Sheila Brown is a trailblazer in the media industry. She is the CEO of Vision Multi-Media and the owner of WUFO 1080 AM and Power 96.5 FM, Buffalo’s first and only Black-owned radio stations. She is also the first Black woman to own a radio station in Western New York, a feat she achieved in 2013 after working her way up from an entry-level saleswoman to a sales manager at WUFO .
Brown’s journey in media began by chance, when she was offered a position in sales at WUFO by the general manager, Jesse Key, who was impressed by her personality at an event where she was working for the American Red Cross. Brown took the job, despite having a stable career at the Red Cross, and said it was her faith in God that allowed her to take that leap into a career that has spanned over three decades.
Brown had a vision for WUFO, which was founded in 1962 as Buffalo’s first Black-oriented radio station. She wanted to move it from a residential street on LaSalle Avenue to the African American Heritage Corridor on Broadway in downtown Buffalo, where millions of cars pass by every day . She also wanted to add an FM channel to the WUFO brand, which she did with Power 96.5, giving the station a bigger footprint in the industry and allowing it to have syndicated shows and morning shows.
Brown’s mission is to preserve and promote the history and culture of Black radio in Buffalo. She is opening a museum dedicated to the history of Black radio in Buffalo later this year, where she will display 56 years of memorabilia from WUFO. She said WUFO is more than just a radio station, it is a platform for the Black community to have their voices heard and their issues addressed.
“We’re able to have Black churches come in and speak their message. We’re able to have Black talk shows. We’re able to have Black businesses that don’t have a lot of money to be able to make a commercial and get them on the radio,” she said.
Brown is also an author, a motivational speaker, and a mentor for young women who aspire to pursue careers in media. She said she faced challenges and discrimination as a Black woman in the media industry, but she never let that stop her from achieving her goals. She advises other Black women to be themselves, be confident, and continue to learn and grow.
“As a Black woman, be yourself, be who you are, continue to learn, continue to grow, continue to model other people that you see in this game that are doing the same thing that you are doing,” she said.
Brown is an inspiration for many people, especially for those who dream of owning their own businesses. She said she might be the first, but not the last Black woman to own a radio station in Western New York. She said she is proud of what she has accomplished and grateful for the support she has received from her family, her team, and her listeners.
“I’m just proud that the lord used me to be the first woman of color to own a radio station,” she said.
In other news, Paulla McCarthy is a former nurse, a single mother of three, became the first Black woman to own and operate a spring water bottling plant in New York State. She is also the founder of Youth Saving Society (YSS), a nonprofit that teaches financial literacy and entrepreneurship to young people.
McCarthy’s journey to becoming a water mogul started with a simple idea: to sell bottled water to raise funds for her nonprofit. She gave her twin sons $1,600 to buy pallets of water from BJs and sell them on the street, during the pandemic. The boys quickly expanded their business, called The New York Water Boys, and landed contracts with 21 supermarkets and bodegas.
McCarthy wanted to create her own private label water brand to support YSS, so she searched for a water source online. She found a spring water bottling plant in Poestenkill, New York, owned by an elderly couple who wanted to retire. She drove there with her children to taste the water, and ended up buying the plant and the 15 acres of land that contained an aquifer. Continue reading about Paulla here.