Sheila Coates on Being the Brand that You Are
Events Women

Sheila Coates on Being Your Own Brand

Some would argue that these days it’s all about who you are, others may refute that it’s not who you are that really matters, but who you are and how you represent yourself. Sheila Coates, former music industry marketing executive and creator of Be Your Own Brand, would argue that they’re both right—it’s all about who you are, how you’re represented and what you do with that representation. This is all a part of your personal brand—know exactly what that is and constantly project it to the world.

[Related: Victoria Reese Talks What it Takes to Be a Brand Architect] caught up with Coates and was schooled on the importance of acknowledging, accepting, and honing your brand as a means to excel personally and professionally. Check her out. We understand you’ve had an extensive career in branding, imaging, and artist development. How did you venture into being your own brand?

Coates: I spent most of my career in music, radio and newspaper. My mother had a saying, ‘If you wake up mad it’s time for a change.’ I got to senior VP level and I just wasn’t enjoying it. I was waking up mad. I decided I wanted to make a change. I traveled a couple of years, extensively. It was on a plane when I decided to start Be Your Own Brand. I realized I actually enjoyed branding and the creating of images. I figured if I could do this for celebrities I could create the same impact for individuals. My first big client, Macy’s, believed in my concept, put me on a National tour, and BYOB hasn’t stopped.

Who should be building a brand?

Everybody. I was on The Steve Harvey Show talking about BYOB and I loved when he said, “you don’t need to be a celebrity to BYOB, but BYOB can make you a celebrity.” I think when people think of branding they think of products or celebrity endorsements, but in today’s climate everybody is a brand. You walk into a room and someone is thinking something the minute you walk into that room—and you’re thinking something when they walk into the room. It’s in that first 30 seconds that we all analyze and form an opinion about someone.  Don’t worry about what people are thinking, but control it.

Whether you’re a celebrity or a product, at the end of the day you’re a person, and you have a brand walking into your company, you have a brand walking into any meeting, and you have a brand when you’re with your friends. Good brands know how to give you what they want you to get.

What 3 tips would you offer someone looking to build their brand from scratch today?

1. You define your brand. What is it that you want me to get? What’s unique about you? Are you powerful? Detailed? Eclectic? You have to define yourself for yourself or someone else will.

2. You must be it.

3. You must look it.

What is the #1 no-no in brand building?

Not being consistent. If Mercedes gave you a lemon as opposed to a luxury car, you’d want to know what was going on because whenever you see that symbol you expect luxury.

What has been your greatest professional lesson thus far?

Patience. Being an entrepreneur, it takes a little more time than what I’m used to, to get a business where I want it to be. I come from a fast moving industry and my entrepreneurial pursuit is not as fast moving.

How do you manage to own your truth and embrace your power professionally and personally?

I was brought up being my own brand. I know who I am…good and bad. You own your truth when you really understand this is who I am and this is great. I know my brand. I know my gifts and when I’m in my element I’m confident. You can’t beat me doing me.

What can attendees expect to learn from you at the ‘Don’t Just Embrace Your Power, Embody It!’ executive leadership session at the 2016 Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit.

If I can make you think, ‘I never really looked at myself like that; I never really thought about what I wanted to project; I don’t know what I’m saying when I walk into a room,’ I think I’ve done my part. I hope to convey that you are a brand, and at the end of the day, whether you like it or not, somebody thinks something the minute you walk into a room and I say own it. Don’t worry about what people are thinking, give them what you want them to think and keep stepping.

Learn more about building your brand and embracing the power that brand possesses at Hear more from Coates at the 2016 Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit. Register now to secure your spot, March 9-12, at the Hilton Diplomat Resort & Spa, Hollywood, Florida.

Be sure to follow Black Enterprise on social media @BlackEnterprise for Women of Power news, highlights, and updates. Use hashtag #BEWPS to stay in the loop. Please be on the lookout at as speakers, activities, and sessions are announced.