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DSM Entrepreneur Credits His Community with Helping to Cultivate His Gift for Video Editing

Cocoa Creative DSM

August 13, 2021


Cocoa Creative is a visual storytelling agency, specializing in graphic design, video production and photography. Having worked with brands from ESPN to Drake University to Papa Johns, Cocoa Creative’s Des Moines headquarters is just the beginning. With locations also in Chicago, Atlanta and New York, the company is reaching new heights when it comes to creative content. Owner Terrence Thames started down the visual storytelling path after realizing his gift for video editing and developing a passion for marketing and connecting people with authentic ways to communicate. 

Community Fosters Creativity

His cousin, a college student at the University of Iowa, approached his mom and offered to move him to better schools in Iowa when he was nine. He moved to Iowa City and started attending church. This is where he began linear video editing, later becoming interested in audiovisual media and journalism. Those in his church, his cousin, teachers and mentors encouraged his gift. They offered advice and helped Thames get his first jobs and navigate decisions that led him to where he is today. Originally, he wanted to be a news director, but soon discovered he was on a different path, taking advantage of internships, camps, workshops and other opportunities that came his way. When he was around 16, he applied for a job with the City of Iowa City. Then, at 18, while attending his freshman year of community college, Thames worked professionally for the University of Iowa in the athletic video department and began freelancing for the likes of ESPN.

Matching Culture + Innovation

After moving to Greater Des Moines (DSM) 10 years ago, Thames continued to freelance and was looking for something consistent. After freelancing for Drake University, he was hired on full-time, eventually overseeing video production, some web development and some graphic design. Thames leveraged his ability to work with people and natural ability to teach to fill out his student staff and build relationships with university staff, later becoming a producer for ESPN which enabled his students to benefit from his connections there. He continued to work on his freelancing business while making sure to be fair to Drake, his full-time employer. Currently, Thames is CEO and creative director for his agency, Cocoa Creative, which now employs 10 people as a full-service creative agency, merging culture and innovation into business strategy. 

During the most recent Small Business & Startup Stories DSM podcast, Thames also discussed going after local opportunities, not just big company names, and how doing so can lead to future work for those larger brands. In the podcast, Thames also touches on how to know when to delegate and utilize your team, as well as understanding your costs and being able to say no when a project doesn’t make sense.

Listen to the entire podcast above.

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Startup Stories DSM

Startup Stories DSM is a podcast featuring conversations with entrepreneurs who share both their victories and failures on their paths to success. It is produced by the Greater Des Moines Partnership.