Sheila Eldridge is a visionary. As CEO and President of Miles Ahead Entertainment & Broadcasting, Eldridge is one of a few female radio owners, let alone, women of color broadcasting owners. As the force behind her marketing and public relations firm, Miles Ahead oversees event management, lifestyle marketing, and sponsor engagement for celebrities and an impressive list of brands like Sprint 4G, Boost Mobile, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo Company, and United Healthcare. Getting her start becoming a powerhouse in the ’90s branding superstars like En Vogue, Janet Jackson, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the Howard University communications graduate studied crisis Management and new communications technology at UCLA. She put planned thoughts and effort into manifesting her longtime dream of being in radio.
Having worked at Washington, DC’s WHUR FM, during her college years, Eldridge craved more air time power. She invested in herself by taking classes on the multifaceted forms of the radio business. And with an eye on ownership, she purchased a small station from Radio One’s Cathy Hughes. That was three years ago. And today, Eldridge has evolved a tiny Augusta, Georgia investment into the present day success of Café Mocha, an all-female syndicated radio show hosted by MC Lyte, Angelique Perrin, and Loni Love. Dedicated to empowering, informing, and uplifting women of color with music, news, commentary; the nationwide top-rated show entertains listeners through engaging interviews with everyday people, celebrities or politician doing good in the community. Airing on 25 stations across America, Café Mocha is also on Sirius Satellite Radio with a new partnership with MadameNoire.com connected to a thriving website at CafeMochaRadio.com.
Representing a minority segment of women of color in radio, and an even smaller number of female owners who happen to be African American, Eldridge is pioneering a movement to represent the voices of ladies and shares seven tips on success in owning a radio station.
1. Plan for Funding. As in any industry raising money and specifically for a female, it is extremely difficult. Develop a strategic plan for funding.
2. Research. Do research and due diligence on the size and preferred market based on anticipated funding that you can raise. (Always a work in progress!)
3. Know Your Market. Find a market you’d be comfortable spending the majority of your life. You can’t be a surrogate owner as a first time buyer.
4. Create a Blueprint. Create a business plan that will serve as your blueprint for everything from initial funding to on-going acquisition development.
5. Think Outside the Box. Take the road less driven, but will still get you to your destination. Consider opportunities available via FM translators with AM stations and low-powered stations. It can be cost-effective and your point of entry for new ownership.
6. Failure is Inevitable. Be prepared to fail. To win in first time ownership is a test of your patience, persistence and passion to prepare for future growth.
7. Keep Learning. Stay in a learning state of mind. Check out the National Association of Broadcasters BLT (Broadcast Leadership Training Program) www.nabef.org/blt. As a 2007 graduate of the program I never would have been able to purchase the stations in Augusta, GA. That was the groundwork for where I am now in the syndication business. The knowledge, contacts and funding sources l gained from this program were essential. And by the way, they are looking for more African Americans to apply as well.