Life After Auburn – Alumna turned COO

For most people, living in a college town is a temporary situation. You move to a new city, have a fresh start for a few years, and then move on to start your career in a different place. For McKenzie Shaffer, a 2013 Auburn graduate who fell in love with the small town, this wasn’t the case.

Like many people, Shaffer wanted to break away from her intimate social circle in high school and chose to come to Auburn from Florida for college. She says she fell in love with the university when her older sister came here for college.  Through different organizations, she met the people that she would soon call her Auburn family. “Those connections became acquaintances, acquaintances became friends, and those friends became family. I even met my husband in my freshman Chemistry class. In the end, I followed my family here, I met my family here, and I plan to make my family here,” Shaffer says of wanting to continue her life in Auburn.

Staying in Auburn was never part of Shaffer’s plan. She had always envisioned herself living in a big city and pursuing her love of fashion and apparel merchandising somewhere that she would make it big. “I never thought I could have a fulfilling career in retail in Auburn, but I was wrong and am so glad I was. There is much more to Auburn than the ‘small town’ I envisioned in my college years and other than marrying my husband, it was the best decision I have ever made.”

Knowing that she needed a background in retail experience, Shaffer took a job at Therapy Boutique in downtown Auburn during her years as a student. She never imagined that three and a half years later she would become Chief Operating Officer of the company. For the first two years as a Therapy employee she was a sales associate and the remaining year and a half she worked as inventory manager before working her way up to COO.

“Being a part of a small business means that I have to wear many hats,” Shaffer says about the roles she plays as COO, “I am in charge of our website design, content, and promotions. I also manage our marketing budget, assist in buying, oversee social media content, visual merchandising, and manage the internship program.”

As far as preparation for her role as COO, she says most of it came from real-world hands-on experience. “There is absolutely no substitute for experience, whether it be related to retail or not. You cannot teach hard work, you cannot teach patience, you cannot teach grit. Those are three (of many) things you need to be successful in a small business, and were key in preparing me for my current position.”

Shaffer says no two days are the same for her and she often finds herself bringing her work home with her because she’s so invested in it. “There is no set day, and that’s what I love about the job.”

Although Shaffer has just begun her life in Auburn as a newlywed, she says that she’s here for the long run. She’s established a career that she loves wholeheartedly, her home and her family on the plains.

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