Meet DeAnna McLeary Sherman, co-founder of True Star Media
Tell us about yourself and the work that you do?
I'm DeAnna McLeary Sherman, co-founder of True Star Media, a media company and digital agency led by Chicago youth. True Star provides training and real-world work experience for urban youth that teaches them how to develop, create, and market digital content on a platform that empowers them to forge their own paths.
Give us a little insight about your journey that got you where you are today.
True Star started itself. The org's co-founder Na-Tae’ Thompson and I came together to do one program, a journalism program to help students with their writing skills. There were 17 students who put together a 2-page newsletter, they named it ’True Star’, because they wanted to speak their truth and shine like stars. After the initial program, students wanted to learn more about: media, design, create magazine layouts, and every other aspect of production. Because of this, we started a graphic design program. Over the next two years, we added other programs. At some point, I went to Na-Tae’s house and said, I think we got something, I think we should start our own organization. Now, 16 years later, we went from that newsletter to a 52-page glossy magazine, a radio show, and now a digital platform, all for youth and by youth. We have provided on-the-job training to over 10,000 Chicago youth, empowering them to find their voice, discover their path, and prepare for life.
Can you tell us about some success stories you've had with your business or anything of which you are extremely proud?
We have many success stories, recently we were awarded the Google Impact Challenge grant award, which was a big honor considering the competition and from an innovative tech giant like Google. There are moments like winning that challenge that validate you and your vision, give you a feather in your cap so to speak, and the energy to keep pushing forward. We have so many success stories of students who have come through our program, I am proud of all our ’stars’. One that stands out is Ricky Powell, Ricky grew up in a tough housing project, amongst a lot of violence and other trappings of poverty. Ricky started our program in high school and when he found True Star, he found a second family. Ricky was nurtured through the True Star photography program, taught technical skills and communication skills. After high school, he went on to work for True Star as a promotions assistant and was instrumental in promoting the organization and recruiting students. Ricky then landed a job at Budweiser as a district manager and recently started his own promotions company. Ricky broke the cycle of poverty for him and his children. True Star was a big part of Ricky’s village of supporters that helped him see his gifts and talents, and opened his mind to bigger world.
What is one motivational quote that has inspired you in your journey? Do you have any advice for other women who are working towards starting their own business?
Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant. - Robert Louis Stevenson
Why do you think it is important for women to support each other, especially in your field of work? How do you or your company help combat systems and policies that exist to keep women marginalized?
Women have unique challenges as entrepreneurs, for many of us, this is one of many hats we where. Women are mothers, wives, friends, community activist, and often times women lead from the back, they are not always given the recognition of their hard work. We have to support each other and celebrate each other, so we can start to lead from the front! True Star is helping young women see their remarkable value to the world by putting them on platforms where their voices can be heard, we elevate young women, celebrate them, and give them a chance to lead from the front.
What are some ways you practice self care and how does it help you in your life and career? Do you have any tips for other women to stay balanced?
Self-care is something I have to do better with, I have experienced tremendous burnout, especially during the pandemic when I had 3 children home all day, with me, while I try to keep the business going. I started seeing a therapist to better understand some of the mental challenges I was having, I think therapy is a part of self-care, just talking to an unbiased person about things in your life make a big difference. My therapist recognized early on, I was taking on too much, he encouraged me to build a village and to stop being superwoman! I started asking for help, from friends and family and stopped living in the paradigm of “I can do it.” No, you need help, you are human. I also started to “pencil” me in, massages, walks, workouts, etc. I try each day to do something for me.
What are some long term goals you have for yourself or your business?
Long term, we would like True Star to a be a leading media company and digital agency led by youth. We would like to grow our audience and go into film and larger productions. We would like to be a leading employer of teens and young adults, providing high quality digital media and marketing training. We also like to start a fund where we can invest in young creatives and help them launch their own projects and companies.
Is there anything else you want people to know about you, your business, or any projects you are working on?
True Star is in the process of launching True Star U, a digital learning platform that will allow the organization to serve more young people and grow our programs in an effective way that leverages technology. Recently, True Star completed production of its first docu-series, Champions Adjust, which gives an in-depth look on how covid impacted lives of high school athletes. You can view on our website or youtube channel.
How can people find you or your business on social media and online?