College business classes inspire success for local banker

College business classes lead to more than just a degree – they lead to success in business.

Recent SPC grad and local banking professional Carolyn Riggins took what she learned in her college business classes and used it to lead her team to the top.

Check out her inspiring story.

After graduating from high school in 1981, Carolyn Riggins went to then St. Petersburg Junior College and earned her AA Degree. She got married, had two kids and started on her bachelor’s degree at the University of South Florida. As an adult learner with work and family she felt out of place and didn’t finish her degree.

Climbing the ladder in banking

Carolyn Riggins takes what she learned in her college business classes to lead her team at work to the top.
Carolyn Riggins, SPC graduate and local banking professional

Ten years later, in 1991 she started working as a Customer Service Representative for Mercantile Bank, now TD Bank. For the next 23 years she worked her way up the ladder for the same bank.

One of four children whose mother only completed 5th grade, all of Carolyn’s siblings had bachelors and masters level degrees. She always knew she would finish her bachelor’s degree, but the timing was always off.

As her two children were nearing college age, and she had climbed the corporate ladder as far as she could without a bachelor’s degree, she decided to go back to SPC. A part of TD Bank’s Achieve Program, her firm funded her degree.

College business classes help take local bank to the top

In January 2016, Carolyn started her SPC Capstone, the final class in SPC’s B.A.S. in Management and Organizational Leadership. In the class, student teams compete internationally, using the concepts they learned in their business classes to develop, market and run a virtual company.

Meanwhile, as the manager of a new team at TD Bank, her branch’s performance was at the bottom of the list ranking 21 out of 22 branches.

During her capstone she encouraged her fellow students to use the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) model to evaluate and make decisions.

“I had learned about it but didn’t know the impact that using it properly could make,” she said. “The more we used it the better we got. And I thought – if it was successful in an imaginary business – let me apply it at work.”

While everyone wasn’t on board at first the changes were hugely successful, bringing the branch from last place to first in product sales in the span of just a few short months.

Jonathan Staron, Assistant Manager under Carolyn, was all smiles as he talked about his boss and the things the team learned from her.

“She brought new things to work as she was learning them,” he said. “It really helped us see what we are looking at and why we do what we do.”

A new way of thinking

“I always tell people SPC is a great college. They changed my way of thinking. I approach problems differently now, not just at work but also in my personal life.”

hatA longtime millenary, Carolyn has designed Kentucky Derby hats for years. When she took an entrepreneurship class with SPC Professor Amy Sauers, she was about ready to give up the side business as it wasn’t going well.

“When I met Amy she was so inspiring – very genuine – and she kept in touch with me even after I was no longer her student,” said Carolyn.

In the class, she learned about creating and presenting a business plan and how to market her business. Today, Hats with Elegance is thriving. People are buying her hats in places like Thailand, England, Canada and across the U.S. Once again, applying what she learned in her St. Petersburg College business classes paid off.

Earlier this year, the same year her daughter graduated from high school, Carolyn Riggins finished her B.A.S. in Management and Organizational Leadership.

“I always pushed education, education, education and that it doesn’t stop after high school. It stops when you get your four-year degree or higher,” she said. “In order to preach it, I knew I had to practice it and SPC inspired me to never give up.”

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