Welcome to our new column, Reset. Written by Karen Taylor Bass, this column, published each Tuesday, is about life lessons learned and mastered mentally, spiritually, and physically and how they contribute to a successful life and career.
Sheila Eldridge, CEO and President of Miles Ahead Entertainment/Broadcasting is winning in a male-dominated world; creating meaningful synergy with brands is her passion; managing relationships to win is her blueprint; and, pressing reset until it feels right is how she stays competitive.
A graduate of Howard University’s School of Communications, she began her career at WHUR-FM. She later completed a two-year program at UCLA specializing in Crisis Management and New Communications Technology. Eldridge is credited with conceiving the branding campaign for one of the ‘90s most popular and successful female groups, En Vogue, not to mention working with Janet Jackson and bringing hit makers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis into primetime when they were in the purple’s one’s shadow.
Three years ago, Eldridge purchased a small station from Radio One founder Cathy Hughes. At the tender age of 50, she moved to Augusta, GA to engage her listeners and launch a niche radio program called, Café Mocha. After testing hosts and content to find the right formula, Café Mocha radio was re-launched and packaged for syndication with hosts Angelique Perrin, MC Lyte and Loni Love (right, and now Nicole Ari Parker, not pictured). Now celebrating three years in syndication, it has 25 stations (#1 in most African-American major markets), and can be found on multiple formats, including Sirius XM and MocRadio.com.
Eldridge says, “Think not just about getting the job, promoting a product, but owning the brand to create jobs and opportunities for others. Drive the conversation about not just doing the ordinary thing but being authentic to yourself and setting exceptional goals while empowering women about health, lifestyle, careers and education.”
Embracing the journey of life is a challenge; understanding that you are never too wise to press RESET is what I learned from Sheila Eldridge. Here is what she shared with MadameNoire Biz.
MadameNoire: The number of African-American owned broadcasting/media companies is dwindling. Did you have trepidation about launching Cafe Mocha Radio?
Sheila Eldridge: Absolutely. I was a little nervous, however, excited for the challenge. After moving into local ownership in Augusta, GA, I realized that there was a need for quality niche programming and Cafe Mocha Radio is just that. The landscape and the market have changed. Women of color are now driving the conversation.
MN: Who is the Cafe Mocha Radio audience?
SE: She is 21+, aspirational, on a quest to find herself and be the best she can be. Our audience knows the importance of ‘me’ time and will seek the information to keep her life on track.
MN: What has been the response to Cafe Mocha Radio?
SE: In the beginning there was resistance, now (thankfully) we drive the conversation and are #1 in major markets. This is a lifestyle show that is music and talk from a female perspective. Women want to hear subject matters that pertain to them and radio is, unfortunately, dominated by men and can’t always connect on life issues pertaining to women.
MN: Did your background prepare you for Cafe Mocha Radio?
SE: I always had a passion for radio, went to HU (Howard University) School of Communications, and was too shy for TV. Cafe Mocha Radio is a manifestation of love for radio, communications, and opportunity to reach women on a national platform. Yes, having 27 years of public relations/marketing skills did help.
MN: What are the challenges of being a CEO and owning several radio stations?
SE: Money. The radio business is not an easy start up. To be fully financed, you need $250,000 in capital to start. Also convincing stations that there is need for niche programming and to give us a chance. Women want more. Yes, we love entertainment news. However, ultimately we want information to make life better.
MN: How does Cafe Mocha Radio make money?
SE: We make money via our market share. Cafe Mocha is represented in 48 percent of markets and is three years old. Not bad, still building… Cafe Mocha is on traditional radio, satellite, tune-in, syndication, online and most importantly, across all platforms. My motto is, “I want to meet people where they are.”
MN: How did you press RESET?
SE: My RESET was moving, taking a risk during my mid-life and feeling comfortable to start a new business. Lets face it: it’s one thing to move at the age of 20. But at 50 was something interesting.
Sheila Eldridge’s RESET lesson: Know that it’s okay to want more than a career. You want to drive the conversation and own it. Dream big.