Forgive Emily Robinson for not making the trip to Las Vegas for the 2016 National Finals Rodeo. She was busy walking the graduation stage with her online Master of Business Administration in Entrepreneurship from Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Oh, and celebrating the one-year anniversary of her western wear business, Western Legacy Trading Company, in Hugo, Okla.
“In the western lifestyle, everybody knows the biggest event is the NFR,” Robinson said. “The best vacation you can take is to go to Vegas for the NFR. I was going to be there during graduation, but my mom basically planned to disown me if I didn’t walk the stage … so, I went to graduation instead.”
Once Robinson, 23, set her mind to open her business and earn an MBA in Entrepreneurship, she wasn’t going to let anything stop her. Not even the fact she wasn’t finished with her undergraduate degree at SOSU.
“I was working full-time on my dad’s ranch; I was an undergrad student and taking online MBA classes; I was working as a graduate assistant for 20 hours a week,” Robinson said. “I learned pretty quickly how to manage time. In the fall of 2014, I started my MBA. In March of 2015, we registered as an LLC, started getting our contractors in order and started construction. Once I made that decision, it was like a runaway train.”
Although she originally wanted to become a lawyer, Robinson was pretty much destined to become an entrepreneur.
“My dad is where I got the entrepreneurial bug, I guess you could say,” she said. “My grandpa started a construction company, and he was a rancher. My dad bought the construction company and expanded on it, and he’s a rancher. My brother now runs the construction company, so I come from a long line of entrepreneurs. I’ve worked for my parents, but I’ve never worked outside of the family. I’ve seen leaders and bosses among the people I’m surrounded with.”
Robinson’s undergraduate degree is in criminal justice with a minor in business. But it was near the end of her junior year that she decided she was more interested in rodeo arenas than courtrooms.
“Honestly, lawyers in small towns don’t make as much money,” Robinson said. “So, from a financial standpoint, I knew I could do as well with a master’s degree and opening a business as I could having a law degree. It was also something that was just really close to my heart and something that not only do I do as a job, I live it every day. It’s my lifestyle.”
It’s that authenticity that Robinson believes helps set her company apart.
“I worked on the ranch up until we started the store,” she said. “A lot of entrepreneurs open businesses that meet and cater to a certain demographic, but they aren’t part of that demographic. What’s different about us is we cater to the western lifestyle and we also live it. When we go home, we feed our cows, we take care of our livestock, and we get up and come to work and do this — the same as other people. I can talk shop to guys all day long and still pick out cute outfits for women.”
Not surprisingly, Western Legacy Trading Company is right on track financially after year one.
“Now, we’re just kind of settled in and taking it day by day,” Robinson said. “Now that we’ve met our projected revenue for the first year, we’re trying to figure out how to grow and how to expand in the future. All over the United States, we’ve had people far and wide travel to come here. I don’t have an e-commerce website, but we do orders on the phone and through social media.”
Coming Out of Her Shell
Robinson credits SOSU not only for her classroom education but also for the development of her social skills.
“I had a full ride to another university, but I just didn’t feel like it was a fit for me,” she said. “I ended up going to Southeastern. I knew so many people that it just felt like home to me. I really flourished at Southeastern. I was really introverted before I started college. I couldn’t speak well with others. I couldn’t [speak in public] for the life of me. It really helped me have the confidence to start a business. I would have never done that, I don’t believe, if I had gone to another school.”
Like her work ethic, Robinson’s timing was impeccable. As part of a Management Economics [ECON 5133] course with Dr. Martin Bressler, Robinson had to formulate a business plan.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” Robinson said. “He was so kind to me. Even though it wasn’t open yet, he let me base my business plan on Western Legacy. I reviewed similar businesses, but there wasn’t anything local that I could use for the financials. He let me base my figures on a similar national store I found.
“It really helped me get an idea of, ‘Okay, this is how I need to budget my financials. This is what I need to devote for marketing and employees and everything.’ That’s where I got my target profit for the first year. It really hit home to me that you have to have a budget and plan for how to allocate your money and where it’s going. You’ve got to know all of that. That was invaluable to me — it was priceless.”
Mastering the Business World
Robinson believes having her MBA gives her and Western Legacy Trading Company more credibility.
“When you say, ‘Yes, I have a master’s degree in business,’ automatically, whatever you say, people have such a higher respect and such a regard for, and they’re going to take in that advice,” she said. “You can do so much with a bachelor’s degree or even without a college degree, but immediately when people find out you have a master’s degree in something, they’re going to take you more seriously and they’re really going to take what you have to say to heart.”
A master’s degree is even more valuable for Robinson, considering her line of work.
“I’m not a feminist, but it is difficult to be a young female in the business world — especially in the western industry because it’s predominantly male,” she said. “So, it’s really helped me open new doors and take me at my word.”
And Robinson’s family can certainly attest to the fact that her word is as good as the gold in an NFR belt buckle.
“Nobody was really shocked I was getting an MBA,” Robinson said. “I’ve always tried to raise the bar for myself. They were shocked at how quickly I did it. I turned 23 this year and opened a business, remodeled a house, bought a truck, and got my MBA. They’re just shocked at how much I try to take on at once. They’re like, ‘What are you going to do now after school?’ I don’t know what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. I’ve got everything done.”
Learn more about the SOSU online MBA with an emphasis in entrepreneurship program.