About the business: Cocoa Twins is a digital art site started by former Marine and Black content creator Jamesha Bazemore. She makes images that can be licensed by other businesses for use in their merchandise, and she teaches digital art courses.
How it started: Bazemore, of Upper Marlboro, created Cocoa Twins in 2016. It started during a back-to-school shopping trip, when her then-9-year-old twins were looking for notebooks. “We saw a whole bunch of school supplies with super cute images on them, but we didn’t see anything with images on them that looked like them,” Bazemore said.
So, Bazemore’s daughters asked her to make the notebooks they wanted, with images of Black and brown women on the covers. A few years earlier, Bazemore had worked as a stylist, and she thought that influenced her twins’ desire to see themselves reflected in art and design.
“Being a stylist, I was invited to a lot of events where we would see the huge Afros and the African American women walking the catwalk with confidence, and I would bring [my twins] with me,” Bazemore said. “So, when we went to Target, to Walmart or Staples and couldn’t find anything, they didn’t get upset. They were just like, ‘Well, we know you can do this. Can you do this for us?’”
Her answer was yes.
That ballooned into selling the notebooks through a children’s salon, and then an Etsy shop and offering her art with a commercial license.
The pandemic effect: Bazemore managed Cocoa Twins on the side until the pandemic hit and her full-time job disappeared — her civil engineering work at a Maryland university depended on going into buildings, and Covid-19 shut all of that down. Bazemore needed to transition to a new job, and Cocoa Twins was the natural next step.
The pandemic pivot: By investing all of her working hours into Cocoa Twins, Bazemore said business has exceeded her greatest expectations. She said she’s making a solid six-figure income — more than she did as a civil engineer. Earlier this year, she sold her first NFT, or nonfungible token.
It’s a self-portrait called Avah, named after her elementary school best friend — her favorite image she’s ever made, Bazemore said, and one she created while teaching engineers how to use AutoCAD, a blueprint software.
The challenge today: Working and running her own business while being a military veteran who lives with post-traumatic stress disorder is a daily challenge, Bazemore said. “I have anxiety and I deal with depression because of the PTSD, so I have to be very, very aware of my triggers. A lot of things that I may see on the news can trigger something,” she said. She has arthritis in her back that flares up in concert with those stressful events.
While that can make being a business owner difficult, she said she’s also found that Cocoa Twins helps her heal. “Being thankful, being of service to other people and basically getting out of my own head and using the gifts that were given to me to empower other people, which helps me to move through the space of PTSD a lot easier,” she said.
What’s next: Bazemore said she’ll keep growing her social media presence and continue to explore NFTs. But mostly, she’s just happy with what Cocoa Twins has achieved and where she’s landed — as someone who grew up in Detroit without utilities, she said, to “being in the place that I am right now, it’s just wherever it takes me, it takes me.”
“I’m not looking for anything else,” she said.
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