Everyone and everything in life has an origin story. Distinguished Rush Springs resident Christa Porter is no exception.
So, in order to fully understand just who Christa Porter is and how she operates, we must go back to the very beginning.
The daughter of former University of Oklahoma football standout and National Football League player, Jack Porter and wife Jane, Christa grew up and was raised in Rush Springs.
When discussing what it was like to grow up in our small town, Porter described it as “safe, secure, fun, and free.”
Whether it was riding bikes around town, going to the swimming pool, working in the fields, or on the basketball court, Porter loved the camaraderie and bonds that were created with friends, which were core memories of her formative years.
Perhaps more than anywhere else, Christa was most at home whenever she was on the basketball court, where she shined.
While in high school, under the tutelage of Coach Phil “Sonny” Landrum, Porter learned the fundamentals of the game and progressed as a player, so much so that she attracted the attention of Arizona State.
“I had been playing AAU ball and I put all my eggs in the proverbial basket, and I was bound and determined to go to Arizona State. They were recruiting me, and I had just decided that’s where I wanted to go,” Porter said.
Unfortunately, just a few weeks away from meeting with the Division I coach, Christa suffered a knee injury while the Redskins were playing in the postseason.
“It was so painful. We were in the playoffs. I remember it was against Ninnekah and I got clipped in the knee and we just thought it might be a sprain,” Porter explained.
After getting the injury examined, there was no serious, career-ending damage. However, a minor surgery was required to repair the knee.
Porter said, “Landrum had to make the call that I had gone under the knife, and it was a scope. They had to clean up, tighten up some stuff but it wasn’t a major surgery.”
Sadly, that was all it took for the Sun Devil’s coach to pass on Porter.
“No return phone call, no visit, nothing… I just felt that that’s where I was supposed to go and I held out blindly, naively.”
The aspirations and dreams of playing major Division I basketball were highly important motivating factors for Christa in her athletic pursuit. As previously mentioned, her dad, Jack, played at OU and she very much so wanted to make her own DI dreams a reality.
Christa said, “My dad played Division I ball. I wanted, wanted to follow in his footsteps. I never really shared that with folks, and I don’t think folks understood that meant so much to me and which is why I myopically focused and worked as hard as I did. I wanted to play Division I ball.”
Although one door was closed, another one quickly opened.
Once the Arizona State option was no longer available, Christa questioned what she wanted to do next. Should she even attempt to play somewhere and further her athletic career, or should she call it quits and just go to OU as a student?
It was at that time whenever NOC-Tonkawa came into the picture, a two-year junior college. Although now a respectable, viable option, the JUCO route at this point in time, was perceived by many as much less glamorous and nearly frowned upon.
However, this became a blessing in disguise for Christa.
“I do believe that everything happens for a reason and God moves you and shifts you and closes doors and opens doors. Those were the best two years of my athletic career.”
The two years spent in Tonkawa allowed her to grow in all facets of life, as a person, on the court, in the classroom, and in relationships with teammates.
“From there, I didn’t know if I wanted to move forward after those two years, the best two years I could’ve ever had. When I look back on those college years… great friends, great competition, great coach, great community, it was just everything you would hope for leaving home for the first time,” Porter said.
After gaining interest from a couple different schools, she decided to go to Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee to finish her degree and basketball career.
Sadly, the injury bug hit once again, and curtailed her athletic time at OBU.
“When I think about my OBU career, I’m grateful that my education was paid for, but from a basketball career perspective, it was a disappointment, but you know what, you have to have them. It’s one of those things where you can try as hard as you want to control your life and work hard in the gym and try to do all these things to influence the outcome, but I think that was the point of my life where I began to learn, especially from a spiritual perspective, that you can’t control your life. As hard as you try and as much as you think you can, you can’t. Life is just going to happen.”
After graduating in December of 1995 and spending a season as a graduate assistant at OBU, Christa knew that she was ready for a new beginning, a new chapter in her life outside of basketball.
While she certainly would have wanted a different outcome to finish out her playing days, the setbacks and tough times prepared her for what was ahead: corporate America.
For the next 25 years, Christa embarked on a journey that would take her all over the country.
She worked for Eaton Corporation, Best Buy, AutoNation, Pacific Gas and Electric, and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. Places she lived during that time span included Shawnee, Ft. Lauderdale, San Francisco, and Indianapolis, along with parts of North Carolina and Minnesota.
“It’s hard for me sometimes to describe what I did for corporate America for 25 years of my life. I think the best way I could describe it is I was a corporate coach, meaning, companies brought me in to focus on their internal talent. Not just the talent that wants to come in and do a good job and draw a good paycheck, but they wanted me to focus on the top 30%. These were folks that had ambition to want to do more. They wanted to climb the ladder, they wanted to be challenged, they wanted to grow, and so what I focused on was building talent strategies for the internal workforce that truly wanted to become an executive one day,” Porter said.
She continued, “So, I stumbled onto this. Some companies called it leadership development, some called it talent management, but bottom line in what I focused on was building tools and programs that would help leaders groom their talent, retain their talent, and push them to be the best possible managers, leaders, whatever they were doing, they could possibly be.”
Christa joked that it was “the fun side of HR.”
“I didn’t hire, fire, or train. I was on, truly, the career track and retention,” she explained.
Although she did not become a basketball coach like many around her wanted her to become, she did, essentially, become a coach in another setting. Being a self-described corporate coach or cheerleader, she was fulfilled by teaching and building up others, especially executives.
