SANFORD — Dr. Angela Bright Pearson reaches behind her ear and gently removes the curved hearing aid nestled there and the attached small bud that fits into her ear canal.
She holds it up to be seen and speaks about the small size of modern hearing aids, how they run off computer chips and how people with even severe hearing losses can enjoy a better quality of life with good hearing care and equipment.
Bright Pearson speaks from personal experience: two hearing aids enable her to hear voices and other sounds to which she would otherwise be deaf. Severe ear infections from ages 2 through 12 caused permanent loss of hearing that became progressively worse through her teenage years. At 16, she finally received her first hearing aid and the world of clear, understandable sounds opened again to her.
She realized then what she wanted to do with her life: help others to hear as she had been helped. That is how Bright Pearson, who holds a Doctor of Audiology, has spent her life.
On April 12, family, friends, local elected officials, and representatives of the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce and Central Carolina Community College’s Small Business Center gathered for a ribbon cutting at the doctor’s new business location, Bright Audiology, 1620 S. Third St., Sanford.
The 3.000-square-foot building provides an inviting setting for the examining and diagnosing of patients’ hearing problems and fitting and testing of hearing aids, as well as ample meeting space and offices.
Looking around at the gathering of well-wishers, Bright Pearson held back some tears as she thanked all those who had helped her achieve her success. Then she added, “I feel I had a hearing loss for a reason: It was given me from God so I could help others facing the same challenge.”
A native of the Asbury community, in Chatham County, Bright Pearson earned her Master in Audiology and Speech Pathology in 1990 from UNC-Greensboro. In 2000, she became one of the first audiologists in the nation to earn a Doctor of Audiology, receiving that from the University of Florida.
After earning her master’s degree, Bright Pearson worked as a speech pathologist and audiologist for several years before returning to Asbury to live. She decided to open her own audiology business and, in 1996, turned for help to Central Carolina Community College. She said both the Small Business Center at the Sanford campus and the college’s Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning (REAL) program for would-be small business owners were invaluable resources.
“When I thought about opening a business in Sanford, I went to the SBC and the director, Jim Felton, was the first person I spoke to,” Bright Pearson said. “For the past 15 years, I’ve always looked to him for mentoring as my business grew. I always felt I could pick up the phone and call him.”
Felton was at the open house, smiling at Bright Pearson’s business success and new facility.
“Angela had passion to start her business,” said Felton, who retired in January after heading the SBC for 15 years. “You want passion in someone who wants to be a small business person, but she has more than most because she is afflicted with the challenge she helps others with on a daily basis. She overcame a lot and worked hard. We’re celebrating the culmination of her plans.”
In 1996, Bright Pearson also enrolled in the college’s REAL program, where instructor Diane Kannar led the students through the steps they had to take to establish a successful small business. That included work in areas such as developing a business plan, finding financial resources, identifying and reaching clientele, legal requirements, and other information critical for small business owners to know.
“It was perfect timing for me to connect with the SBC and REAL program because I was thinking, ‘What will my logo be? What will my business plan be?’” Bright Pearson said.
As SBC director, Felton was also able to inform her of help and opportunities that she wasn’t aware of, such as the “Make Mine a Million Dollar Business” competition sponsored by the Count Me In organization and American Express.
The competition promotes women-owned businesses by providing winners with computer equipment and consultations with experienced professionals to help them improve and expand their businesses. In 2008, Bright Pearson was one of 10 winners out of several hundred applicants.
At the open house, she gave Felton a hug and said, “I wouldn’t be here today without you.”
Bob Joyce, president of the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce, said the Small Business Center is an important partner in the small business community.
“We’re always talking about workforce development and bragging about the college for that, but we rarely brag on its part in building up entrepreneurship in our community,” he said. “Bright Audiology brings that back into the forefront. CCCC is not only in workforce training but also helps people hone their skills if they have an idea and want to go into business. The SBC helps them to assess the risk they’re taking and make good decisions. Angela’s is a great success story.”