Oprah Producer to Online Entrepreneur: An Interview With Sheri Salata

Morgan Timm

| Mar 08, 2019

Here at Teachable, we love celebrating the online entrepreneurs who are paving the way for future creators and building their businesses from the ground up. On this International Women’s Day, though, we want to introduce you to one woman in particular, Sheri Salata.

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If I tried to list all of her achievements here, I’d be typing for the next week. Instead, let me give you a rundown of who Sheri is and the successes she’s had:

Sheri is the former Executive Producer of the Oprah Winfrey show and Co-President of Harpo Studios and Own. In 2016, Sheri stepped down as co-president to create her own business, alongside a lifelong friend, Nancy Hala.

On The Sheri + Nancy Show, the duo discusses living their Pillar Lives (a strategy they developed in order to change their lives and the namesake of their website) and “things they love, hacks they’ve created, and ideas they’ve discovered.”

She has also been named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business, The Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment Power 100, and the 2017 Feminist Press Power Award winners. 

In short, Sheri is a creator to look up to, and one we can all learn from. That’s why I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to interview Sheri and learn more about how she seems to do it all and make it look easy. 

What did your career path look like leading up to becoming Executive Producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show, and later as the Co-President of Harpo Studios and OWN?

It was a twisty turny road from day one after I graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in business. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do and did every job under the sun (including managing a 7-eleven store) until my first big break came working at an ad agency. There I learned how to produce and that ultimately led me to The Oprah Winfrey Show and there I found the path that gave me the meaning I was seeking. I wanted what I spent my time on each day to matter to me in a deeply resonant way. It changed everything about my life. 

When did you know that you wanted to shift your career and start your own business? 

For years I wondered what it would be like to work for myself and take what I learned from my experiences and create something of my own. When the time was right one of my dearest friends for decades, brand strategist, Nancy Hala and I made the move to launch our own business--a digital platform, thepillarlife.com and our podcast The Sheri + Nancy Show.

Inspired? Read more success stories from women creators in our Women Who Create ebook.

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What were your biggest fears in starting a company?

It’s human to be nervous, to feel some fear. The brave thing is to walk through the door anyway. Mostly, I kept reminding myself about all of the perks of setting your own schedule and dreaming your own dreams.

If not now, when continues to be our clarion call.

What have been the biggest challenges in your career? How have you overcome them?                                         

My biggest challenges were always with myself. I used working a lot of hours as a big excuse not to elevate all the areas of my life that mattered to me. It was easy to procrastinate when it came to all forms of self care.  After all I had enormous responsibilities. It was very easy for me to put my own well being on the back burner and use my “busy-ness” as an excuse. That’s the revelation and what informs my life today. Self care is the foundation for happiness and there are no short cuts. For most of us, happiness IS success so why not make happiness your compass? 

Where do you see your business in 5 years? 10?
I am in the “now” moment these days. I put my attention on staying in flow. I am joy-filled as we build our platforms and as long as the joy ride continues we’ll continue to grow our dream. I have learned from a spiritual perspective to stay open, hold things lightly and stay curious as your co-create with the universe. You never know what incredible thing is around the next corner. 

What’s one piece of advice you’d give women who want to create their own businesses? 

I say “be brave”.  Do the important dreamwork.  What is it that sets your heart on fire? What do you love to do? Listen,as I have experienced over many years, it is perfectly wonderful to be of service to a company, a person or a brand as your professional offering to the world. But if you have a desire to chart your own course-set yourself up in a way that you can begin to realize that way of life.  

How do you balance it all? In addition to running your business you’ve got your podcast and I hear you’re coming out with a book, too! Any time management tips?                                                                               

Put self care first. When you feel healthy, well rested, passionate and energized you have more energy to flow to all areas of your life. I don’t believe in work/life balance. I do believe in flow.  An integrated life in flow feels best to me now. Do what you love with people you love for people you love.

Move in the direction of what feels good using your own gut instinct for what is truly serving you.

Which female entrepreneurs inspire you the most?

Amy Jo Martin, Lori Harder, JJ Virgin, Marci Shimoff, Marcia Weider, Shonda Rhimes, Soul Cycle founders Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler, Nancy Hala, Arianna Huffington, and of course, Oprah.

Can you share a bit about your book? 

My first book is being published by Harper Wave of Harper Collins on June 4th. It’s called The Beautiful No and Other Tales of Trial, Transcendence and Transformation. It’s a memoir about my road to The Oprah Winfrey Show and how in the middle of my life I realized I had the career of my dreams but not the life of my dreams. And how I’ve come to see we’re all supposed to live the lives of our dreams. 

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Morgan Timm is a content marketer at Teachable with a background in blogging and social media. She runs Mostly Morgan, a life and style blog that reaches an audience of 40,000 people monthly.