you see, the goal is to take over all of how we are presented in media and we take ownership of portraying black people as everyday people to our black consumers.

In addition, we expect to see marketers in China and other parts of the world that markets to Africans and African-Americans buy and use these stock images. In addition, we can expand this service to show authentic Indian people ( they need this more than us) and Asians and Hispanics who all need this service – because we don't got a lot of authentic photos of black Brazilians do we? Don't you love how our business models can always expand worldwide and stuff?

MochaStar! Take Ownership of Our Image and Make it Work for Us


A true black technology entrepreneur create solutions addressing challenges impacting the black community. MochaStar! is designed to help establish the foundational platform for black economic success and boost excitement of black people seeing proper images of themselves and media and we doing that by taking control and ownership of our image as black people from other people who do not represent us properly.

MochaStar! establishes a modeling scene helping many Model Mayhem models and Instagram selfie models find residual income and work their day job at the same time and promote their career in modeling. We also enable graphic designers and photographers to establish a catalog of works to sell and learn what sell and do not sell in the market, helping them grow and better serve the black community and black media needs.

MochaStar! helps black media and black marketers promote realistic images of us as black people and we want to show an image of a dark-skinned sista with red hair extensions and big hips and big booty marketing a product, we can do that without some non-black (mostly Jews) media executive or some Boule clown or a dark-skinned rapper telling us we cannot portray this image of us as black people anymore. We are going to be who we are and if we show images of couples from East Saint Louis having a great time near the Arch, then that's black life and how we living and that's us.

And last and this is more important – MochaStar! reinforce positive images of everyday black people living our everyday lives. When a brotha or sista go into a store in a black community, they see black images of people who look like them and the same community like them and promote a more realistic marketing communication from business to consumer. We make black people feel good and comfortable seeing authentic and real images of themselves, not some whitewashed cornball crap. We immerse our whole black media and our whole black community with our own images and export our images for sale worldwide to change the perception of who we are and how we are portrayed as black people in global media.

The Global Urban Collective will have a presentation and how-to on creating the MochaStar! service and business model. Hopefully a rising tide will float all boats and we have several of these type of ethnic microstock agency services out there as another channel besides MochaStar! with the overall goal of representing our people the way we should be represented.