I’m so sorry everyone…but I’m going to torture you a bit! Usually I do reviews BEFORE I spotlight a company…however this time I’m doing it in the reverse! While I’ve been waiting for my gorgeous custom browband to come be finished and come in, I’ve been sitting on this article and it’s been torture! I just can’t wait any longer. Anja from Maiko Duchesse can make you the browband of your dreams…or even better…the browband you didn’t know you dreamed of but now know you need in your life. If you are looking for something blingy and flashy…she’s got you covered. If you’re wanting something more understated and classic, she can do that too. Vintage your thing? Check! Special idea…just ask! What makes Maiko Duchesse so special is that there is something for everyone and she is willing (happy even!) to work with you to create exactly what you want! Enjoy learning more about this fabulous small business below!
I guess my inspiration came from the kind of horses I own – Friesians. Friesians seem to always wear the most gorgeous tack. And in general it’s either hard to come by, is very pricey or there are rarely very many color/style options available. I thought “Hey I should try to make something myself to put on my mare”. I figured it couldn’t be that hard, so I gave it a shot.
What year did you open the company?
Unofficially I started making my first browbands in summer 2015. And in summer 2016 I created my Maiko Duchesse Facebook page and everything kinda snowballed from there.
Yes it’s pretty much my day job. Or I should say my day and night job. I do a little bit here and there whenever I have a minute to spare throughout the day. But most of my work gets done at night, when I have peace and quiet and my family doesn’t need me as much. Besides that I’m pretty much just taking care of my family. So since I’m mostly at home, it’s nice to be able to do something productive as well.
Which was your first product?
My first one was a browband with clear drop down rhinestone chains like a collar and my princess tiara browband. The tiara browband was initially thought up as a joke. When I saw how cute it actually looked on a horse, and then received questions about if I can make them for others, I couldn’t say no of course!
Well, there are quite a few browband makers out there but some just do rhinestone chains, some just beads, some use vintage, some metal embossing, some use ribbons or some use glue on stones. A lot of them make either one or the other. That’s why I wanted to offer something for everyone. What makes me different is that I combine all of the styles to create something truly unique for each and every customer. I really enjoy incorporating antique, Art Deco and Victorian vintage pieces with newer more modern materials and high quality crystals to give each piece of a classy look. I love collaborating with customers about their personal preferences and visions. I do enjoy the customer service part of my work the most. If you ask any of my buyers, they’ll probably tell you that I’m always happy to chit chat.
I do love coming up with new creative designs and finding just the perfect materials for each one. When it comes down to quality, I raise the bar for myself quite high and make sure that every small piece is sewn on well, is perfectly straight and polished up before being shipped out. I always keep my customers up to date on my current work progress so I can, if needed, make adjustments or offer suggestions on the design. I just like to keep my customers in the loop. I’m also a bit of a perfectionist and if I’m not 100% happy with something, I will not send it out until I am happy with it. If I wouldn’t buy it, I won’t sell it. I’m very customer oriented and I believe that it is one of the most important things in my line of work. The customer is king and their wishes are my command.
How do you get inspired? How do you develop your designs?
I’m mostly inspired by the amazing materials I come across when exploring new avenues. I see for example a nice vintage piece and then think about what crystals and embossing would go well with it. Then I usually spend time on the designs. I call this my tinkering phase. I tend to get a bit too creative sometimes and literally can come up with 30 different layouts with a handful of pieces. Every now and then I let my customers decide on which one they are most drawn to. Interestingly though, they more often than not choose my favorites out of the designs. That in itself is a nice verification of what I feel is most pleasing to the eye.
Do you design and create every product by yourself?
Yes every design is exclusively designed by me. I’m always adamant about making new unique designs. Sadly I see all too often that designs are imitated and sold at low bottom prices. Unfortunately the quality of the item will only suffer in the process. Especially when the quantity outweighs the quality. It’s just like they say, you get what you pay for. Being sincere and honest bout your work is something I truly cherish. Integrity is extremely important to Me personally. If you don’t have integrity you lack morals, And without morals you lack credibility, and without credibility you won’t appear trustworthy.
What is your background and how did it lead to you starting Maiko Duchesse?
Well I don’t have a background in arts nor did I learn anything through artsy type classes. So my crafty background is basically all self taught. Naturally I did a lot of DIY projects as I was very young such as oil painting, making bracelets, key chains and tiny bead animals. But all of that was years and years ago. I haven’t made anything since back then. What I did do is go to college and earned my bachelor’s degree as a management assistant in office communication. Of course, that comes in really handy when owning a company and attaining maximum efficiency with minimum efforts. I’ve always been very organized and good with numbers. The utilization of a broad spectrum of materials makes designing easier as well.
