When the students of OSU-Cascades wanted a place to buy a college sweatshirt, the student fee committee answered.
The OSU Cascades Gear Store (on wheels) was born. Stephanie Warner, a business administration major, was hired as the first Gear Store manager. Her first task: transform the fourteen-foot trailer from utilitarian to mobile gear store chic.
She worked with fellow students and Student Life Coordinator Andrew Davis to brand the trailer, cut out a concessions window, paint the inside board by board and install cabinets that don’t budge in traffic.
Warner’s involved in all aspects of a running a small business: hiring, creating employee handbooks and job descriptions, developing operating procedures, inventory, merchandising and marketing. She’s designed, ordered and stocked gear.
“The best part of it is the creative aspect. And the trust I’ve been given is empowering,” says Warner. "I never thought I’d be able to do something like this. It’s a big confidence booster.”
After working at the department store Nordstrom for six years, Warner has a pretty good idea about what women want to wear. You won’t find an ill-fitting cotton tee with OSU-Cascades in big letters across the chest at the Gear Store. Instead, Warner worked with the OSU marketing department and local vendors to create cool t-shirts, jackets and sweatshirts women will actually want to buy.
“Women like a longer tee these days. They want colors that are flattering. They want cuts that make them look good,” says Warner.
Since the Gear Store’s opening day at Commencement 2012, Warner has sold tons of sunglasses, decals, golf hats, polos, full-zip hoodie jackets, tees and more.
“I feel like I’m building the OSU-Cascades brand,” says Warner. “That’s a big deal.”
Warner transferred to OSU-Cascades from the main campus in Corvallis her junior year. She grew up spending summers in Bend and was attracted to the small class size and business and hospitality degree program.
“The best part of it is the creative aspect. And the trust I’ve been given is empowering. I never thought I’d be able to do something like this. It’s a big confidence booster.”
She loves Bend’s outdoor lifestyle. She really has been snowboarding in the morning and in class by the afternoon. She’s a fan of the small town vibe, the craft brewery culture, the indie restaurant and shops downtown, and the warm community that is Bend, Oregon.
“I’ll be driving around, and I’m still in awe of the landscape here,” she says. “I mean, the Deschutes River is coming down from the mountains in through town, how can you not love it?”
At OSU-Cascades, smaller is better for Warner. Her professors know her by name, and provide individual attention she’s come to value. She graduates this spring and is looking into the world of event planning in this festival town.
“An event coordinator job allows me to be creative but also to manage and use leadership skills I’ve gained here.”
As she hands over the keys to the next student manager of the OSU-Cascades Gear Store, she hopes her legacy lives on.
“I obtained a lot of knowledge from great people with real work experience during my time at OSU-Cascades,” she says. “I feel like by starting the Gear Store I was able to say hey, here’s the knowledge you gave me and I’m going to give it back to the university. I feel like this is something that’s going to live on.”