Sunday, August 3, 2008


n a recent poll, we asked readers, "Which entrepreneur do you admire most?" The winner, hands down, was Oprah Winfrey, with nearly double the votes of Bill Gates and four times Richard Branson. In a career filled with firsts and superlatives, Oprah has managed to amass a sizable fortune, become one of the most powerful people in the entertainment industry, and yet maintain a sense of humility and compassion we all should strive to achieve.
Broadcasting Pioneer: Born in a small town in Mississippi in 1954 and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Oprah began her career in broadcasting at age 17 at radio station WVOL. By 19, she was anchoring the news at WTFV-TV, both the the first African-American woman and the youngest person ever to do so. In 1976 she moved to Baltimore, where she co-anchored WJZ-TV's Six O'Clock News. She soon made the switch to doing talk shows, hosting the local People Are Talking.
The Oprah Winfrey Show: In 1984, Oprah relocated to Chicago to host AM Chicago. Within just one month, it had surpassed Donahue as the #1 local talk show, and within a year it was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show. A year later, it entered national syndication and became the highest-rated talk show in TV history. It has remained the number one talk show for 18 seasons, has won dozens of Emmys, and is seen by an estimated 30 million viewers a week in the United States and is broadcast internationally in 111 countries.
Entertainment Entrepreneur: Not content to work for somoeone else, in 1988, Oprah founded her own production facility, Harpo Studios (in case you hadn't noticed, that's "Oprah" spelled backwards, not a Marx Brothers reference). Since then, it has grown into Harpo, Inc., which employs around 250 full-time people in television and film production, magazine publishing, and online media. She is also co-founder of Oxygen Media, which operates the Oxygen Network, a cable network for women reaching more than 54 million viewers.

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