SHEILA OGLE: HOW A FORMER ASSISTANT TO JESSE HELMS BECAME A PIONEERING SMALL-BUSINESS OWNER.

Author:Infanzon, Vanessa
 
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Pillars of North Carolina features prominent men and women who have made a significant impact in their industries and communities.

Sheila Ogle was among a small group of women business owners when she opened her marketing company, Media Research Planning & Placement Inc. in Cary, in the late 1980s.

Ogle grew up in Raleigh but moved with her family to Cary while in high school. After starting her career at WRAL-TV, she worked at an advertising firm for 20 years before becoming a small-business owner. Her ventures have included a clinical-trials company, the Cary Innovation Center business incubator and The Matthews House, a special events venue. Her sole remaining business is the incubator.

Ogle's book, The Pink House Circa 1830: A Love Story, is dedicated to her late husband, Carroll Ogle, and was published this summer. Ogle, 79, discussed her journey in comments edited for length and clarity.

My father moved us to this little hick town called Cary. It had 5,000 people. [It's now 168,000.] Back in the 1960s, the trend was to move outside the [Raleigh beltline]. Now, everyone wants to live inside the beltline.

I was a registered Democrat. My parents were Democrats. I didn't know there was any other party.

I worked as an assistant to Jesse Helms on WRAL-TV's Viewpoint show and for Bette Elliott, the station's women's editor. It was a very "unglorified job," but I learned so much from both of them. I did a little of everything to assist them as on-air personalities. Sen. Helms taught me to think about things that I never had thought about as a young girl just getting into the business world.

When I started my own business, I knew zip about how to read a financial statement. My strength was selling a media plan to the company's clients. Selling my company was a totally different world for me. Then I learned about this group called the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. I bit the bullet and gathered up enough money to join. That decision was life-changing for my business growth.

One year, I was named the state's top small business by the [Small Business Administration]. They invited all the state winners to Washington, D.C., for a congratulatory lunch. I invited Sen. Helms, and he very respectfully sent me a handwritten note saying that he couldn't come to the lunch, but would I please come visit his office while I was in Washington.

And so I did. You would have thought I was the Queen of England. He introduced me to his staff. He took me in the...

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