“There are a lot of really good people out there that just need tools. They need guidance, they need training, and my most favorite aspect of my job was the one-on-one coaching with executives who have to be tough, they can’t show weakness, they have to win, they have to post up the results, but to close the door, and see, male or female, truly vulnerable and going, ‘I don’t feel like I have this right. I don’t feel like I have the right team. I don’t feel like I’m setting the right goals. I don’t feel like I’m having the right conversations. How do I do this, Christa?’ That was my favorite aspect of my job. I absolutely loved when folks were willing to say, ‘I need help.”
She continued, “We would come up with customized plans and we would meet as often as the leader wanted to meet and my job was to help them get out of their way and be the best version of themselves. If you asked me if I missed corporate America, that would be the one thing that I truly, truly missed, that one-on-one interaction with the leader.”
Christa is, as she would describe, a “transformer.” She loved going to companies, building and nurturing her work, and once it was steady and established, move on to the next assignment and begin building once again.
“I would target these companies that were at a place where they knew change needed to happen and these programs were broken or nonexistent. Once I would go in and build these programs and give the leaders programs and the tools and when things started getting stable, I would get itchy for my next assignment, my next transformation,” Porter said.
While this was a rewarding occupation, 25 years’ worth of its stressful nature and high pace eventually caught up to Christa and she began questioning whether or not she was up for another assignment.
It was around this time that she also began to think about home. Questions crept into her mind about the bed and breakfast.
“I’ll never forget about a year after I had been in Indianapolis, I woke up and I was like, ‘I wonder what’s going on with the hotel?’ So, I called Renee, and just said ‘Hey, been thinking about the hotel. If it ever comes up for sale, keep me in mind,” Porter said.
After that conversation was finished, it was forgotten about until Christa had moved to Ft. Lauderdale.
“I sold my place at 10:00 that morning and I think by 11:30, Renee reached out and said Elaine and Richard had decided to put the hotel up for sale.”
That meant it was decision time. Christa had until 5:30 p.m. of the same day to put an offer on the hotel.
With the help of her dad, Jack, they crunched the numbers and called back to make an offer. By 8:30 p.m., the hotel was hers.
After spending all of her professional life in corporate America, Christa was finally moving back home, fulfilling a promise she had made to her family.
“I don’t know how I came up with this number, but when I officially left Oklahoma, I think I was 24. Mom, dad, sis, and I were super close. We’ve always been close, and this was hard for them. I’ll never forget I said, ‘I’ll be back by the time I’m 40.’ I don’t know how I came up with 40, it just made sense to me, and I was back by 43. I always knew I wanted to come back.”
While moving back home after 25 years to run a bed and breakfast may sound like a spur of the moment decision, it was not. Perhaps, subconsciously, this had been in the back of Christa’s mind for a while.
“When I was a little girl coming up Depot Hill, I don’t know why but I was mesmerized by this hotel. I’ll never forget, I said to myself, ‘One of these days, I’m going to own that.”
Just as she once dreamed, she did become the owner of the hotel, but with that came many challenges, she soon learned.
Although the plan was to preserve as much originality and history of the bed and breakfast as possible, many renovations were necessary to modernize the hotel. This long, thorough process took four and a half years to complete.
Now, the Rosewood Inn is modern with high-end quality, especially for our small town.
The inn offers five themed suites that differentiate in size and price. A free breakfast is also provided as part of the stay as well.
The bed and breakfast has much to offer guests.
Christa said, “I do let folks know the rooms come with all the modern amenities, your own bathroom, large flat screen tv, refrigerator, coffee machine, beverages are provided, blow dryers, toiletries, all of that, and 100% Turkish cotton towels. The only thing I haven’t added yet is your own robe and we will be adding those too.”
Porter wants guests to relax, enjoy their time, and receive royal treatment.
“When you come to Rush Springs, America, I want you to feel as though you can stay at a place and feel as though you are pampering yourself. I know folks work hard and they don’t have a lot of time off, and so if they choose to stay here, I want it to be special for them. We’ve really worked hard to be able to provide that.”
Along with running the Rosewood Inn, Porter also has two other businesses.
The Rosewood Reception Hall and Private Garden, an event center and garden in the back portion of the property for occasions such as weddings, class and family reunions, birthday parties, baby showers, etc.
She also started Sissy’s Antique Shop, stoking her passion for historic items. Thanks to local community members, Porter is able to find great balance with her antiques.
She consigns with local people in our area to bring in antiques and then sells to mostly nonlocals, who make up “90% of her customer base” through online and social avenues.
Safe to say, the three businesses are a welcomed challenge that keep her busy and help give her a sense of purpose now that she is settling into her hometown roots.
“I find that it is either the hotel, event center, or here, at the antique shop, most of the time, I’m helping people with transitions.”
She explained, “Unfortunately, with the antique shop, a lot of that is death and so, how do you help folks transition their material things, simplifying their life, and letting go? There’s lots of tears with that and I’m okay with that because life happens. With the event center, weddings, birthdays, baby showers, which is very special to me to just see these families come together with these big milestone events. Then, I will tell you, a lot of folks I have at the hotel have been going hard and fast and just need to rest, just need to unplug.”
“It wasn’t too long ago that I’m like that’s the business I’m in, is helping people with their transitions, making sure that they feel supported, and that they have someone that they can trust, and that they’ve just got a safe place to come celebrate, or rest or whatever it may be.”
So, what is next for Christa Porter?
“I think it’s just settling in, truly settling in and enjoying what my family and I have built. My whole entire life has been a race and once you get it built, you leave, and then you set yourself up for the next race and the next challenge. You get it built and then you leave. For me, I think it’s learning to settle in with my roots,” Porter said.
So, for the foreseeable future, you can expect to see Christa operating her three local businesses and preserving history throughout our community, it is just how she is wired. Although it is no easy task, if anyone is up for the challenge, it is Christa Porter.