Ever dream of being your own boss and running a horse-related business from home? Get inspiration (and advice) from four horse lovers who've figured out how to turn their good ideas into profits.
The alarm wakes you up for another workday, and you wish you didn't have to face it. Maybe it's because you dread the commute, or you're stuck with a boss and co-workers you don't respect. Maybe you work long hours for inadequate pay, or just plain find yourself bored and restless by the humdrum nature of the job. Maybe it's not your job that's the problem, but your need for money over and above what it pays. Or, perhaps you're simply longing for an outlet for creativity that's been locked in a stall for too long.
In any case, wouldn't it be great if you could find some way to earn money from home, doing work somehow related to horses?
You're not alone in having that thought. We'll introduce you to four fellow horse lovers--"equi-preneurs," if you will--who've had that thought and acted on it. Each one started and now runs a home-based business, and each one has a clientele made up of other horse people. For inspiration, we'll share their stories and their best advice. We'll provide a few of our own smart-start biz tips as well. Go ahead and hit that snooze button a couple of times. You've been late for work for flimsier reasons than taking time to read about something that could be your springboard to a job with builtin enjoyment and satisfaction.
These Boots Were Made For.Dyeing
Equi-preneur: Robyn Hargrove, Lynden, Wash. Married, with three children ages 18 to 30, she's supported the show careers of two daughters, one of whom still shows on the Pacific Northwest Quarter Horse circuit. Robyn worked in the nursing and computerservices fields before becoming a stay-at-home mom who sewed show clothes on the side and sold them via eBay.
Horse-based home biz: The Boot Lady, www.thebootlady.com
What she does: Robyn custom-dyes Western boots to match outfits worn by show competitors and rodeo queens.
Inspiration: "About four years ago, when both our daughters were showing, they got their first outfits in non-neutral colors, and I couldn't find boots to match," says Robyn. "I found a source for white boots and started experimenting with various ways to color them. I tried four or five different methods before I found the one I use now. One day in 2004, when I was at a Western store picking up several pairs of boots I'd ordered for dyeing, another customer asked, 'What are you--the boot lady?' I liked the sound of that as a business name, so when I got home, I checked to see if that Web site address was available, and it was. I bought it and switched my focus from sewing show clothes to dyeing boots."
Clientele: Show exhibitors and rodeo queens from all across the country. "My initial customers were people I knew, but as word of my boot-dyeing service spread, I ended up with a clientele that's now more national than local."
Marketing measures: Her Website; ads in The Equine Chronicle and on www.pleasurehorse.com; offerings on eBay; fliers and business cards passed out at shows; direct contact with trainers and show-clothes vendors and designers; business ads on Google; word of mouth. "I also have an account with Internet Advancement, a firm that works to promote Web site visibility for Google searches," Robyn confides. "My background in computer work has been a big help in understanding how to market on the Internet."
Key materials/equipment: Besides a source for boots, Robyn also must stock dyes, brushes for applying them, and shipping materials. Her business requires workspace for boots being dyed and dried, plus office equipment that includes a computer. While she declines to share all her trade secrets, she will divulge her favorite method of colormatching. "I use embroidery floss, which comes in 250 numbered colors," she says."It's much easier for a customer to send me a skein of floss to be matched than to send an entire outfit. I also work from fabric swatches and paint chips."
Behind the scenes: "It's very repetitive work," says Robyn."If you were to spend a day with me in my workshop, it wouldn't be an exciting day!"
Greatest satisfaction: She loves going to shows and seeing her custom-dyed boots worn as elements of fully coordinated outfits.
Biggest headache: "People who don't plan ahead, and want their boots 'tomorrow,'" Robyn states. "I quickly learned to charge extra for rush orders, but I've also had to turn orders down because the customers didn't leave me with enough lead time for dyeing, drying and shipping."