As a self-proclaimed mentee of the incomparable, Cathy Hughes, Sheila Eldridge has over 25 years in the game of broadcasting, corporate communications, entertainment and product marketing as the CEO of Miles Ahead Broadcasting. She is beautifully brilliant and an absolute boss. She took the time to chat with Radio Facts about being a true entrepreneur.
How many hours a day do you work on average?
My hours really vary based on my lifestyle at any given time. One of the benefits of being an entrepreneur is that you can set you own schedule. For example, I’m best early in the morning when I can focus so by 9am I’ve already put in 4 to five hours go workout and start my day. For entrepreneurs there really no set hours…you do what it takes to get it done!
10 years ago I started a routine of working four days a week. Learned the hard way the importance of downtime to balance your mental, physical, and emotional health and not burn yourself out. It’s called my ‘mental health day’ that I dedicate to the personal business of being me.
Miles Ahead Entertainment offers a plethora of services how do you balance it all out?
Thirty years I started my first business, Miles Ahead Entertainment that’s a media marketing, public relations and special events agency that serves as the umbrella company for subsidiary Miles Ahead Broadcasting that has been syndicating ‘niche’ radio properties such as the Café Mocha show, AfroZons and B. Lifted for the last 10 years. Having two businesses is like raising two kids, both require nurturing to grow. Taking my ‘mental health days’ helps me maintain balance, allocate my time and keep a team motivated to help bring my ‘vision’ to fruition.
What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I grew up in Washington DC and like many Washingtonian my first internship was in the Government. (Laughs) I learned early on I could be the traditional ‘nine to five’ person. Of course it took some time to recognize that I was a natural for entrepreneurship but once I did, I was ready and courageous enough to embrace it. I’m driven by taking a concept and making it into something. My mother was accountant (in the government) and my first investor who taught me money management skills that have been an essential for longevity as an entrepreneur. .
Is being an entrepreneur in the industry easy?
Anything worth having is worth fighting for! Being an entrepreneur in any industry has challenges but understanding your industry, research and identifying a niche in the market lessen your risks. Believe in your ability to turn a vision into a profitable entity mitigates the stress and uncertainty that is inherent in running your own business. If you need a paycheck every two weeks it’s not for you!
What are some of the greatest misconceptions?
One of the greatest misconceptions about entrepreneurs is that they are successful because they are driven by their passion. The truth is you cannot be successful in business (long-term) without a business plan that helps guide your decisions. Entrepreneurs are in the high risk business because at the end of the day, we shoulder the responsibility for the operations that is often forgotten in a job environment.
Another misconception is success happens overnight. It does not! Success is more akin to a running a long distance race, you have to train, stay focused and plan to be in it long haul.
Part of being able to go the distance knows how to keep your risks as manageable as possible. Understand it’s a ‘we’ business with your greatest assets being your team that includes employees, CPA, accountant and lawyer.
You once lived in LA but have since moved back east. What kind of challenges are you faced with by not being on the west coast?
Really, there are no challenges. Starting out on the west coast and then moving to the east coast has actually been extremely beneficial in my business growth. Living in the Washington DC (DMV) has afforded me the opportunity to add another dimension to my business repertoire as my company is now certified as a government contractor with our one of our first clients the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC).
You have had great success with your syndicated radio show Cafe Mocha. Congratulations.
How many stations are you on now? We are on 35 stations airing in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington DC, Dallas, Houston, Charlotte, and Richmond to name a few. We also air weekly on Sirius Channel 141.
One of your hosts Loni Love is also on the TV Show The Real. How did you find her, Yo-Yo and Angelique and what was it like putting the show together in the early days?
When I launched Café Mocha nine years ago the trend was toward live and local. However given the economy and watching ownership downsize consolidation I foresaw a trend toward syndication as stations looked to attract and engage their female listeners. Understanding the value of women as the key decision-maker in the home and their value to advertisers Café Mocha was created to offer a programming vehicle to fill that void and provide local advertising opportunities for affiliates.
Café Mocha is ‘radio from a woman’s perspective’. My idea was to create a lifestyle radio concept with three female personalities that could offer differing opinions on subjects from relationships, health, celebrities and politics all with the best backdrop of urban music. Fortunately I was blessed to find three women that fused the concept perfectly.
I had seen Loni Love at the time on the Chelsea Lately show and I was impressed with how devise she was on contemporary topics, a engineer HBCU graduate who decided to follow her dream into comedy. Today she’s a multi-media personality; a comedian, TV, radio and actress who brings a fresh ’ah ha moment’ to the show.
Yo-Yo brings her vast musical knowledge and background to the show, who always keeps it real! Producer and co-host Angelique Perrin is a seasoned producer who has worked both nationally and local shows so she brings a unique skill to keep us PPM friendly. Together, they offer different yet complimentary perspectives that women from 18 – 80 from around the country can enjoy the conversation.
Our new Afro Zons hosted by Sheila O is where hip-hop meets Afrobeats that’s airing in eight markets led by Chicago and B Lifted Up, a faith-based financial empowerment show with hosts Rev. Dr. Buster Soaries and motivational speaker Dee Marshall. All are relevant programs fused with music serving the African American community.
There are no black women running their own syndication companies what’s it like being the only one?
Quite honestly, I do not think about being the only one. I focus on filling a void, serving the community and creating an advertising vehicle to generate revenue. I follow the path of my mentor Cathy Hughes who defied the odds when we bought her first radio station WOL and look at her now. She never stopped to think about being the first; she just kept her eye on the prize….looking forward.
You also do events and own a radio station. How important do you think it is for entrepreneurs to have multiple streams of income? It is incredibly important to have multiple sources of income, particularly in any field remotely related to communications and technology. Thus, I have different marketing and broadcasting businesses. The first offers services and second products. The business environment is so volatile; you need to have the ability to pull from different revenue sources. Communication and technology change rapidly so we do not always know what’s next. Radio used to be terrestrial. Now it’s terrestrial, its satellite, podcast and online offering multiple revenue streams.
Tell us about your other events.
Our biggest event is Café Mocha’s Salute Her Awards, a tour that stops in local affiliate markets of NY, DC, Dallas, Charlotte and Atlanta in 2018. This will be our eight year of where we bring together and honor women of all different races and ethnicities with partners Toyota America and AARP and Meille Organic. It’s a perfect example of our unique multimedia-marketing strategy of creating for our sponsors that are looking to engage the very lucrative and attractive female multicultural market in conjunction with the show.
What makes an entrepreneur successful and what makes them fail?
One of the things that make us successful is having the ability to motivate and inspire people, internally (your staff) and externally (consumers). We fail when we start believing it’s all about the ‘I’ and not ‘We’.
What are three pieces of the best advice you were ever given?
(1) Your greatest wealth is your health; (2) the little things you do can make a big difference in someone else’s life, (3) there is no one bigger and greater than God.
What is the worst advice you were ever given?
When things get tough, go get a job.
Where do you see Miles Ahead entertainment in the next 5 years?
A new iteration for sure! Whatever it is, we will have adapted but we will work to stay Miles Ahead….
How do you get inspired?
Working with young people who keep me abreast of the trends and sharing my business knowledge with them. Honoring women with our Salute Her Awards over the last eight years and hearing their journey keeps me inspired that we are truly ‘Black Girl Magic’.
How do you motivate yourself? By seeing ideas come to fruition and by not being afraid to take the path less walked. .
How do you disconnect?
As an equestrian there is nothing like connecting with your horse and riding into the horizon!