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Oxford's Women on the Move: Lost in the '60s

Photo by Talbert Toole.

HottyToddy.com’s Steve Vassallo sat down with our very own Babs Blair for this week’s “Oxford’s Women on the Move.”

Babs Blair may be the smartest person I’ve ever met. If not, she’s darn close. In addition to raising “her three sons,” she has made a name for herself in corporate America. Here is her story with many chapters left to be written as the advertising manager for HottyToddy.com has got it going.

Vassallo: Babs, tell us about your childhood in Jackson and what it was like attending Murrah High School.
Blair: I’m shocked I survived it! Football, pep rallies, carpooling, soda fountain in the afternoon…the Woodstock years in full swing!
Vassallo: Upon arriving at Ole Miss, how did you find your niche in marketing?
Blair: After failing engineering, I fell into what came naturally for me. I actually attended the University of Southern Mississippi first and knew I wanted to learn more about what made businesses successful. I loved class projects in advertising, promoting and selling. Sounds boring but it was fun. When I transferred to Ole Miss, I had my sons and had to take classes at night many times.
Vassallo: Being married to a former head coach at Ole Miss (Russell coached both men’s and women’s tennis in the ’70s), this must have been exciting for you as to meeting many in the Ole Miss family?
Blair: Russell wasn’t coaching any longer when I met him in Tupelo. He actually “tried” to teach me tennis but when that effort was futile, we got together off of the court 35 years ago and eventually got married. We go to the tennis matches on campus now and it is fun to meet his fellow players while he was at Ole Miss and other members of the coaching staff when he was coaching. His name is on one of the plaques at the Walk of Fame on campus which is cool. I love being a cheerleader!
Vassallo: Raising a family, while in Tupelo, greatly delayed your starting time into corporate America. How big of a disadvantage was this for you?
Blair: Negotiating with three sons gave me an education I couldn’t have gotten any other way. Those guys were tough! Having time before starting work was an advantage for me. It gave me time to grow up a little before entering the corporate world.
Vassallo: Your experience in establishing trade shows primarily in the residential home furnishings and design area, has taken you to some interesting places.
Blair: I wouldn’t necessarily refer to Coontown Landing as interesting, but, well, maybe! My career took me to High Point, North Carolina, home of the largest home furnishings market in the world, Las Vegas, where I was one of three leasing members of the team developing a 5 million square foot marketplace and lastly to Dallas, where I worked in a more design and open-daily center at the World Trade Center. Being recruited to new places with new showroom facilities has been an awesome experience.
Vassallo: Waking up in the backyard of Grizzly Bears (Big Fork, Montana) have to have had some anxious moments.
Blair: Steve, have you ever had an uninvited guest to dinner who weighed 2000 pounds wearing a full length fur? We had bears on the deck and deer, elk, turkeys and pheasants in our backyard. It was heavenly and somewhere we would go as often as we could to the home we designed and built there.
Vassallo: Not asking this to flatter you, but you are truly a lot of fun to be around. How much has your personality influenced your success?
Blair: If things get too serious, I try and lighten things up. I believe that getting to know something about the prospective client on a more personal level somehow makes a meeting more productive. People like to do business with people they like.
Vassallo: You have undoubtedly learned some valuable lessons through your career. Care to share a few?
Blair: No doesn’t always mean no. It just means you have to try a little harder and develop another approach. Sending boxes of chocolates didn’t hurt either!
Vassallo: What is your personal philosophy towards selling?
Blair: At least for me, I had to believe in what I was selling. I know prospective clients have appreciated my passion for the projects I was promoting. It made it far more interesting for them to hear my proposal to them. Face to face was an advantage so I have traveled quite a bit through the years nationally and internationally.
Vassallo: Oxford has remained a constant magnet for you. Having lived many other interesting places such as Las Vegas, Dallas and Montana, to name a few, what brought you back here?
Blair: My son, Gray Edmondson, his wife, Macey and my two adorable grandsons, Charles and Mason, were the biggest reason. Also, Russell is from Oxford and has a brother that lives here. We have spent so much time in Oxford that it was like coming home and we’re here to stay. I tell folks that my feet are “nailed to the ground” this time!
Vassallo: What do you think your primary strength is?
Blair: Communication. I am a pretty good problem solver. I’ve probably created [problems] too.
Vassallo: What truly motivates you?
Blair: Getting up, getting out and meeting the new people at the new businesses around town. So much has changed and it feels like now is the best time to be rooted in this community.
Vassallo: Sum up your corporate philosophy into three sentences
or less.
Blair: Love what you do or don’t do it. It matters. Life is too short to be unhappy in what you do every day. I’m a very happy lady!

Steve VassalloSteve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. You can contact Steve at sovassallo@gmail.com or call him at 985-852-7745.

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