Jermetra Allmon worked in the computer information technology industry for 20 years and had a stable career and income during that time, but she always knew that working in high-tech was not for her.
When she was laid off in 2013, Allmon took the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream to work in the fashion marketing industry and enrolled at El Centro College.
“I worked in computer science for years, and I hated it! So, when they said, ‘We have to lay you off,’ that made me happy,” Allmon said. “I started doing research, and I figured I finally had the time to do something that I wanted to do. I found El Centro, visited the school, and talked to faculty and other people. I thought, ‘This is it!’ It all clicked, and everything just fell into place!”
Allmon graduated in May and plans to transfer to LIM College in New York City, which guarantees admission to El Centro students who have earned an associate’s degree in fashion marketing, thanks to a recently-signed transfer agreement. LIM College specializes in the business aspect of fashion.
Wade Hyde, marketing professor at El Centro, said the fashion marketing program teaches students the elements of marketing. “We teach marketing courses that are applicable to any business, whether in fashion or computers; it doesn’t matter,” he said. “Marketing is marketing.”
Hyde added that Dallas has a strong fashion wholesale industry, and that creates interest among students who attend El Centro’s program.
“It also helps that the Dallas retail industry is continuing to grow and is pretty strong,” Hyde said. “And we’re very excited because Main Street [in downtown Dallas] is getting ready to have a big evolution in the next few years – a lot of high-end retailers are going to move in, and we’re trying to position ourselves now to be their liaison to lower- and mid-level management jobs.
“We have many students who already work in retail, or they’re stylists, and some who work in the theater,” Hyde added. “Those students have a lot of interest in wholesale and being line representatives, areas that we really have seen major growth and progress in the last 10 years or so.”
Robert Alan Torres, who is studying fashion marketing at El Centro, said he hopes to go into the wholesale industry in the future. He already works at a wholesale firm at the World Trade Center in Dallas. “I started as an intern, and they offered me a job, so I’ve been there all summer. It’s really good to see how it all works, and it’s fun,” he exclaimed. “I feel like I was prepared for this job. The courses helped me understand and shaped me for the position I’m in now.”
Marketing: essential for business
Hyde said marketing is the most important aspect of any business, and even in a bad economy, most companies don’t cut their sales staff. “Accountants are great, and managers are great,” Hyde added. “But none of those people are responsible for the revenue that allows a company to exist and grow.”
The fashion marketing program at El Centro is part of the overall marketing program that is offered at the Dallas County Community College District. Students can choose to study business marketing, which is available at Cedar Valley College.
Dr. Diane Minger, program coordinator at Cedar Valley, said her students learn the basic principles of marketing: product, price, promotion and distribution.
“We prepare our students for jobs in wholesaling, retailing, advertising and sales,” Minger said. “Those are the types of fields that they would go into. They learn how to create a solid marketing plan, which is more specific than a business plan.”
Minger added that many marketing students at Cedar Valley already work in sales, but others have their own companies. “They just don’t know how to get the word out about their businesses, how to promote them, and how to attract their target market. Our program is appropriate for entrepreneurs,” she said.
Torres, who hopes to transfer to LIM College after he graduates next spring, said he has been working on his company’s website and doing its social media as well. “Now they even let me write orders for the company,” he said. “I took a buying class at El Centro and saw how buyers work in the real world. I know how it all happens now.”
Most jobs in marketing in areas such as retail, wholesale and purchasing pay wages that are above the national average, according to data from EMSI. Wholesale and retail buyers with an associate degree, for example, can expect to earn around $26 in median hourly earnings, and sales representatives make about $25 in hourly wages, according to recent figures.
Creating local enterprises
Hyde said El Centro produces entrepreneurs more than anything. “We have a lot of students in fashion marketing who want to open up a store or help others with an online presence or launch consulting companies in styling,” he added.
Allison Garza, who graduated with an associate degree in fashion marketing from El Centro in May, said her goal is to open up her own business in cosmetics. “Fashion is connected to the beauty industry,” she said. “I decided to get a business-related degree, and I liked what I found after I did the research on this program.”
“Fashion marketing provided a very real-world education. The professors don’t sugarcoat anything. They say, ‘This is what you have to know, whom you have to know and how to network,’” Garza said. “And you learn how to make things look professional.”
Making it look good: visual merchandising
Garza added that she also earned a certificate in visual merchandising, which teaches students how to display products. “In my final project, I created a 3-D model for a store using my own brand image and putting details on the walls,” she said.
Hyde said, “In visual merchandising, we teach students that everything is there for a reason. Items in a store window don’t just magically appear – someone went there and strategically placed each item. It’s done specifically and with intention.”
Allmon, who also earned a certificate in visual merchandising, works in the couture department at Neiman Marcus, a job she got through El Centro. “I use the elements I learned in the program at my job every day. It all fits together like a puzzle,” she said.
For more information about the fashion marketing program at El Centro, email Wade Hyde at firstname.lastname@example.org; for information about the business marketing program at Cedar Valley, email Dr. Diane Minger at email@example.com.