Episode 022 - WESA Board Member,
Michael Baca

Bonus Episode - Join for the first in-person podcast recording as Justin Brands’ own, Michael Baca, shares his experience being a board member of the Western and English Sales Association (WESA) and the details that go into producing such a huge event.

Listen Here:

Podcast Transcript

Taylor McAdams: You're listening to the Kick Your Boots Up Podcast, where we swap stories of the West. Whether you're just waking up or getting in for the day, come on in and kick your boots up. Hi, everybody, and thanks for joining us for a special edition of the Kick Your Boots Up podcast. We're so excited that you're listening in this week's story. And this episode here is going to be one to tell Michael Baca here, one to Justin brand's own actually is here to talk about the WESA trade show. And what's special about Michael is he actually is a board member of the Ouisa association. So we'll kind of get to dive in a little bit deeper on that. But before we do, Mike, Michael, first of all, thank you for being here. Thanks for taking the time out of your sales meetings, all that to talk with us

Michael Baca: You're very welcome. It's my pleasure.

Taylor McAdams:  And also tell us a little bit about yourself and how you found yourself in this industry, and even how you got into we sit on the board, okay?

Michael Baca: I mean, I can give you a short version or a long version, 

Taylor McAdams: we want it all! We want all the details.

Michael Baca: So, you know, I'll grew up wearing cowboy boots, live in the western lifestyle wasn't a rancher by any means. But, you know, had had animals livestock, that kind of stuff and just loved it. Believe it or not how to kid really. So I kinda had to grow up quick and get a job, worked a bunch of little audit, audit and jobs, ended up managing restaurants and bars. From there, got promoted to management and then became a manager of a retail store, Cooper's Western warehouse, worked there for a couple of years. And they said, Well, you know, you should try being a rep, you'd be good at it. So I became a rep.

Taylor McAdams: And the rest was history. That's awesome. And we're honored to have you on the Justin TV. Now you get to sell a wide variety of our brands. And that's fun, too. But the consumer out there that's listening and getting to see these bonus episodes from this week. They don't really understand what we say is and the point of you guys being here as salesmen and all that. So the Western and English sells Association. It's a mouthful. It's here and we meet twice a year, every six months. But it goes far beyond that. I mean, retailers come to do all their buy ins but you guys as board members had got to do a bunch more. So talk to us about that.

Michael Baca: Oh, yes, absolutely. Well, wesa’s been around 102 years. So, but wrap your head around that under two years of this organization being a part of this industry. The reason why we started was because the sales men of these manufacturing companies. You know, they're in a sense where the middleman, you know, between the buyers, retail buyers and the manufacturers, the salesman wanted to provide the best possible experience for the buyers, and try to get all the buyers in the same place at once to maximize their time and ours, and really how continue to grow the industry that we've grown to love.

Taylor McAdams: And I can tell you're really passionate about it to being able to rattle off facts like that; that means you've spent some time getting to know the association getting to know the board members, I know you guys meet, how often do you meet planning this?

Michael Baca: Yes, so we made in three official meetings a year, they run the weekend, so they don't interfere with our work on the road. So it is then it's a you get nominated, and so not for profit. So you'd really dedicate your time, you've got to want to be on the board to be on the board, it really is, you know, you do it for the love of the of this business, we meet three times a year, it takes a two or three days, depending on what the if you're on the executive committee, you're gonna be in an extra day. And then I'm just a voting member. So I get to sit and you know, speak on behalf of everyone in the industry, about where we're going to move forward in this organization.

Taylor McAdams: What a fun position you have, I think getting able to kind of get out there and pay your opinion forward to let to let the voices be heard from not only the retailer's to respect and protect your customers, but also just from the brands' perspective, I mean, you have a lot of knowledge there, too. So tell us about how important it is for you guys to come together, like you have as an association and have these shows, you know, twice a year, but also, like build that experience for people. What's that? Oh, yes, absolutely.

