EAP 18: Sheree Oats – Branding Your Battle
Our guest on this episode of the Early Accountability podcast is marketing and public relations specialist Sheree Oats, who is also the founder of the group “Not Built to Break”. Sheree started this group to create a safe space to discuss mental health issues among women of color, a subject that has often been viewed as taboo, but is so important to talk about.
During Sheree’s own transition from college to her professional life, she experienced depression for which she was prescribed medication. She talked with her parents about her depression, but they were not equipped to know how to respond or provide her with the support she needed, and due to the tendency within her community to not admit or discuss mental health issues, she did not know who to turn to. So in 2016, she simply asked her Facebook community if they would be interested in joining an online support group focused on mental health, to which she received an overwhelming response. From that point on, the “Not Built to Break” Facebook group has been an outlet for members to discuss their highs and lows, share inspirations quotes or stories, and simply support each other.
To anyone looking to start something to help or support their community, Sheree recommends this three-step process:
- Understand what the community needs
- Research the need further and survey what resources are currently available, then ask your peers and others in the community what would be most helpful
- Execute your idea – allowing yourself time to fully develop the brand and create things like the logo and mission statement at the right time
Sheree Oats is young millennial working her way up through the Corporate America ladder while also utilizing her passion for marketing and branding to helping people launch brands to take on the entrepreneurial world.
At the age of 23, Sheree found herself in a deep depression that was triggered by her unhappiness in her starting career after graduation. Maneuvering life after college was different than she had imagined. One thing she learned is how much of an emotional and mental toll your unhappiness in work can have on your life.
She found herself in a new city feeling alone, discouraged and unmotivated. All of this led her to visit a doctor who then diagnosed her with Depression at 24.
One day Sheree decided to express her need to connect with other women who were also expressing depression on Facebook. A single post now turned into a Facebook support group for Black women who are battling mental health. Sheree now manages the Facebook group called “Not Built to Break” which has almost 500 women who offer love and support to one another through their mental health journey.
Connect with Sheree:
Not Built to Break group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1095970567189389/
Welcome to the ‘Early Accountability Podcast hosted by Kimi Walker. Kimi has a track record of serving as a behavior change and improvement catalyst for individuals, groups, and organizations. Get ready to make the best version of yourself a priority. Now welcome Kimi Walker.
Kimi: Kimi Walker here and welcome to the next episode of the ‘Early AccountabilityPodcast’. Tonight our guest is Sheree Oats. Sheree Oats is a marketing and public relations specialist. She is also the founder of the group ‘Not Built to Break’ which is a community online community that creates support, encouragement, and education for women of color around mental health. So Sheree thank you for being here.
Sheree: Thank you so much I’m sorry excited to be talking to you.
Kimi: Yes, so why don’t you first start off by introducing yourself to the audience. Just telling a little bit about who you are, where you’re from, and kind of where you got to where you’re in your journey right now today.
Sheree: Okay, awesome, yes. So I obviously I’m Sheree Oats. I live and Atlanta Georgia. Been here for about the last five years or so. Originally from Orlando Florida, but I transitioned to Atlanta Georgia right out of college. I took on a job working in corporate America and sales. So I currently work in sales and marketing for a consumer beverage company. And while doing that, I have experienced a lot of highs and some lows and regards to transitioning into the corporate America world. However, I really enjoy kind of my passion which is marketing and branding and seeing people’s brands come to life by executing similar strategies that I have created for them.
So on a personal no again sales professional full time on the side, love to market and brand my businesses and then helping people also brand their business. And then just going into some of the low that I experience in corporate America has transitioned me to create an outlet for myself and for other women to be able to come together to support each other for a mental health.
And I like to say it mental health standpoint to become sisters and really to understand that there are a lot of women that are struggling with their mental health; depression, postpartum depression, anxiety, a ray of different things. And what I’ve learned in creating my ‘Not Built to Break’ group is that I am not alone and my struggles and there’s a lot of us that kind of go through similar things. And all we’re really looking for is an outlet to express that. And so I’m excited to talk to you guys about ‘Not Built to Break’ and how it has helped my life and helped other women’s lives as well.
