Passion to Profits

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Columbus doesn't have an ocean, palm trees or mountains. But the city does have someone who has helped lure many residents from bigger cities and more exotic locales: Sharon Cameron

Cameron, 62, doesn't sell real estate, and she's not an executive recruiter. She's a relocation specialist - sort of the chamber of commerce, Welcome Wagon and in-the-know neighbor, rolled into one. She's the go-to gal when highly sought recruits wonder if the heart of Ohio could be home.

Her business was born by accident after a CEO friend asked her to share the city with the wife of a prospective employee. It went so well that Cameron, who had long served as the director of institutional advancement for the Columbus College of Art & Design, decided to put her talent and expertise to work.

"It's just something I love to do," Cameron said. "I am passionate about this city and enjoy connecting the dots, so I decided, 'Why not do what I love?'"

Execs don't call her for standard tours. Cameron tailors her time with clients to their interests and needs, whether it's visiting a school that offers programs for special-needs children, taking a behind-the-scenes tour of the Columbus Museum of Art, or even getting a face-to-face with the governor. She also often hosts intimate dinner parties so conversations can flow without constraints.

"I think of my contacts - my life experience - as a commodity, which is helpful in building relationships," Cameron said.

And she has built tight relationships with some of the most influential people in the community. Nationwide Children's Hospital, Limited Brands, Ohio State University and Cardinal Health are among the prominent organizations that have enlisted Cameron's persuasive powers.

Plus, her job doesn't stop with an introduction to the city. Cameron, a married mother of two grown children who lives in German Village, prides herself on helping families transition smoothly into their new surroundings by providing links to schools, shopping areas, doctors, dentists and even dog sitters.

"Helping to convince someone to come to Columbus is just the start," she said. "I don't consider it a success unless they choose to stay."

It's not that Cameron has all the answers, either - she just knows where to find them. Her insider information on Central Ohio is available to a wider audience in Connections: The Book, where people can find everything from preschool programs to party-planning services, personal chefs and travel agents. The pages ooze with the names of top-notch photographers, architects and manicurists.

And companies cannot pay to be included. It's all based on recommendations from the highly regarded people Cameron has grown to know and respect. Their opinions are compiled into a neat list on how best to live in and enjoy the city and surrounding areas.

Dr. Pam Phillips, a pediatrician at Nationwide Children's Hospital, said Cameron was a big help when her family relocated from New York four years ago.

"Moving to a place where I knew zero people was not high on my list," Phillips said. "Sharon did a wonderful job helping me see that life here would not be that different."

For 13 years, Cameron has been softly selling the city. This summer, the fourth edition of her book hits shelves. Besides serving on several boards, including those of Planned Parenthood and the Columbus AIDS Task Force, Cameron also helps the community by donating a portion of her book's proceeds to the Women's Fund of Central Ohio.

It's a small way, she said, to give back to the city that has given her plenty-including clients she convinced to move to Central Ohio who now find themselves hating to leave.

Cameron recently recalled a phone call from a client who reluctantly moved here from New York City seven years ago.

"Sharon, I thought the worst news I ever heard was that we were moving to Columbus," the woman said. "But I can tell you now, the worst news I've ever heard is that we're leaving."

Watch Andrea Cambern's "Female Focus" weekdays at 5 p.m. on 10TV News HD.