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UMW Alumna Takes Marketing to a New Level

February 28, 2019

Lesli (Furniss) Stearns grew up in Frenchtown, Mont. and it was her love for horses that turned her to Montana Western in pursuit of a Natural Horsemanship degree.

Lesli S- In article

Stearns, however, had a very unique college experience. In 2009 she became Miss Rodeo Montana, a prestigious title that made her the face of Montana professional rodeo. Stearns traveled all over the state promoting rodeo and the Western way of life. The pinnacle of this reign is running for the title of Miss Rodeo America, held in Las Vegas every December in conjunction with the National Finals Rodeo.

Stearns did all this while being a full-time college student.

“Dillon was the best place to be doing all of this. The block scheduling at UMW really made it possible to be Miss Rodeo Montana,” Stearns said.

After graduating in 2011 with her B.S. in Natural Horsemanship, Stearns got a job as the equine manager on a large ranch outside of Wolf Creek, Mont. She admits it was a dream job. One day while riding a horse, Stearns had the idea to make t-shirts with humorous rodeo sayings. Her company Rank Rodeo Threads was born.

The company started slowly, with Stearns solely marketing it. After a year of cultivating the t-shirt company, she received an offer from a buyer in Texas. A week after selling Rank Rodeo Threads, Stearns was hired by the buyer to market the company.

“I could work from my computer from anywhere so I loaded up my horses and moved to Texas,” Stearns said while reflecting. She still resides in the Lone Star State.

Stearns knew she had a mind for business but her experiences with Rank Rodeo Threads lit a fire. After arriving in Texas, Stearns launched Hotbrand Marketing, a blog about branding, marketing, business, and mindset.

With her heart in the Western industry, Stearns aims to provide entrepreneurs with relatable and actionable tips they can use to build and market their own businesses.

“You could have the best product in the world but if you can’t market it, people won’t see it and be able to buy it,” Stearns explained.

Looking into the future, Stearns would like to start offering online marketing courses that people could download. She notes that time and time again people start companies but then don’t have the resources to properly promote them. She hopes to change that.

Experience One and the Natural Horsemanship degree program at the University of Montana Western helped launch Stearns onto her career path and she says, “I’m very thankful for my education at UMW.”

To learn more about Montana Western and Experience One, please visit or call 877-683-7331.