9 Tips For Starting Your Equestrian BusinessPosted on October 18, 2017
“Entrepreneurs all have one character trait in common: stupidity.”
Strangely, this is the one quote about entrepreneurship that has stuck in my head over the years. Before I ruffle any feathers (pull any manes?), let me clarify that the first definition of “stupid” is showing a lack of good sense or judgement – not unintelligence. Starting your own equestrian business will never really make sense on paper. You invest your entire life, savings and time into an idea that may or may not make you a living someday, if at all.
When I was fifteen years old, I had a grand idea. I wanted to start an equestrian fashion line, blending functional riding apparel with the kind of traditional equestrian style I saw when flipping through the glossy pages of Vogue magazine.
This was an insanely stupid, foolhardy idea. While 80% of “regular” businesses fail within 18 months of launching, the percentage for clothing companies is even higher. To start an apparel brand with little capital and no business experience is basically like trying to ride a Grand Prix on a Shetland pony.
But I really wanted to do it, more than anything else in the world. And two years in, it’s somewhat sustainable (!). My reasoning is that if I can do it, you can too! But I have some tips so that you can learn from my experience.
Top Equestrian Business Tips
1. Do SOMETHING
Street & Saddle was originally a blog about equestrian fashion and lifestyle. Without the funds or savvy to start the brand yet, this was the next best thing. It was a lot of work for no financial gain or long term effect – however, it let me explore what I wanted to accomplish and led to some great connections. There’s a lot you can do without taking “the big dive.”
2. Tell everyone
Unless you have a patent pending on a super original idea, you need to tell everyone about it. When I was still in school, working part time at the barn, I weaseled Street & Saddle into every conversation with anyone I met. Turns out one of those people was my business partner, Tina. She went ahead and read my blog, invited me for lunch, and we launched four months later. If it hadn’t been for all the chin wagging, S&S wouldn’t yet exist.
3. Find your “tribe”
There is a saying that you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with, and it rings surprisingly true with business. There are a lot of ups and downs, and you need tireless cheerleaders as well as tough love. One of my best friends sat me down not long after starting my business and proceeded to rip apart the S&S Instagram account, saying it was confusing, incoherent and low quality. I almost cried, but I got my “game” together, and less than two years later almost all of our sales come from that platform.
4. The internet is almighty
If you’re trying to get your equestrian business “out there,” more people will meet you virtually than face to face, and the ones who know you personally are still going to look you up online. A simple, well designed one page website and established social media (even if you don’t update it much) will get you way farther than you think it will.
A super common mistake is thinking you need to outsource your website, social media, bookkeeping, manufacturing, marketing etc. right off the get go. This is a huge drain on your finances. When we first started, I doubted my sewing skills so much that I insisted we outsource all of our sewing to a local factory. It was only when we were under an insane deadline and I enlisted the help of a talented former classmate that I realized we could do everything ourselves, for way cheaper. Eventually you will need to hire services, but when you’re small fry, just go find a YouTube tutorial.
6. Use your equestrian work ethic
Long hours? Yep. Back breaking work? Yep. Stubborn determination? Oh yes. If you’re a true horse person, your dedication will absolutely put you ahead in the business world. When one of my friends asked me how I motivated myself to get to “work” at nine every morning, I drew a blank. Equestrians are used to getting up, showing up, and putting in extra elbow grease.
7. How much can you sacrifice?
Your business, riding, a successful relationship, children, sleep, a social life… pick two. At least for the first few years of starting out. This is going to make you really question how much you want your business!
8. Your equestrian business gets you jobs
While your equestrian business gets going, you’ll still need to be working a “day job.” Freelancing is great because you can do computer work anytime, anywhere. I do writing for other businesses on the side, whether it’s journalism, blogs, or website content strategy. When I apply for these positions, I simply send people to streetandsaddle.com. Having your own business increases your “street cred” immensely. People automatically know you’re a hard working self starter. Even if your business “fails,” it’s a huge feather in your career cap.
9. Have FUN
I’m writing in a very doom and gloom manner in order to paint a realistic picture, but starting your own equestrian business is so much fun. You make your own schedule, get to meet and make friends with some amazing, like-minded people (like the ladies at Paperchases and Petticoats!), have complete creative freedom over your career… You feel important and fulfilled. And that makes the sleepless nights more than worth it.
Feature image credit: A Moment Created