During National Black Business Month, Regions Bank is highlighting Black entrepreneurs making an impact in their communities. Here, we spotlight a radio station founder and owner dedicated to entertaining, educating and empowering his Jonesboro, Arkansas, listening audience. Read more about LaGanzie Kale’s entrepreneurship journey and discover how a group of Regions Bank associates has supported his mission.
“If I could tell that six-year-old boy dancing to the radio, ‘One day, not only are you going to work for this station, but you’ll have your own station,’ I wouldn’t have been able to wrap my head around it. How is that even possible? And yet here we are.”
Indeed, LaGanzie Kale is here. Blink and you might miss him given he’s constantly on the move running Jonesboro’s first and only Black-owned community radio station, KLEK 102.5 FM.
He appreciates the frantic pace because the path to get here wasn’t direct or easy.
“I wasn’t told how to get a job in this field,” Kale said of entering the workforce after he graduated from Arkansas State University with a Radio and Television and General Studies double major. “I had no job prospects, so I did the only thing I could do at that point in my life – I went back home and moved in with my mom.”
Ask me what I didn’t do. If it was tech, programming, traffic, even taking out the trash, I did it. LaGanzie Kale, owner of KLEK 102.5 FM
Thanks to relationships he’d built, Kale landed an assistant public relations director role with the local school district. Kale’s work ethic – something you’ll observe throughout this story – next led to teaching a high school Radio-TV class.
It was a professional contact’s misfortune that led to Kale’s big break. A computer virus shut down radio station owner Raymond Simes’ computer and the entire network he ran. In four hours, Kale resolved the problem and landed his first job in the field.
“It was a mom-and-pop-owned operation,” said Kale of Force Three’s three radio stations. “I got exposed to everything in radio.”
“Ask me what I didn’t do,” he said. “If it was tech, programming, traffic, even taking out the trash, I did it.”
Beyond the paycheck and valuable experience, the gig also provided Kale with a mentor who observed his previously mentioned work ethic.
“Mr. Simes saw I had a passion and a drive for radio,” Kale said. “He called me into his office and said, ‘Have you ever thought about owning your own station?’ When I shared that I didn’t have that kind of money being in my early thirties, he said, ‘I’ll help you.’”
The idea for KLEK was born. The nonprofit station’s format would feature music and community programming through the Local Community Radio Act passed by Congress in 2010 promoting news and discussion forums.
“I knew this was my opportunity,” said Kale.
Kale applied for a Federal Communications Commission license in 2013. He secured nonprofit status, recruited a board of directors and station construction began in 2014.
On Jan. 1, 2015, KLEK FM hit the airwaves.
We Interrupt this Story for a Public Service Announcement:
Regions Community Mortgage loan officer Mallory Hill will tell you KLEK’s programming stood out from the start.
“As a Jonesboro native, KLEK’s impact was immediately evident in several ways – the first being the ability to hear rhythm and blues, gospel and hip-hop on a local station without having to strain for a signal,” she said. “KLEK also offers a community platform to share important information regarding various causes, educate listeners on aspects of local, state and federal government and it’s created job opportunities through internship programs.”
KLEK’s tagline is to educate, empower and entertain. LaGanzie Kale, owner of KLEK 102.5 FM
Kale works with 50-plus nonprofits, hosts lunch and learn programs, conducts Black History, women’s empowerment and financial education segments and broadcasts at countless on-site community events.
“KLEK’s tagline is to educate, empower and entertain,” said Kale. “We’re meeting people where they are and having people come here to tell their stories. We’re also providing our listeners with information to learn and better their lives.”
Hill sees KLEK bettering local nonprofits and Jonesboro’s economy in return.
“LaGanzie empowers small businesses utilizing the services of those businesses for all KLEK community events,” she said. “His work in speaking to the diversity of Northeast Arkansas is huge. He’s giving a voice to those who are often unseen and unheard.”
And Now, Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming:
Every aspect of launching KLEK has been incredibly personal for Kale, beginning with the station’s call letters.
“They are a tribute to my late mother, Lovie Edmond Kale,” he said.
And while he may be KLEK’s lone full-time person, Kale knows he’s never in it alone thanks to station listeners.
“The community has been so supportive,” he says.
That community includes support he’s received from Regions Bank volunteers (see sidebar for details) and other area businesses.
I tell people this is my life’s work. This is not just something to do, I have literally poured my life into it, literal blood, sweat and tears. I’m doing something I love. Knowing that what I love is going to make a difference in someone’s life, it’s special to me.LaGanzie Kale, owner of KLEK 102.5 FM
“This saves us a lot of money and manpower hours we wouldn’t have been able to afford,” he said. “Support from businesses like Regions is a tremendous help. It allows us to fulfill our mission.”
Kale remains on that mission of entertaining, educating and empowering KLEK’s listeners every day.
“I’ve been told I don’t know how to take a day off,” he said. “When it’s got to get done, it’s got to get done.”
A decade since filing the paperwork, Kale’s passion for the airwaves is unwavering.
“I tell people this is my life’s work,” he said. “This is not just something to do, I have literally poured my life into it, literal blood, sweat and tears. I’m doing something I love. Knowing that what I love is going to make a difference in someone’s life, it’s special to me.”
United in Volunteerism: Regions Bankers Spruce Up the KLEK Trailer
Last September, a group of Regions associates painted KLEK’s 40-foot storage trailer as part of United Way of Northeast Arkansas’ annual Day of Caring. Regions Private Wealth Management team member Shelly Gist Lamb led the volunteerism charge in Jonesboro.
“The most rewarding part of this project was learning about KLEK as an organization and their mission,” said Lamb. “Along with their music and educational programming, the station hosts community-wide events like Jonesboro’s annual Juneteenth celebration. Supporting KLEK means supporting diversity in our community. I’m grateful to Regions for offering us paid-time opportunities to volunteer, and I’m grateful to United Way for connecting me with nonprofits like KLEK making such a difference in our community.”