Everyone involved in creating the Inventing Your Horse Career initiative had a lot of fun with this project. It was amazing to hear the stories and histories of some of the people shaping the equine industry in the United States and Canada while fascinating to learn from their experience.
Going global at a gallop
Linda Hauck struck me as a great success story when I first met her – and a perfect person to spotlight for those who dream of a job with horses in the mix but aren’t sure how to make it so.
Her story of inventing the Spursauder comes from personal challenge and a determination to find a better way. What’s amazing about her accomplishment is she managed to go from prototype to international player in less than two years. With an initial frustration about how traditional spurs didn’t work well with the off-the-track Thoroughbreds she was training and the imagination to create a better solution, she now can be proud as people spot FEI competitors doning her product.
In just months after final design, Linda secured a distributor with a long history and huge reach in Europe. Six months after that, she was signed on the spot with an Australian distributor with 40 stores. Today, she travels the world, picking up distributors and fans in new countries every month. This product was invented in 2009. What fun for her – and anyone who’s able to model her approach to achieve similar success!
Once she rolled out the prototype and confirmed on the horses she was riding it did what she intended this spur to do (provide a softer solution for more sensitive horses), she put it in the hands of as many professional riders and trainers she could ‘spursuade’ to give it a try. Her goal was to get honest feedback prior to crafting a final product design. Of course, having the testimonials of Olympic medalists helped as she moved through manufacturing to building strategies for packaging, marketing and distribution.
Horse trade shows can be a great promotional tool
Trade shows have been a perfect vehicle for her to sell this product (to both individuals and distributors), but she cites a close second as getting people to test it on their own horse. She still gives away a lot of product to tack shops (one free with every eight display purchase – recommending the store owner sign out the freebie to shoppers to test), reviewers, professional riders and others in a position to help spread the word.
“If someone had said to me a year ago, Linda, you’re going to go to Australia, England, Germany, British Columbia, Alberta, across the United States because of this spur, I would have – no, you’re crazy,” Hauck admits. It’s remarkable how fervor behind the right idea can take off.
What Linda’s managed to do is present her product in a way that crosses all industry disciplines to appeal to trail riders, extreme cowboys, dressage riders, eventers, hunters and those that just want to have fun.
Visuals are critical at trade shows. This includes making your booth look good with color coordination and banners hung high so people can see them from a distance. Linda notes the importance of having good product displays and interactive opportunities for visitors. In her case, this involves spotlighting both Spursauders® and Prince of Whales spurs and conversations that have people poking each other with both. Frequently, early visitors return with friends to exchange jabs and feel the difference.
Linda admits advertising and pictures don’t work for this product because it’s something people need to feel and see in 3D. Understanding how people will best experience your message is part of creating a good marketing mix, and one that Linda’s discovered through trial and error.
As with all of our Contributors to the Inventing Your Horse Career series, Linda has a strong focus on believing in what she’s doing with a giving back mentality. That’s been a big factor in her success. “If you’re not sold on your product, they’re going to know it in a heartbeat – believe in your product and you,” she advises.
Inventing Your Horse Career
If you’ve always dreamed about a career with horses in the mix, why not try? Of course, it will require time, dedication, research and the right idea, but if you’re willing to do the homework, weather the challenges and get excited about the opportunities, you might be surprised at how possible turning your passion into a livelihood is.
It’s critical to ensure you have a market. We interviewed a number of people who were offering something new so had little to compare their offering to, but designed a great plan to educate (and in some cases, production required a lot of creative thinking too) those who might be receptive to their idea. Plan on two years before your business takes off (and don’t get frustrated when you feel like you’re putting a lot of effort forth with no returns – early marketing, networking and outreach tend to pay huge dividends just about when you’re ready to give up).
Work the numbers (keep your other job during start-up efforts), put a marketing plan to paper and seek out mentors to help you get and stay on track (the horse community is incredibly accessible and kind when approached with clear and concise requests). Find out from those who have succeeded before you what you need to learn, who you need to know, how you need to proceed and what to look out for. If you’re serious, dedicated, passionate and willing to put the research and learning time into preparing for a smart start, you might be amazed at what you can do.