Alumna Creates a Business by Tapping into her Roots in Ranching
April 20, 2018 by Laura Phagan
Overcoming adversity wasn’t anything new for Phyllis Whitlock, but after she had been laid off from the oilfield multiple times, she knew it was time to make a new career choice. Whitlock said she was tired of having job after job where she worked hard for everyone else so she felt it was time to do something for her. She decided to go to college.
With encouragement from her niece, Whitlock was connected to Paula Hartbank, student support services education and transfer coach in the TRIO program at Central Wyoming College, a federal program that works with first generation college students. The program also provides tutoring services for all students and guidance for low income and disabled students. After getting started in the right direction she launched her college career at CWC.
“I was pretty scared,” Whitlock said. “It had been years since I had been to school. I had some instructors who were so inspiring to me. Buck Tilton, my English instructor was so inspiring. I was shy and when we had to do presentations Buck was so supportive. He really gave me the confidence I needed to speak in front of others.”
Starting school after being in the workforce for many years and adjusting to a technology intense education program was a challenge.
“I came to CWC with very little experience in technology, so I started with some computer classes,” Whitlock said. “Matt Herr was so wonderful helping me get started in computers.”
Recognizing the challenges she faced having been out of the education system for so long, Whitlock was the first one to class and the last one to leave on most occasions. She credits the tutors in the TRIO center and the instructors at CWC for her success.
After completing her first semester in the medical coding program, she knew the program wasn’t the right fit for her and wanted to go back to her familiar roots in agriculture and ranching. She changed her major to agri-business and accounting and began classes in entrepreneurship.
My communication and entrepreneur classes with Maygen Cassity and Brittany Yeates helped build my business understanding and inspired me to believe in myself. That’s when I began to believe that I could start my own business. ”
Phyllis Whitlock, Rid the Rodent, Owner
Because of Whitlock’s agriculture background and knowledge of farm and ranch businesses in the area, she learned there were few businesses that specialized in rodent removal, especially for larger farm and ranch operations. She felt like an environmentally friendly business with no traps, fire or deadly fumes utilized could be a success in the region.
“I asked a lot of questions and I was at the library some nights until very late,” Whitlock said.
After graduating with honors, Whitlock started her own business, Rid the Rodent, to help farmers and ranchers control rodent populations on their land to protect their fields and livestock. She attributes her hard work and success to the hard work she put into earning her degree and the people who helped her launch her business.
Not only did she have the support from the college but she also had support from her family.
“I had the support of my significant other, Justin LaJeunesse, my son Challis and my daughter Chesnie,” Whitlock said. “I couldn't have accomplished what I did without their love and support.”