These days, there is an energy coursing through Sacramento that’s as palpable as the Delta breeze on a hot August night, and it has everything to do with the couple who is anything but “unseen.”
It is nearly impossible to talk about Sacramento’s cultural identity today without mentioning Maritza and Roshaun Davis. The Sacramento State alumni are the founders of Unseen Heroes, one of the region’s hottest public relations and events marketing agencies. Unseen Heroes has been behind many of the area’s biggest events and brands since 2008.
Maritza Davis studied at Sac State to get into public relations; she first broke into the industry as manager for Roshaun’s hip-hop group. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)
“To me, being a Sacramentan is all about growing,” Roshaun says. “Here, we get to paint this white canvas, this blank space, and create our own experiences.”
Saying the Davises are busy is like calling Sacramento summers “warm”: The team has several large-scale events in the works at any given time, with thousands flocking to neighborhood-centric happenings like Gather: Oak Park, The Market at Power Inn, and the Midtown Farmers Market. They run a pop-up shop in Oak Park that doubles as their headquarters; they have branded and marketed some of the region’s most popular local businesses, including Hot Italian and South; and in 2015, they organized the seminal conference Region Rising, which united interests from across the state to map out Sacramento’s future. They were scheduled to talk on “Inside Success: Unseen Heroes” during Sacramento State’s Entrepreneurship Week in November. They’ve even given a TED talk.
And they’ve done it all while raising three children, ages 14, 5 and less than a year.
As Sacramento is evolving faster than at any other time in decades, Roshaun (’08, Journalism) and Maritza (’07, Communications) are helping neighbors and businesses alike celebrate the city’s often-undervalued communities.
“Our intentions are always to build these ‘third spaces’ so people can come out and connect,” Roshaun says. “It’s a connection point for people to have and explore and learn more about what’s going on in the region and their district.
“What makes people proud of the city is being able to be proud of where you live.”
All heroes have an origin story, and the Davises are no different.
Fresh from junior college, Roshaun and Maritza met in 2005 on their second day in a marketing class at Sac State. Though they came from seemingly separate worlds – Roshaun was a member of a touring hip-hop group, Righteous Movement, and Maritza was just getting into PR – they synced up almost immediately.
“When we met, it was very much this natural interest, because Roshaun was in the music industry and I always loved music and grew up in it,” Maritza says. “So it was just a perfect fit.”
Since 2008, Roshaun and Maritza Davis have been bringing neighbors together at family-oriented events across Sacramento as they raise a family of their own as well. The couple welcomed their third child early this year. (Photo courtesy of Raoul Ortega)
Roshaun was doubling as the band’s manager, booking shows and tours under an assumed name. Maritza offered to take over, and soon other artists were asking for help with booking and promotions.
Local businesses started to take notice, and that’s when the couple decided to develop Unseen Heroes to support new enterprises and creative ventures.
“It all just started to organically grow in the way of being able to push our clients above all the noise and clutter in the market, and then push them out into the forefront,” Maritza says.
They both quit their other jobs to focus on the business full time. They then found a way to build something bigger:
By creating shareable experiences, Unseen Heroes developed a strategy to imbue a sense of local ownership in even what many consider the city’s more maligned areas. Past events like GOOD: Street Food + Design Market in Del Paso Heights, for instance, transformed an empty warehouse into a place where residents could come together and explore up-and-coming businesses and artists.
“What we’re trying to do is create this experience for people (to) support each other, and (Sacramento can) become a really amazing place for people to live, work and play,” Maritza says.
Fast-forward to 2016, and they’ve done that many times over.
The second Thursday in May finds an otherwise quiet street in Oak Park teeming with life. Thousands of people from all over town crowd down Third Avenue, which is pulsing with music and filled with grill smoke and smells from an array of local food vendors.
Roshaun Davis shows some California pride outside Unseen Heroes’ Oak Park headquarters that doubles as a rotating pop-up shop, Display: California. (Sacramento State/Jayla Lee)
Started in 2013, Gather: Oak Park serves as the unofficial kickoff to summer and marks the start of the Heroes’ busiest time of year. The monthly block party, which draws more than 3,000 people each month through October, is indicative of the pull the Heroes have and embodies the very essence of what they have been trying to do.
“There’s a sense of community here,” says Dave Feldpausch, the owner of craft popsicle company DavePops. He has participated in Gather since its inception.
Just across the street from Feldpausch’s cart is the epicenter of Unseen Heroes’ operation: Their boutique shop/headquarters, Display: California, is home to the small team of eight that makes it all happen; the Davises live upstairs.
It is in neighborhoods like theirs where the Heroes have the biggest impact. From Oak Park and Del Paso Heights to the Power Inn District, where their latest venture The Market at Power Inn kicked off in April, Roshaun and Maritza say real change starts with loving where you live.
It’s paying off: The team aims to expand Gather to more neighborhoods and plans to open additional pop-up shops down the road. In March 2016, Comstocks Magazine recognized the couple as one of the year’s 11 most influential, emerging leaders in the region.
With more on their plate and on their horizons than ever before, Roshaun and Maritza have even more opportunities to show their love for the city they’re shaping.
“The more that we can work together to build things and to produce things and to grow, the better it is for everyone,” Roshaun says. “As long as we can work together to do that, we’re going to be in a good place for a long time.”