Kimi: What kind of sparked you to start the group?
Sheree: Going back about three years ago again transitioning out of college, really trying to find my way in the world, went into deep depression with my job. Obviously, I had a good paying job out of school, everything was great. However, I found myself in a situation where maybe it’s something like other people have as well where you don’t feel appreciated, you may not have the best boss. I was working crazy amount of hours and I really lost myself in the process. And I didn’t know what depression was, but I knew something was wrong with me. And I remember I went to my parents, called them on the phone. I said, “Hey I think I’m depressed.” [Inaudible] [03:31]is I’ve looked it up, but I think I am.
And I think it really shocked them because I never really opened up to my parents and that from that perspective. And their response to me wasn’t what I would have wanted a parent’s response to be. And not that it was wrong, but I think my parents just didn’t know what to say and their response was… It was not a concern, but it was more, “Are you sure? Are you sure that doctor that you’re going to was a real doctor?” And all that really just… it wasn’t what I needed at the time. But moving forward, I realized that my parents just didn’t know how to deal with that. And so when I went to the doctor and if anybody else has gone through this. When you tell a doctor that you’re depressed, they asked you a list of questions, and you basically answer yes or no.
And it was like, oh you know I’m just going through some of the symptoms and I had a lot more yeses and I realized. And so with that, I was diagnosed with amountdepression and got pills and things like that. And in taking the pills, I was like, “You know what? I really don’t want to be on pills for the rest of my life.” Like something has to be better than this. Again during my depression, I knew that other people may be able to relate to me. But for whatever reason, I didn’t feel like I could tell my friends, right. It’s easy to talk to your friends about relationship issues and things like that. But telling your friend how I think something is wrong with my mind, it’s totally a different concepts.
Sheree: And so one day I just said, “Let me just ask Facebook. What can it hurt? Someone out there has to be able to kind of understand what I’m going through.” And that’s really how it started. I went on Facebook and I asked if are there women would be interested in support and create a port group where we could talk about our mental issues and really wanted to see if anybody else got there that was like me. Obviously, this is the short version of my story. But I was so surprised because I got such an overwhelming response of women and men that were like, “Hey, me too. Yes, please create it, I need this.” And that’s where I started. So 2016, I made the post and restarted out. I mean I started to some writing the friends on Facebook, and they started adding people.
And then the next thing that I know here we are with a community of about 450 women and we share our highs and lows, and quotes, and experiences, and we talk. I say that we’ve become strangers sisters because a lot of us don’t know each other. But I could say something and feel supported. And I know there may be women that are in the group that may not say anything, but they see it, they read it, or they may message me privately and just say thank you.
So I think what we’re doing in our group is opening up the conversation about mental health especially in the African-American community and what it means to be healthy mentally physically and emotionally. And I think during my time obviously I did things not knowing that I was depressed that were out of my character. And once I was able to realize that and now having this outlet with this group, I’m able to tackle my depression a lot better where I don’t have to be on pills and I found new outlets for coping mechanisms.
Kimi: Can you talk about some of the different coping mechanisms that you found that work for you?
Sheree: Yes, so for me working out has been a huge, huge, huge benefit from my life. And I tell people I don’t work out message because I wanna look a certain way, but I work out because it’s the one thing in my day that really truly challenges me. I know when I go to the gym, I’m gonna have a challenging workout and I can release whatever frustration that I may have experienced during the day at work. Or if I’m upset about something, I kind of leave it all at the gym and I know if I go a day or two without working out, I feel it. I feel just tight and tense. Though for me the first thing was working out.
The second thing obviously is a support group that I’ve had with ‘Not Built to Break’ and obviously other more opportunities to speak about my experience. The more that I talk about what I’ve experienced and engage in help becoming conversations with people, the more better I feel about whatever issues may come my way, or whatever my mind decides to play tricks on me, or what have you. So that working out has been huge in my faith. I recently got rebaptized and I have been really more [inaudible][07:58]to my faith work, my faith journey.
