While preparing for a completely different career, Michelle Robertson took a job that wasn’t supposed to be her “real” work but led indirectly to her present position as senior marketing manager for The Shops at La Cantera and North Star Mall. Robertson was studying at Phillips Junior College in Las Vegas toward an associate’s degree to become a paralegal when she took a part-time job at Shepler’s Western Wear. Not long after, she was in charge of opening a second Vegas store for the San Antonio-based company. With that experience, she was hooked — not on the sales side of retail, but on event planning. “It’s the marketing and management side of business I enjoy,” says Robertson. Originally from San Antonio, she moved to Nevada with her family in 1987 when her father, retired from the Air Force, decided to move his construction business there. “Business was booming then,” she says, “so it made sense.” Since she was about to start her senior year as a varsity cheerleader at Samuel Clemens High School in Schertz, her mother offered to let her finish here, but Robertson decided to take her chances with the rest of the family.
As a new student at a much larger high school, Robertson lost her place in the cheer pyramid — something she had been preparing for since toddler dance lessons and years on a Pop Warner cheer squad coached by her mother. She’s still glad she did it: “The marketing person has to be the rah-rah person on the staff.” The enthusiasm, preparation and a touch of adrenaline that worked so well in cheerleading stood Robertson in good stead as she climbed a ladder in her new profession. For about five years, she worked for Las Vegas Events, helping with activities such as the National Finals Rodeo, the first X Games and the Miss Universe pageant. Along the way she learned how to gain corporate sponsorships, deal with hotel executives and event producers and handle celebrities. The job of planning events, says Robertson, “still intrigues me, because it’s ever-changing and ever-evolving.” As she continued to meet and impress people in this new world, Robertson went to selling sponsorship marketing ideas with a casino chip company, from which she was lured to a NASCAR sport park and a local Pepsi bottling company. All the while, she gained an event-management perspective that helped her get yet another new job when a former Pepsi colleague asked her to come over to a new shopping mall and develop the sponsorship advertising department.
The mall, to be called Fashion Show, was under redevelopment with a new concept, producing seven live fashion shows a day, with state-of-the art lighting and sound systems, three days a week. “It was very fun, very innovative for the mall industry,” says Robertson, but it was a challenge to keep the shows fresh, with consistently high production values. It became Robertson’s job to find other events to use the space on the off days, Monday through Thursday. Meanwhile, Robertson had married her husband, Michael, whom she has known since they were in high school together, and the couple had a son, Kaden, now age 7. “When we were blessed with a baby, we knew we didn’t want to raise him in Las Vegas,” she says. “I know there are people there who live a normal family life outside the casinos, but that’s not where we wanted to be.” The loss of her husband’s brother in 2005, her father in 2006 and her mother the following year left the Robertsons “ready to find new ground,” she says. Hoping to get closer to home, she asked her bosses to let her know if anything ever opened up in Texas. Months later, when a vice president asked her at a function if she was still interested in moving back to Texas, she jumped at the chance to interview for her present job. “I grew up shopping at North Star, and I was part of the team that opened La Cantera in 2005,” she says.
While Robertson has her office at La Cantera, she divides her time between the two different properties. North Star, she says, “is for power shopping, when you know which stores you’re going to and need to do a quick shop.” La Cantera, on the edge of the Hill Country, “is a more leisurely shopping experience,” with stores that are more spread out, water features and outdoor music and 11 sit-down restaurants, “so you’ll take your time and enjoy the atmosphere.” In a typical day, she’ll spend time at both shopping centers, depending on which one has an event coming up sooner. At North Star, her first event was the 50th anniversary. “North Star is so much about tradition,” Robertson says, and she hopes she started a new one with a signature event, honoring “six philanthropic ladies” with a ticketed event whose proceeds went to the honorees’ favorite charities.
At La Cantera, she was asked to put together a summer jazz festival, with a series of outdoor concerts to call attention to the center’s “street atmosphere” of shops in an area that opened in 2008, “but some people still didn’t know it was there.” It’s a life of constant deadlines and attention to multiple responsibilities. “I thrive on pressure,” says Robertson. “I try to be detailed and straight to the point, so vendors know what I want. I also know how to bend and react to change.” Not a Type A personality, her even keel “allows me the ability not to lose it” when the unexpected happens. Her absorption in her job even carries over into her personal life. “My family makes fun of me because I am such a party planner, keeping track of everything, researching cake suppliers,” she says. “I still have the binder from my son’s first birthday party. I enjoy doing it, whether it’s for my own guests or for other people. I like making people feel good, seeing their reaction, at my own house or at the jazz festival here.” The most challenging thing about her job, says Robertson, is time management. “My job could expand to take over every waking hour, so I try to stay on task when I’m planning an event. I have a great support staff and being able to allocate jobs and responsibilities to them helps me manage my time.” Fortunately, her hours are flexible; if she has to stay late for an event, she can take more time at home in the morning.
Ironically, if there’s one thing she has a hard time fitting in, it’s shopping. “With this job, everybody thinks you can just shop whenever,” she says. “I usually don’t shop unless I need something to wear to a (work) function. I need to be driven.”