Photo above by Jacob Factor: Christina Hernandez checks out a customer at her new store.
By Jacob Factor, Contributing Writer
Quiet and unassuming on the outside—bold and full of character on the inside. This is how to describe Okie Dokie Mercantile, and its owner, OBU alumnus Christina Hernandez.
Okie Dokie opened November of last year and, true to its name, sells only made-in-Oklahoma products ranging from soaps to candy (which will soon be sold in a candy store that is being opened next door to the Okie Dokie later this year) to dog treats to jewelry and jellies.
“Oklahoma is important,” Hernandez said.
She said Shawnee was missing a shop with Oklahoma-made products and set out to fill that void.
“It’s a challenge,” she said, “to find makers who will sell products for wholesale.”
“I have to find people who will give me a chance,” Hernandez said. Her shop currently has five vendors and various other makers, including Little Red Bird Soaps who is a newbie to the wholesale market. Okie Dokie is the only store in Oklahoma to sell their products.
Hernandez graduated from OBU in 2013 with a degree in graphic design. She had a unique college experience; she was at OBU for seven years.
During those years, she had six different on-campus jobs – at the College of Nursing, the College of Theology, Student life, the Bookstore, the Computer Lab and the “Bison” – which she said gave her many of the skills she has needed to operate her business.
She worked in a secretarial position at the college of nursing, which she said taught her how to work with people.
At the “Bison” she worked selling advertisements. The skills she learned doing this job helps her with what she says is the biggest challenge to small business: getting her name out to customers.
“If you’re going to be a small business you need to advertise,” she said.
“OBU taught me to think out of the box. In any business you are going to have problems. Finding an answer can come in different ways.”
Hernandez said she is quickly learning how to be a businessperson, which to her pastor at Blackburn Baptist Church, Larry Sparks, is a good thing.
“We need more people in the business world like Christina Hernandez,” he said.
Mr. Sparks is very proud of Hernandez, he said, which is evident in the way he describes her.
“She has a spiritual introversion that expresses itself with a combination of Mary and Martha,” he said. “Industrious but at the same time sitting at Jesus’ feet. She can be the Mary taking notes or she can be the Martha hearing what he says and going and doing it.”
Mr. Sparks’ wife, Vickie said Hernandez is a “selfless giver of herself,” which shows in the way she says she deals with customers.
“Sometimes customers come in to just talk or vent. So, you listen and sometimes help them think of ways to solve problems they may have. But, most importantly, you listen,” she said.
Mrs. Sparks said a man who uses the phone service, Lifeline, that is run out of Okie Dokie has started going to her church. “She’s turned this into a witness opportunity,” Mr. Sparks said.
Mr. Sparks cites a poem that he wrote called “Trying” to describe Hernandez. It reads, “There ought to be amid the crowns a special one for those who are down and can’t get up but won’t get up, and so continue to drink the dregs, the bitter dregs that life has given. While others soar high they just keep living. There ought to be some glory for those who just keep trying.”
He said Hernandez certainly keeps trying, and that blesses her because he sees God working through her.