I hear God a lot more clearly than ever before. And I think that’s because I’m taking more control over my life and being more disciplined in a lot of areas. And God has been rewarding me with an array of opportunities. But the one thing that he has given me is clarity and he’s given me a peace of mind. And I know that’s something that no matter what I go through, no one can take that from me. So it’s been amazing.
Kimi: During this journey, have you received… When you started the Facebook group and it started to grow and the community turned into a tribe. Did you receive any backlash about starting this or has there been any kind of like negativity about the initiative?
Sheree: I have not received any backlash, any negativity. But anything I have received some from people that I didn’t even know were like really keeping up with me. You see them in parks. Oh! I saw me you were doing this with your mental health. And I’m like, “Oh my God! I didn’t even know you were paying attention.” So no, I haven’t received anything of any. I have seen more men come to me and are like, “Can you start one for us?”
Kimi: oh great!
Sheree: So no, I haven’t received any backlash. Everyone has been super-supportive. I think the one thing from a personal standpoint that people will say to me is, “Wow! You seem like you had it all together. I didn’t know you were going through this. Or I’m so close to you, how did I miss this?” And I said, “It wasn’t you, it was me.” And so from that standpoint, I found myself apologizing to startand friends; close friends that is for not really letting them in. I understand that’s a decision that I made and apologizing in the sense of I should have felt more comfortable to talk to you about what I was going through. So for that, I apologize that maybe you have to hear my story this way.
And so from that standpoint again, not negativity, but understanding that if I had of maybe talked to someone outside of maybe my parents, maybe I would have started my journey with this a long time ago. But the timing was perfect for me and a lot of it has been from a maturity standpoint. So I’m really thankful that people have received our group, and I know we have a lot more in store, and a lot more growing to do, and a lot more women who can benefit from this group as well.
Kimi: I really have enjoyed watching you brand and execute your battle and triumph. What tips from a branding and marketing perspective would you give to someone who has had like a personal battle that they point through if they would like to create a community as well or support group or a support system especially in the digital age? What kind of tips would you give them?
Sheree: A few things. For me personally, I have created some other brands and worked on other brands for people. So again with my passion being and branding and marketing some of this came a little bit easier to me than most. But I realized with creating those other businesses that I am no longer doing today. Because it wasn’t truly a passion, I didn’t stay committed to it. And I see that too for other clients that I’ve helped that people that really have a passion and a true connection to whatever brand or business that they want to start are more willing to fight for it. They’re willing to stay up late night to make sure that it works.
And so I would say for starters, for people that have something whether it be personal or just something that they wanted to really decide your purpose of doing it and how it can help others. So for me, I really never intended for this to become like a branding or business. It was created out of a need. And they always say the best businesses are answering a need to the community.
And so when I looked at it and I sat back and said, “Wow! I created this because it was something that was needed.” Now, it can go so much more further. So the first thing of identifying what the need is that you may… because obviously if you need it, someone else probably needs it too, right?
Sheree: So get out there, but also do research. Research is such a huge thing that I think and it’s a step that a lot of people missed. So for me, it wasn’t good enough to just create this community and then back away. I have to do research on okay, so what are some challenges that other people outside of myself face? What can I add to the group to keep it going to keep it open, dialogue, and things like that? And a lot of my research outside of just online has been from the people in the group. So my second thing would be to ask your peers. And a lot of times, your peers will give you a lot of answers that you probably would not even expect a lot of insight.
But also asked strangers because sometimes our peers can be great, but they can have a like mind that we have. A lot of times, that’s why they’re our friends. So you really have to get out of your comfort zone to be able to ask strangers regarding, “Hey if I’m doing this, would you join? What would you need from this type of business or what are you looking to gain?” Things like that. So again first I would really make sure that you understand what the purpose of the business is and do some research.
And then lastly, the execution part. So again I started this community in 2016. I just now created a logo maybe two months ago for this business. And I’ve been working out logo for a while, but nothing really hit. So I always tell people and tell my clients you don’t have to rush it. Do what feels right. You don’t need a logo right away. You don’t need a mission statement right away. Get familiar with your brand, let people see your brand and it will come to you. And so for me when I finally was like okay, this is where I want the ‘Not Built to Break’ logo to look like. I want it to represent strength. So I had the strength symbol. And the logo, again, it didn’t come to me overnight.