Michael Baca: You know, most of our retail consumers might not see a rep but twice a year. So these shows are super valuable to them. They can really buy for their entire store, visit all corners of the marketplace and really maximize their, their, their, their their customers profitability and experience. So, you know, this, there's no other industry like the one we're in. And I would like to say that Lisa, is the reason for that, you know, all the artwork that I have, you know, I'm 100 years later, but it started a long time ago. And we're just gonna continue to maximize the experience for both manufacturer, buyer and the sales rep like myself.

Taylor McAdams: I couldn't agree more and what do you think is like the biggest fulfillment and reward that you get out of being a member on visa because like I said, not for profit, it's volunteer, you spend your weekend so what do you get out of it? Well,

Michael Baca:I mean, there's there's definitely some benefits being a member you get to Everybody that not just within our realm, I sell boots for a living. I've sold hats, I've sold belts, I've sold shirts and jeans I've been around, but I get to go down and meet people that sell tap or get a new people that sell gifts, toys, get to talk a little bit with them hear their experiences, being in those meetings, we have our annual meeting that's open to the, to burn to all the WESA members, that's in January, and we get to hear, you know, everything, all the concerns where we'd see, you know, where we can improve where, you know, we've, we've really exceeded that. So it's, you know, I've just, if you ever get to be a fly on the wall, um, that, you know, I get to see it from a lot of different angles that I wouldn't normally see being just a sales rep or not being a part of this organization.

Taylor McAdams: And I'm gonna get a little bit personal here, Michael, if you because you have that experience from when you started in the beginning and retail. And so to me, it feels like you're really going to bat for the retailers and more specifically the consumers because you're able to put put objects and products in front of the retailers that are coming to buy, which then in turn, all of the consumers out there, like you and me are going to turn around and give our hard on our hard earned money to all these businesses. And so what's it like for you to have that impact? Oh,

Michael Baca: Well, you know, starting at retail, I really he cut your teeth, so to speak, you get to learn, like the habits of the consumer, you get to learn just everything, but foot types, body types, you know, all of it. And then if you care about it, he you, you take passion in putting the right product on there on them, whether it's about beauty, chats, whatever. So the retail was a huge part of why I really enjoyed the wholesale part. Because when doing when I talk to my buyers that you know, these guys own stores, and they spend hours in them stores and they know what works. So being in retail, my experience, there opens my eyes to listening to them a little bit better. And I think well, even though this product might be the best selling product for us, it might not be the right product for them. And I'm really able to, you know, transition into the right product for them. So that's how the retail aspect really helped me and the wholesale side of things.

Taylor McAdams: And I can tell that to and talk about your spirit experiences a little bit, I know you have to go back a little bit. In the very beginning. There's a lot of people out there that are working in sales floor right now they're in college, they're just trying to make paychecks, just trying to get paychecks to make rent. Talk about how important it is to start at the bottom and and where it will get you the opportunity.

Michael Baca: Absolutely. So I always tell everybody, you know, I came from nothing, I don't know anybody, you know, didn't come at like, I shouldn't be blessed to be where I'm at, hands down. The only reason I would say I have gotten to this point in life is because I really took a passion to boots and two hats. I loved it. And so when I started in retail, I would somebody wants to try on a new pair of boots pack. Yeah, let me get on there. Let me fit on make sure they fit right look at the quality, talk about the features and the benefits of the boot. If there is a new exotic leather that showed up at the store, I wanted to talk about it to whoever I could, I wanted to if there was a rep that would come in and do a boot seminar, I had seminar, I would ask them questions before and after like, well, how come the boot does this? And why why do you guys move into this color and toe? You know, really just asking questions, because I cared and you know, and it's fun. It's really nice whenever you fit somebody in the right food. And they've never had that experience before they don't go to the store back to the store. Because of the mood, they go back to the store because of you you did you did them a solid and go got them in the right product. So they're gonna take their trust to do and I've had a lot of that experience at retail really did. And I think that

