RBL celebrates: Shirlene Small, Managing Partner of EBS

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 Shirlene Small.

Shirlene Small is Managing Partner of EBS and leads its Small Business Services Practice with expertise in healthcare, professional services, film and media, real estate, and quick service restaurants. Prior to founding EBS, Shirlene worked for McDonald’s Corporation and Coopers & Lybrand CPA Firm. She is a DePaul University graduate and alum of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses Entrepreneurship Program.

Let’s celebrate Shirlene:

What’s your origin story?

I was born and raised on the south side of Chicago in a close-knit community of people who were more like family than neighbors. We had tons of fun and built lifelong connections. My core values and knowledge were bread and developed in my community.

How did you get into the film industry?

In the early years of the Illinois Film Tax Credit, productions were reviewed internally by the Illinois Film Office. They reached out and requested our assistance with the review of Fox’s “Prison Break”. At the time “Prison Break” was the largest film production in Illinois, so the review was a massive undertaking. We helped the Film Office complete the review and thus began our journey into the business of film.

Who were your mentors?

I had many mentors. My first and lifelong mentors were my mother and father. Additionally, I was mentored by other family members, teachers, and several bosses. I’ve been very blessed in that regard. So I try to pay it forward whenever possible.

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

My greatest achievement/joy has been raising my two sons with my husband. My sons are kind, smart, talented, and fun.  I’m enormously proud of them.

What drives you to create?

I don’t know if I would define myself as creative. I think I’m more of an innovator. What drives me to innovate is the desire to consistently make things better and easier for people.


ALSO READ: The Reel Black List on REEL 360


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

There have been many. I thought “One Night in Miami”, “Judas and the Black Messiah” and “King Richard” were brilliant films, with powerful themes and characters. In television, I’ve been a longtime fan of “Queen Sugar” and “This is Us” and a new fan of “The Wonder Years” reboot.

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

I consider our industry to be Finance, but I think we have the same issues as black people in film and other industries. The greatest challenges/obstacles are opportunity, mentorship, and access to capital/resources.

How has having the superpower of your Blackness helped you?

It has made me strong and highly capable. I think we learn through family, friends, and culture how to navigate and pivot when one door is closed (or sealed). You learn not to be deterred by setbacks. I think my Blackness has also helped me become empathetic to the struggles of others and aware of systemic injustices.

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

I wouldn’t use the work kryptonite, as in something that impairs me, but I get terribly upset with people/entities who don’t see and respect the humanity of all people and cultures.

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

Can’t you tell? I like to watch movies and television! I also like to read, see plays, musicals, and concerts, and spend time with my family and friends.

Predict your future! Where are you in 5 years?

I hope to still be doing work that impacts communities and helps people build and live their dreams.


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