So understanding that everything is a journey. Let it take time. Sometimes, people want to create a business and they wanna see results right away. They wanna see their bank account grow over night and it just does not happen like that. But when you really take the time to brand it, to write about it, to ask people for feedback and suggestions, the business or the money or what have you will come. But outside of the money your purpose in the business will be highlighted through the journey that you’re taking with the people and the community to create.
Kimi: Awesome, awesome! Now how can people if they want to learn more about ‘Not Built to Break’. How would they find out more about their group? If they wanna contact you for some of the services that you may offer how would they follow you or connect with you?
Sheree: Yes, so we’re on Facebook it’s not built to break on Facebook. I am creating a website and it will be launching pretty soon. But all that information could be found in ‘Not Built to Break’. It is a private group on Facebook and it is for women. Sorry guys, but again you can look on Facebook and [inaudible] [14:58]request for that and that will be launching information as far as the website.
And some mental health items that we have coming to a mental health store very, very soon for Mental Health Awareness month. And then you can also follow me on Sheree – S H E R E E, Oats – O A T S on Facebook. And I’m on Instagram @creativelyvisioned.com. And then from my personal business, I am @creativelyvision.com as well.
Kimi: And you’re also on LinkedIn, correct?
Sheree: I am on LinkedIn. So for business purposes I’m on LinkedIn. And that’s just my name Sheree Oats on LinkedIn as well.
Kimi: Awesome! So Sheree, what is your daily mantra? What gets you through? Like you say you’ve been through a lot. You’ve overcome a lot. What keeps you going when the day to day?
Sheree: So one thing that I just for daily an affirmation. I like to repeat to myself is simple. I just say, “I am enough.” And I think that it always resonates with me because I think I’ve noticed what my triggers are. And so when you notice what your triggers are with depression I can kind of navigate through the day with knowing what’s gonna set me off or about what’s going to push my mind in a different way. So one thing that I sometimes have to step back and take a deep breath and say that I am enough. And so whatever comes my way I know that I’m good enough. I’m capable enough and I’m strong enough to get me through. So that’s my affirmation. One thing that I do now that I wasn’t doing before…
And again in my faith journey I read this book called “Face to Face’ and it’s primarily scriptures for intimate worship. And each day, it gives me a different passage to read. It gives me a kind of a confession to say, and then it also gives me a renewal that I say to myself, and then a closing prayer. And so it guides you day by day on how to kind of connect better with God, with prayer. And so that’s something that I’ve asked myself to do. And I’m actually working on bettering my spiritual journey in regards to kind of yoga and meditating. So that’s something that I’ve recently added into my life and I’m looking forward to continuing and seeing where that can take me as well.
Kimi: Awesome, thank you. You have been just overwhelming source of positivity and encouragement in the truth in transparency. And I think in this day and age where people kind of put like a lot of just glitz and glamour especially online. You know people put on for theglamand all of that.
Kimi: I think it’s just very admirable that you’ve been so visible with some of your vulnerability. So thank you so much for that and sharing that with the community. And we hope to have you back some time on ‘Early Accountability Podcast’.
Sheree: Yes, thank you so much. I really appreciate this opportunity. A first time doing a podcast. So this is exciting and I remember I mean anyone who is struggling with any type of mental health or sometime that you just want to support someone else, please join us. We are looking to invite more women, women of color into our groups to share. Also looking for professionals as well that deal with mental health and those regards as well. So therapists, come and join us. We will love your expertise and what you can give to our ladies. So thank you so much Kimi.
Kimi: You’re welcome, thank you. Until next time.
It was a pleasure to have you join us on this episode of the ‘Early Accountability Podcast’ with Kimi Walker. Be sure to visit earlyaccountability.com to sign up for the early accountability newsletter. We look forward to activating your greatness and helping you reach your goals.