EMBA Alumni Update - How the EMBA Helped Stacey Bledsoe Embrace Her Entrepreneurial Side
The “career ceiling” is something many people don’t see coming, but Stacey Bledsoe did. Though she’d risen to a director position in Nevada’s gaming industry and launched a separate dog boutique business on her own, she knew her bachelor’s degree in marketing would only take her so far, and despite her success, she was getting closer to the ceiling.
“I felt I needed to up my game with an MBA,” the 2016 Executive MBA graduate of Cohort 14 recalls. “I wanted to be more well-rounded, not just in sales and marketing but also finance, because that was my weakest point.
“I knew the EMBA would give that to me.”
Stacey’s story is not uncommon. Unlike previous generations that graduated into the workforce, many of today’s professionals are finding that a bachelor’s degree is not enough. Now, with the job market hindered by the pandemic, the MBA and Executive MBA are becoming more attractive options for those who want to get more out of their careers, or begin new ones entirely.
‘Forced Into Entrepreneurship’
Stacey began her EMBA experience at Lee Business School in May 2015, and a few months in she learned that she’d been let go from the company that had been her professional home for 15 years.
“I saw this coming,” she says. “I actually had to make a decision mid-course about what I was going to do with my life.
“I was thinking of going back into corporate, but then I realized all the freedom I was going to lose.”
Fueled by an entrepreneurial spirit, Stacey put her EMBA knowledge to work immediately and launched an online clothing store called Stacey Sparkles Boutique in partnership with multi level marketing brand LuLaRoe. Her success – “I did a half-million the first year,” she says – combined with her dog boutique income, convinced her that she didn’t need to work for anyone but herself.
“I was kind of forced into entrepreneurship,” Stacey says. “I was a single mom with a 12-year-old and I didn’t want the restrictions of a corporate job.
“I was kind of over that life and wanted to make my own hours.”
Putting It All Together
With a plan for her post-EMBA career in place, Stacey committed herself fully to finishing her degree. She recalls entering the program with gaps in her professional profile that she hoped to fill – statistical knowledge, strategic thinking, and negotiation, among others.
“Every class matters, even the ones that aren’t as fun,” Stacey says. “Statistics was definitely very hard, but I did enjoy the negotiation class.
“Just knowing the skills and how to negotiate saves you so much money. Educating yourself on the process really helps you with contracts and leasing, etc.”
Along the way, Stacey picked up additional lessons from her fellow cohort members. Learning from the people in the room, especially those whose professional strengths complement your weaknesses, is invaluable. Stacey says she’s made lifelong friendships within her cohort, and admits that sometimes she misses being in class.
A Life-Changing Degree
Not only did Stacey’s EMBA help her achieve immediate success during the program and after she finished in December 2016, but also she’s still applying the lessons she learned to her day-to-day workflow.
In 2020, during the pandemic shutdown, she purchased two salons and transformed them into Sparkles Beauty Bars. She credits her negotiation and finance courses with helping her purchase the properties at “a bargain basement price,” and she’s looking at opening two additional locations in Las Vegas within the next couple of years.
“I think my life has totally changed,” Stacey says. “Having the EMBA pedigree is so important, especially for me, because I’m about to ask a bank for a lot of money as I try to grow these businesses.”
At the same time, Stacey wants to expand her real estate business, something she’s been doing in her spare time. Real estate could be her final career, she predicts, when she settles down and decides to stop opening new businesses.
“I think I’ll be selling homes someday, maybe working for a builder,” she says. “I don’t think I’ll ever retire because that would be boring.”