While at UNT, Thomas Pemberton started an online business, landed a full-time marketing job and won a Marketer of the Year award.

Thomas Pemberton

Thomas Pemberton

Thomas Pemberton's decision to transfer to UNT was easy.

"Every person that I was talking to who was doing something of professional accomplishment said, 'I went to UNT,' or 'I am at UNT,'" says Pemberton, who came to UNT from North Lake College in 2010 to earn a bachelor's degree from UNT's College of Business with a focus in marketing.

Pemberton plans to graduate from UNT in December (debt-free, he adds proudly), but he has already built a strong professional foundation. While studying at UNT, Pemberton started an online business, found a full-time job at a Dallas-based marketing company and earned the DFW American Marketing Association's Collegiate Marketer of the Year award. He credits several UNT faculty members and the entrepreneurial spirit of the university for helping him succeed.

"The school offers an opportunity to be closer to professors," Pemberton says. "I can go have lunch with a professor and talk about something going on in class or just get professional guidance, and he can actually know my face and not just know me as a number.

"The open-door policy is truly open door. It's not just a myth," he says. "You hear from others from high-end schools who say, 'I don't even know who my professor is.' That's sad."

Finding support for his dreams

Pemberton was waking up at 5 a.m. to wait tables at Le Peep, a breakfast and lunch restaurant in Flower Mound and searching for a way to make extra money. That's when he found the inspiration to start an online business.

"I realized that people who were coming into the restaurant had a broken phone or a damaged phone or they were getting a new phone," he says.

He decided to use his sales smarts to start an online business selling technology accessories and replacement parts for laptops or smartphones.

"I read a lot, I Googled a lot, and I reached out to Professor Jeff Sager in marketing to share my new business to connect with alumni to grow and acquire additional capital," Pemberton says.

Sager, the chair of the Department of Marketing and Logistics in UNT's College of Business, helped him get in touch with alumni and others at UNT with experience that could help him. Pemberton used his knowledge gleaned from his UNT classes and researched investment portfolios and merger and acquisition reports to determine where he could source and customize electronic products. He tapped into his network of contacts for help.

"The campus culture is very entrepreneurial," Pemberton says. "Someone knows someone who wants to help you. It provides two degrees of separation. It's a supportive atmosphere for people's dreams."

Earning professional success

He quit his job as a server three weeks after starting his business, called Trending Global.

"It became very profitable extremely fast," he says.

Earlier this year, his mom became his first official employee.

"If I need inventory or product ordered, she can order it," says Pemberton, a Flower Mound High School graduate. "She can also take care of anything that has to do with customer service or new product line extensions. She's stronger on the areas I need to work on. We balance each other out professionally, and she's an inspiration for me daily."

He spends about two or three hours a day managing distributor inquires for his online business, responding to emails, sourcing products and following technology trends. His mom spends an additional hour and a half to two hours a day managing the shipping and delivery, he says.

In addition to running his online business and attending classes, Pemberton has a full-time job as a project manager with SPYCH, a Dallas-based marketing research and strategy consulting firm.

Gaining recognition

Earlier this year, Pemberton was named one of two finalists for the Collegiate Marketer of the Year award given by the DFW American Marketing Association. He was nominated for implementing a digital marketing strategy for Culinaire International. The project used emerging technology and social media to increase brand awareness and brand affinity for Belo Mansion. At the association's gala on April 11, Pemberton clinched the award.

"I was nervous," he says of winning the DFW AMA award. "My voice was shaking, I was trembling. I did not know I was going to win, honestly. But I was proud knowing that people who were there helped me get that award."

He sees the award as an opportunity for the public to "see what this campus actually brings," says Pemberton, the former president of the UNT AMA chapter.

Pemberton said he was drawn to UNT by the faculty members and the growth of the university. He credits Michael Gade and Francisco Guzman of the business faculty for helping him succeed.

"I don't know why anyone would not want to go to school there," he says.

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