Taylor McAdams: Could go the same for here at WWE. So when you're meeting with all your buyers, all the retailers, the way you treat them is important too. And talk about the standards there that like the wese as a general, every business that is participating in WESA has an end goal in mind, which is sales, but they also want their customers to feel the retailers didn't feel feel some type of way. So how important is it to have that aspect of it? Oh,

Michael Baca: yes. So again, you know, making the buyer happy. So we can't always do that. And we miss out everybody messes up in this business, you know, but if you're there you you know, be as honest as you can so that I might not be right every time but I'll be there every time. You know, they'll really trust you continue to make the right decisions on both your behalf, you know, discuss those, have those real conversations with these retail buyers. And, you know, make sure that, you know, I know you absolutely love this book, don't you know, it's might be a little soon for your area, let's hold off or if there's something that they don't, they're not sure but you know, you're gonna be able to they're gonna have success, you know, take a chance, let's take a chance on this together. If it don't work, I'll do everything I can to make it red. So yeah, does that equal partnership in this, you know, we're both here for the same goal. And it's, you know, like, we're all here to make money. Yes. But for that end consumer, that kid that's never worn a pair of boots, put a first pair of boots on and then fit right and he just likes the way they look or that 85 year old that says he can't wear boots no more because he is beat Shane. And they heard him and you're like, well, technology's changed. Let me show you something that might work. And he finds he gets wear boots that he hadn't worn in 20 years, because he felt like he couldn't do it anymore. So, you know, just that's how it gets to the end consumer. And our experiences here, you know, working together, get them there help that

Taylor McAdams: For sure. And I love that you said those are like some tips and tricks. I've got to kind of lean in on that a little bit more and ask like, what are some tips and tricks to maneuver WESA? I mean, it's long exhausting. This, this particular show, for those of you out there that don't know is is actually shorter. It's not as many days but in January, that's like the big beginning of the year fresh start buying opportunity. And I'm sure there's long day, you're you're no tired. So tell us some tips and tricks that you've learned over the years. How do you survive this long experience that Lisa,

Michael Baca: I don't know if I say this, but when you first get in this business is so much fun, you have the dinners or after hours, and you just socialize so much and you wear yourself out by day three, you're not worth that cred. So my tips and tricks to lasting are maneuvering through he says, Have a little bit of fun, but make sure you set a bedtime because you know, you got to get here for work gear for business, and you need to be there and be your best. So that's my as my tip of the day. Hey, that's

Taylor McAdams: really great advice. Because especially people here in the Western and equestrian industry, this for the show here. We're all relational, the industry is so small, and I feel like it gets smaller every year it feels even though it's growing, it's just the more people you get to know and you're exposed to. So that's really great advice. Because you you want to hang out with your friends, you want to go out to the other showrooms and see what they have to offer. But at the end of the day,

Michael Baca: I will say every time I leave this place, I give everyone a hug and tell them how much I love them. And we might not see each other for three, six months, a lot of these people and might not even talk that long. But as soon as we all show up and start unloading samples and setting up showrooms, it was like I saw all of them yesterday, like everything takes off where it left. It's amazing. This industry is the only industry I've ever had that experience where the relationships are so strong and tight, where they don't matter if you haven't seen a person in a week or three months or a year. 

Taylor McAdams: It's like you never left their side. And why do you think that is?

Michael Baca: I don't know. I think it's the it's the culture of the Western world. You know, we're not everyday people, were we, you know, we were down to aerosol to Sapu wheat or grain, whatever that phrase is people. And, you know, we don't like to lie; we don't cheat. And you know, there's a lot of lot of reasons. It's gotta be it's gotta be all of that.

Taylor McAdams: It's, yeah, perfect combination, for sure. And I think that's good to hear too. For the consumers out there that buy from the retailers, they know that they're buying from trusted sources, trusted people that the quality and the name behind a brand that is involved in WESA. To that needs a lot. So, Michael, thank you so much for taking the time to sit with us and explain to us a little bit more about what we say is and I hope we get to do this more. In January coming up. We can do some more fun things. So yay. Thank you