Alumni Business Spotlight – 79/Salt

Sarah Sparks in front of their store on the square in Canyon, Texas

Engler College of Business graduates, Sarah and J. Rich Sparks, recently decided to dabble in entrepreneurship when they bought the boutique clothing store, 79/Salt, in downtown Canyon, Texas.

We bought the store in August 2019. We had been contemplating a business/investment venture for years and all the right doors opened to purchase the store. This venture really allows us to utilize our respective skill sets and we always wanted to be involved with everything happening on the square in Canyon.

– Sarah Sparks

According to Sarah and J. Rich, 79 Salt is a men’s & women’s boutique offering unique clothing with just enough edge. 79 Salt’s unique name comes with great thought. Just as salt adds flavor to your food, style adds flavor to your life. So, as a purveyor of flavor, 79 Salt searches diligently for unique styles that encompass the vibes of the panhandle with a touch of edge. 

Q & A with Sarah and J. Rich Sparks

Sarah and J. Rich at their graduation ceremony in May 2019

What degrees do you have from WT?

– BBA in Accounting and Finance – 2014
– MS in Finance and Economics – December 2019

J. Rich 
– MBA – May 2019

Who were some faculty that influenced you during you time in the College of Business? Why?


Dr. Anne Macy – She was the hardest professor but I always learned the most from her, and I know I am speaking for all of her students when I say that. 

Dr. Jonathan Shaffer – He was a wonderful professor and his class was always fun and interesting. He once told us we should learn to take a 30 minute nap under our desks during work hours. I hope he knows that many of us took him very seriously. 

Ms. Karen Cooley – She is the reason that I met my husband, and I’m not sure that she knows that. On my very first day of class as a WT student, she had us fill out introduction cards. One of the lines on the card was to say something interesting about yourself and my answer was “I need a job.” Mrs. Cooley sent my name to the athletics department which ultimately put me in the same office as J. Rich.  

J. Rich

Dr. Syed Anwar – He was the very first College of Business professor I had and he/his class ensured me that seeking a degree in business was the right choice. 

Dr. Neil Terry – I never had him as a professor but I did have him as a mentor while working at West Texas A&M University.  I greatly benefited from witnessing his big picture/innovative mindset and work ethic – the Engler College of Business would not be what it is today without his years of dedication to Panhandle students and business community. 

Sarah and J. Rich on their wedding day near the water feature on the WTAMU campus

Memories from WT

Probably too many to name. We not only found each other – we found ourselves here.  We made life-long friends. We met life-long mentors. We got married on campus. We have both spent part of our careers at WT.  Witnessing and being a part of the University’s major growth and transformation.  

How have your business degrees helped you with your business so far?

Simply put, earning business degrees created the confidence we needed to even take this risk.  The Engler College of Business did a great job of being intentional about always providing relevant/real world curriculum.  It was not about multiple choice tests – we went through case study after study, we had to prove which stock was the best purchase, all the way to forming your own potential business venture from the ground up. Accounting and marketing have definitely proven to be the most utilized skills in this specific endeavor.  

Words of advice to current students:

Stop procrastinating and do not take a break between degrees!