RBL celebrates: Doreena Towner, Chief Operations Partner of EBS

Doreena Towner
Doreena Towner

Editor’s Note: The Reel Black List is our annual spotlight of brothers and sisters in the worlds of advertising, film, TV, music, radio and media who are making a difference through their contributions and creativity on a daily basis. Today we celebrate Doreena Towner.

Doreena Towner is the founder and Chief Operations Partner of EBS and leads its Film & Media Services Practice with expertise in film and media, professional services, retail, manufacturing, and banking. Before founding EBS, Doreena worked for Ingredion, Northern Trust Bank, Sears, and Northwestern University Technology Group. She is a Roosevelt University graduate.

Let’s celebrate Doreena:

What’s your origin story?

I was born and raised on the south side of Chicago as the 2nd oldest of five (5) children. Shirlene Small, the Managing Partner of EBS is also my sister. We come from a family of entrepreneurs, including our parents, uncles, aunts and cousins and we knew one day we would have our own business. We also had a strong and close community of neighbors and friends which we have maintained for over fifty (50) years.

How did you get into the film industry?

In 2007, the Illinois Film Office contacted us to assist in completing the film tax engagement for 20th Century Fox’s television series “Prison Break”. The IL Film Office was solely responsible for completing film tax engagements at this time. A few months after we finished this review, the rules were changed by the IL legislature to allow Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) to perform the film tax credit engagements and this is how we got into the film industry.

Who were your mentors?

We had very strong and influential parents who provided us with a great foundation, strong principles & values and a sense of direction. I have also been blessed with great mentors who were members of our community, teachers, family members and bosses from several jobs. One of my early and most favorite mentors was my 3rd grade teacher. She was very instrumental in my early years and saw my love of education and had confidence and insight to promote me from the 3rd to the 5th grade.

While there will be others, what do you consider your biggest achievement to date?

One of the main achievements that I am proud of is the creation of a scholarship foundation that I co-founded with another family member that was named after my grandmother who was an educator in Mississippi.  The Mazalene Roberts Towner Scholarship Foundation was founded in 1990 to provide scholarships to students to help them achieve their educational objectives and to date has given out over $375,000.00 in scholarships.

What drives you to create?

Although I am in the film industry, I am an accountant by nature and trade. This is not the typical “creative” space from an art perspective, but I like using my skills to create solutions to help people achieve their dreams and objectives.

ALSO READ: The Reel Black List on REEL 360

What TV series or movies do you feel portray powerful, inspirational Black images in 2021.

In regard to a TV series, I am a huge fan of Sterling K. Brown (Randall) and Susan Kelehi Watson (Beth) on This Is Us. I think this show has some of the best writing ever and these two individuals and the younger Black cast are all excellent and make me proud.  In regard to a movie, a powerful one that I enjoyed in 2021 was “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”.  I also thought Will Smith did an excellent job in “King Richard”.

What is the biggest challenge to Black people in your industry?

The biggest challenge to Black people in almost all industries is access to capital. The access (or lack thereof) impacts everything about the business from day-to-day operations, growth, human capital, technology and wealth creation.

How has having the superpower of your Blackness helped you?

In addition to showing me the greatness of our heritage and culture, it has always provided me with the knowledge and power to know who I am and where I come from and allows me to be comfortable in all settings with all kinds of people. Also, since we have endured challenges and obstacles due to various barriers, I know how to keep moving forward in spite of these hurdles without panic or fear.

If Black culture is your superpower, what is your kryptonite?

My inability to say “no” could have been considered a sort of kryptonite for many years, however, since the death of my father in December 2020, the death of numerous family members and friends in 2021 and the pandemic, my sister and I made a concerted decision to take care of ourselves and our health while running and growing our business. I am now extremely comfortable with the fact and knowledge that “No” is a complete sentence.

When you’re not creating, what do you do in your off time

Although I have not been able to do it as much as I would like, I love it when I have a chance to hang out with my family and friends. We always have a great time. I also like to travel, read and binge watch TV and movies.

Predict your future! Where are you in 5 years?

Chillin’ on an island in the Caribbean!! Or if I’m actually still working, I plan to do only the things I want to do.

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