Meet Sherrell, founder of The Plug Daily & BLKTECHCLT
Meet Sherrell–she is invested in the notion that we can democratize opportunity for everyone. As a journalist and community builder, she believes considerate development of our businesses, talent pool, and communities will drive this thing we call equitable innovation.
I launched ThePLUG in April 2016 to cover the innovations of people of color in technology and leadership. BLKTECHCLT became an extension of that work in December of 2016 (our first event), as I sought to galvanize local entrepreneurs and professionals in the space that didn’t necessarily feel welcomed to the current table of entrepreneurship in our city.
What is a typical day like for you?
I’m balancing grad school, two businesses, workouts, and trying to maintain clear skin. No day is the same–which is why I love the work that I do. I’m regularly responding to emails; mapping out new data story ideas for school and publishing; rolling out new partnership campaigns for ThePLUG; developing content for BLKTECHCLT; and engaging in conference calls with partners, city leaders. I also make time for networking and learning from incredible professionals across a broad scope of industries. By late evening, I’m prepping for the next day, using ASANA to mark off my completed tasks and think through my next goals to conquer.
Favorite part about being an entrepreneur?
Quite honestly, the freedom to challenge myself and play a role in my own personal and professional development. It is surely a risk. I have failed, I have had big wins, I have second-guessed myself, but when I get feedback from others who have benefitted from my work, I know that all the stress and late nights are worth it.
There’s no such thing as vacation. I spent two weeks in Paris writing and planning. I sat in parks in Havana on shifty wifi following up with sponsors. There’s always something to be done. But I’m learning how to delegate better.
What did you do before you went out on your own?
I’ve always had a form of entrepreneurial endeavors as part of my work. When I moved to Charlotte in 2014, I worked as a marketing manager at Uber. At the time, I was also penning stories on impact and technology for Fast Company, Next City, City Lab, and The Root and continue to write as often about the shift of innovation in cities in and beyond Silicon Valley.
I did a brief stint as a contractor at Google Fiber on their sales team, eventually moving into full-time entrepreneurship when that relationship ended.
Why did you pick Charlotte as the home of your business?
It made complete sense to create an environment for entrepreneurs of color in an ecosystem that wasn’t currently focused solely on inclusivity. I saw a divide in the way in which we were networking as professionals. Pitch events were almost completely homogenous. Conversations about the local startup scene rarely included the vast diversity of Queen City neighborhoods and communities. Building BLKTECHCLT was the answer to a need. Thankfully, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Over the last year since we’ve been working on this initiative, we’ve connected with over 800+ Charlotteans committed to discussions on inclusivity and redefining how we discover talent and opportunity within our community.
What inspired you to go out on your own?
I was compelled by the constant positive response I was receiving in my businesses. We’re in a time where people are creating products and services that literally change the way we live our lives (think Uber, Google, Airbnb). Building the confidence in my work has lead me to believe that I too can be a change catalyst and provide opportunities for others to become the next wave of leaders solving important issues.
What do you do when you’re not working?
Is this a trick question? I’m usually always working unless I’m sleeping, but even then I dream about work.
In all seriousness, I’m in grad school until May and being a student again has its perks—like free admission to local museums, discounts on apparel, and free admission to incredible conferences. Whenever I have a free day, I try to spend the time feeding a different part of myself, whether that’s a short walk through the park. A quick glass of wine at a wine bar. A good book to read on the train. A lecture on a topic I’m not familiar with. Though I prefer to do these activities alone, I do try to remain social and will often invite a friend or a new acquaintance to join me.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from being out on your own?
Ask for help and use the tools around you to be more efficient. I try to automate and delegate most of my admin tasks these days, from book keeping to design to growth marketing within my business. My time is best used on the bigger picture. I have an incredible team of talented humans around me that help make what I do even better. And because I have that foundation, it allows me to take on greater risks.
Talk about a time you failed big time and what you did next.
I was seeking some funding for the business and just knew I had it in the bag. Unfortunately, that funding fell through. It was utterly disappointing to say the least. In my mind, that funding was going to allow me to hire another person on to the team and make life a lot smoother. So I went back to the drawing board and mapped out how the business was going to survive without the funding and where I would need to cut back and strategize how to drive sales. I’m grateful for that learning lesson. It takes grit to survive.
Who do you look up to or look to for inspiration/advice?
I’m a life-long learner with a book shelf and Feedly profile full of articles and excerpts galore. Thus, I derive information from everywhere; authors, musicians, artists, teachers, political commentators, students. I try to keep my ears and my spirit open for wherever I can derive solid knowledge and wisdom from.
What’s your motto, or some words you live by?
You can do the hard things. Always.
What advice would you offer to someone who wants to be an entrepreneur?
Leadership trumps influence. Work hard, be kind, keep learning, stay curious.
Where can people stalk ya?
What’s your “power color”?
Fuschia. Because I have a stellar vegan lipstick that matches.
A Note from BW on Sherrell…
We chose Sherrell to represent the OPPORTUNITY space. She is someone who’s built support systems around others and been a leader in so many ways. She’s inspiring to us because she’s looking outside the box to welcome everyone into it and proves that one person can and should make a difference. She is strategic, perseverant and strong, everything a successful entrepreneur has to be.