Sheila Ellis-Glasper is a Topeka-native, K-State graduate, and CEO of SEG Media Collective, a creative marketing agency that offers social media auditing, strategy & management, and branding design. She is also the Founder of Black Entrepreneurs of the Flint Hills, a non-profit focused on empowering and connecting local Black business owners. In 2021, Sheila was named Kansas Minority Business Advocate of the Year by Governor Laura Kelly. She and her husband Jermain have two children, Tre & Jeremiah.
How did you get started in your career?
Everything that has happened in my career -- I know that God has ordered my steps. By the time I graduated from K-State, I had been published in national publications: USA Today, CNN, ESPN. And, I had two offers: one from the Associated Press, one from Roanoke Times, the largest daily newspaper in Western Virginia. I already made a commitment to return to Roanoke Times after completing an internship program there. I thought it was just a year then on to the next, but God had different plans — I ended up meeting my husband, we got married, and had Tre.
How did your career shift after Tre was born?
Tre inspired me to start my business. As a young reporter, you have to grind. I worked the night crime beat and I wasn’t getting home until midnight or one. Then, I had a new baby and developed PPD [Postpartum Depression]. When this happened ten years ago, people weren’t talking about these things openly. I learned that it’s okay to not be okay — but not to stay there. I had to decide that I wanted more control over my life, rather than my destiny being in someone else’s hands. I wanted to be at home with my family and I had a lot to figure out as a new mom and wife.
As I started my healing with PPD, I started my first business at Tre’s crib-side. I didn’t go to school for business; I learned as I went along. I didn’t know many women who ran a business who looked like me. It’s hard to be what you can’t see.
Six years ago, I founded SEG Media Collective. Now I help my clients tell their stories to their audiences and grow their businesses. We get to create opportunities for other people and we just landed our largest national client to date.
How did your perspective shift after becoming an entrepreneur?
This year marks my ten year anniversary of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship forces business owners to know their value. Running a business is about more than just you. If I’m having trouble seeing my value, being able to negotiate to make sure we get compensated properly for work, that affects my team and company growth. I’ve had great support, my husband has been a tremendous business partner helping me to realize my value and strategically plan. Sistahbiz Global Network, a business accelerator for black women-owned businesses, has poured resources and referrals into me that helped us double in revenue in 2021.
How did Black Entrepreneurs of the Flint Hills start?
George Floyd was a turning point in our country. People started asking, “Where are the Black-owned businesses here?” I founded the Black Entrepreneurs of the Flint Hills to empower, equip, and engage Black businesses with resources to grow. Now, we have the first directory of Black-owned businesses in our region and a safe-space for black entrepreneurs to thrive. It’s all about leaving a legacy that will make it better for the next entrepreneur of color coming behind us.
How did Tre’s Squeeze start?
My uncle has a barbecue business, Smokin H’s Meats, which has a stand at the [Downtown Manhattan] Farmers’ Market. One day, Tre said, “I noticed when Unc is selling barbecue at the Farmers’ Market, there aren’t any drink vendors. I think I want to start a lemonade stand.”
Tre created his own logo and decided to put it on every cup. A customer said, “It would be great to have this in a bottle, so I can buy more from you.” On the car ride home, Tre was already online ordering bottles for the next week. We took him up to Topeka to the Department of Revenue so he could see us sign the business documentation to get him started.
We want Tre’s Squeeze to be successful, but we have to prioritize that he’s a kid. Balance is very important to us. His goal is to be on Shark Tank one day.
What lessons about entrepreneurship do you want to pass on to your children?
My children are my legacy. I want them to understand ownership and self value. I want to pass on the work ethic I learned from my parents. I want them to understand the emotional intelligence part of entrepreneurship too, to know that we can learn from our failures. I want them to experience true freedom that entrepreneurship can provide.
The way that everything has happened and formed over the past decade -- this is nothing that I could have orchestrated on my own. I’m right where I’m supposed to be.
Explore SEG Media Collective at seg.media.
Learn more about Black Entrepreneurs of the Flint Hills and view a directory of local Black-owned businesses at blackflinthills.com.
You can follow Tre’s entrepreneurship journey at tressqueeze.com and on Instagram @tres_squeeze.