'I'm coming to buy this station': CEO and owner of WUFO radio Sheila Brown on her journey in media
In 2013, Sheila Brown purchased WUFO — Buffalo’s first and only Black-owned radio station. In doing so, she became the first Black woman to own a radio station in Western New York.
“And she said, 'Oh my God,' the phone so often rings asking for you. Would you ever think about coming back here to work? And I'm thinking in my head, 'Come work? Girl I'm coming to buy this station,'" Brown said.
Brown, a Buffalo native, grew up on Blaine Avenue on the city's East Side. Raised by two loving parents, she said they taught her the value of hard work and being kind.
“Life was simply amazing. I had two wonderful parents in the household," Brown said. "I tell people we weren’t rich but we definitely weren’t poor. I can't ever remember growing up wanting or needing anything.”
Brown’s career in media began by chance. In college, she was working for the American Red Cross at an event when the general manager of WUFO, Jesse Key, impressed by her personality, offered her a position in sales at the station.
“He approached me. He said, 'I have a position opened for sales you should think about joining.' I'm saying to myself, 'I'm at the Red Cross, I have 401(k), we got salary, I'm 21, money was good, I'm good, right?'" she said.
Brown took the job, and she said it was her faith in God that allowed her to take that leap into a career that has spanned over three decades. Brown decided to move WUFO from LaSalle Avenue in the University Heights to the African American Heritage Corridor on Broadway in downtown Buffalo.
Brown is opening a museum dedicated to the history of Black Radio in Buffalo later this year.
“It's very important that we continue to keep our hand on the pulse. 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 came into the business at a time when there weren’t many women and certainly not many, if any Black women.
“Early on in my career I had to make a stand, but once I opened up my mouth and they knew I knew this industry that brings it all [together]," she said.
Brown said pursuing a career in media is not easy, and securing an internship is the best way to break in.
For Black women, she had this to say.
“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.