Following the dream: Anne Marie Ohly
Unlike Beth Slifer, Anne Marie Ohly grew up in an environment that encouraged her to be a career woman.
“My dad was a lawyer, and I was the oldest of 14 kids,” Ohly said. “He taught us to be very independent and forward-thinking. He encouraged us to do what made us happy and said if you don’t like what you’re doing, find something else.”
Ohly moved to Summit County 35 years ago and started a secretarial and answering service because at the time, there was “nobody to do the little stuff.” Within eight years, she had 420 clients statewide, and she sold the service to start a property management company. In 1982, she transitioned her company into real estate sales ” her true passion. She sold the final portion of her property management company four years ago. Now she owns six real estate offices in Summit, Park and Grand counties.
But her course hasn’t been all about success.
“I was poor a lot,” she said. “I just lived hand-to-mouth for the first couple of years until things got rolling.”
About 22 years ago, she took over a friend’s business, a retail store that sold lingerie and cards.
“It was probably the worst investment I’ve ever made,” she said. “I liked the stuff he sold, but I hated retail. It just wasn’t me. I’m pretty active.”
Her entrepreneurial spirit began in college when she opened a bike shop in Carbondale, Ill., with a friend. She used the money to support herself through college and then moved to Summit County for “one winter.” She took her first job as a waitress, but didn’t like working for other people. So she looked to fill a need.
“The spirit back then was very entrepreneurial for everybody because there just weren’t a lot of businesses,” she said.
Within the course of her business endeavors, Ohly left her first husband and became a single mom to her 18-month-old son and 4-year-old daughter.
“I wasn’t afraid. I think it gave me a push to buckle down and follow my dreams,” she said. “I just knew I had two kids to raise and that everything would be fine – that I was smart, ambitious and had a ton of energy, and I still do. That’s from my parents. They never let it be a possibility that you wouldn’t be successful.”
Her mothering instinct carried over into her business life – something she doesn’t necessarily recommend, but just can’t help. Her management approach is similar to a family model; she mentors young employees, shares their excitement at closings and even loves it when they make more money than she does. The downside: “When someone leaves and goes to another company, it hurts your heart,” she said.
One of the people she’s coaching these days in real estate is her 19-year-old daughter, who works with her and attends Mesa State.
“She’s encouraged me to be who I am and to work hard in life to get the things I want in my life,” her daughter Aly Whittaker said.
And though Ohly tells Whittaker and her oldest daughter to work hard, she’s happy to see the “super woman” mentality of the 1980s disappearing.
“I see more of a balance in families taking care of the home front and kids – women and men on an even playing field,” she said. “And I see more and more women in positions of power.”