From MBA to Business Owner: Winston Ley

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Winston Ley didn’t come to TCU with a background in business. Instead, Ley had logged time in the fashion world, as an assistant buyer for a luxury women’s clothing chain.

Ley was attracted to TCU’s MBA program “because of its rankings, reputation and impressive network,” but says he was “ultimately sold on the intimate size of the program. A smaller cohort meant more one-on-one attention from esteemed professors and more face-time with C-level executives.”

With his background and career goals in mind, Ley chose a concentration in Supply Chain Management. “It was an obvious choice for me and my career transition,” he says. “In the past few years, I’ve become increasingly interested in how corporate practices can affect environmental sustainability, and I felt that, personally, I could have the greatest impact by influencing supply chain practices at a corporate level.”

Not long after arriving at TCU, Ley discovered that a smaller size program can also mean a more nimble, responsive program.  At the time, there was not a course specifically focused on sustainability, so Ley worked with Dr. Laura Meade to create a sustainability course and recruited his fellow MBA students to enroll. “The course made, and it was an exceptional experience,” says Ley.

MBA to CEO

It was during his internship at Walmart’s HQ in Bentonville, AR that Ley realized his passion for retailing and decided “building my own retail business was the best way to put my passions and MBA skills to work.” With his own business, Ley would have the flexibility to inject sustainability practices into its core.

Upon completion of his internship, Ley was offered a position at Walmart’s headquarters and later interviewed for senior-level buying positions at other mega-retailers like Target. “I just didn’t feel the connection,” he says. “I wasn’t meant to be a corporate man.”

After discussion and collaboration with former colleague Alari Paxson, who was moving to Fort Worth, Pax & Parker—a high-end local clothier focused on responsible fashion—was born. Ley and Paxon decided to build their own identity from the ground up, “And we haven’t stopped since,” he says.

Though his title is Co-Owner and Menswear Buyer, Ley plays many roles in the company. “At this point, the company consists of my business partner and myself. So as you can imagine, we both wear many hats. Marketing, procurement, business development, negotiations, design and merchandising—it’s all on our plate,” says Ley. “I feel like I’ve basically leaped from an MBA student to CEO, yet also CMO, CFO, janitor and everything in between.”

Lessons Learned as a Horned Frog

As a business owner, Ley applies many of the concepts and lessons he learned during his time in the TCU MBA program and as an intern at Walmart to his business every day. These are a few of his most valuable lessons:

Fail fast. Failing fast was a motto Ley says his team at Walmart lived by. The ability to recognize and accept when something isn’t working so that you can move forward and find a viable solution is critical in any business setting, he says.

Appreciate the goals of others. “Understanding the goals of others is a valuable tool that can help propel your own goals,” says Ley. “We all work cross-functionally these days and it’s incredibly important to grasp the underlying goals of everyone involved in a project. This way you can work to elevate everyone’s goals simultaneously, which creates a cohesive and productive atmosphere.”

Have confidence. Ley credits his Neeley & Associates consulting project as having the greatest impact on his evolution into an entrepreneur. “Throughout the project, I gained confidence to work as an independent entity, I fostered exceptional project management skills and further enhanced my business acumen,” he says. “Without this experience, I don’t believe I would have had the assurance to take the leap of faith into entrepreneurship.”

Leadership. As a member of a small class, Ley was able to take on many leadership positions during his time at TCU. He served as president of the Supply Chain Organization, a chair member of the MBA Association and founded and led the Neeley Net Impact organization. “It was through successfully managing these multiple roles that I realized my leadership potential,” he says.

Being a Horned Frog hasn’t been bad for business, either. “People are so supportive of TCU, and they know we have a great MBA program. I think that has helped us build trust in our business relationships,” says Ley.

As a successful entrepreneur, Ley recommends the TCU MBA program to others who might be considering launching their own business. “I believe the skills you obtain and the connections you make while attending a top-tier MBA program like Neeley truly provide the best foundation for a successful startup,” he says.

Interested in getting a TCU MBA? Request more info about the Neeley School of Business graduate program or apply now.

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