What is your equine story? Do you still ride/show? How have horses inspired you? Which horses have been the most important in your life?
Now THAT is a long but fun story. As far as I can think back, I was always in love with horses. I read every horse book I could get my hands on, watched ever movie that had horses in it, and always begged my family to buy me horsey things for my birthday and Christmas. I was the first one out the door when I heard the sound of hoof beats on the street…in hopes of catching a glimpse of the horses going by and maybe being allowed to pet them. I always harassed my parents to give me a few bucks to do pony rides at the local fairs and I loved going to the circus to watch trick horses perform. My biggest wish back then was to learn how to ride and to own my very own horse some day.
When I turned 9, my wish finally came true as my mom signed me up at a local riding school which used Icelandic ponies as school horses. Shortly into that my riding instructor told my mom that I was talented and needed my own horse. Right before my 12th birthday, my sister’s friend called us and said that a butcher down the street from her had a white pony gelding for sale which would be perfect for me. So we went to see him. The butcher said he was sent this guy with a few others and he was simply too young (6 years) and good to be slaughtered and needed his own girl to love him. He plopped me right on him bareback and let me ride him around the pasture. I was in heaven. My mom was of course on board with it but convincing my dad to agree was the biggest issue. When I asked him, he said no as expected. I immediately was shattered and cried. I remember saying under tears that he was heartless. After begging and pleading for what must’ve been a good 30 minutes, he finally said “Oh go ask your mom.” And that’s when I knew I had won. So I got my first white appaloosa Welsh pony!
His name originally was the German word for windchimes, Windspiel. I thought the name didn’t fit so I named him Sir Loki Windspiel. He was one of those smart ones who take advantage of their riders when they don’t know how to put their foot down. In the beginning he bucked and bolted after other horses and me being young didn’t have the strength to hold him back yet. That all changed over the years through the help of friends and riding instructors who taught me the necessary skills to ride a difficult horse. He turned into the most amazing all-rounder. He loved to jump and could go for hours at a fast pace without tiring. He was also fearless and sweet as a button to handle from the ground – a perfectly mannered boy. But he was always very hot, intelligent and fast. I rode every day for 2 1/2 hours, took lessons, competed in every obstacle trail challenge, long distance race, Fox hunt and poker ride there was. I also taught him tricks like shaking hands, nodding and rearing on cue. He taught me everything I know, especially how to handle hot horses. After owning him for 13 years, I had to make the tough decision to sell him to be able to move with my husband to the states. He found a great home with another little girl and a great family.
In the US I was horseless for the next 7 years. During that time I became a traveling horse trainer and had clients in 6 counties in WA state as well as in Kansas for about a year. I also worked at a rehabilitation center for abused and wild mustangs, managed a breeding facility for Andalusians, Iberian Sporthorses, Aztecas, Paints, Quarter Horses and Friesian Sporthorses, worked at a training/rescue/riding instruction facility, advertised and sold horses for clients and of course did the occasional stall cleaning and barn sitting job as well.
Fast forward to 2014 when I bought my 3/4 Friesian 1/4 Saddlebred filly Echo’s Sayuri in utero. Right now I’m waiting for her to be old enough to back her. Shows are most definitely planned in the future as well as breeding Friesian Sporthorses. Horses have always been my obsession, fascination and inspiration throughout my life. They have kept me straight and taught me to be responsible. You could say that they kept me grounded.
The answer to which ones had the most impact on my life is easy…. EVERY SINGLE ONE. Every horse taught me something new. But of course my own have been the most important to me personally. In particular I have an extremely special bond with my girl Sayuri. She is just like me – a perfect mirror of myself and she always keeps me on my toes. She is just too darn smart for her own good and that’s why I always have to think outside the box. I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.
Every day starts with a coffee. Then I usually check my order list. I work on one or two orders at a time. I lay my pieces out and when I’m happy with it, I apply adhesive and set it aside to dry. I usually have one ready to be sewn from the day before and start sewing. The hand-sewing keeps me busy for the day. In between breaks I advertise, respond to customer requests, send out suggestions, write out bids and price quotes, browse for new materials, check over materials I ordered and get items ready to be shipped. So basically I do the whole administrative part of my business as well. Besides that I also take my own pics and admin my Maiko Duchesse page.
What are the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of running a business? What has been your biggest hurdle?
Time. Time is always an issue. Caring for my family and running my business at the same time has always been a challenge. The most rewarding part to me is when I get feedback from my customers after they’ve received their orders and see my work being worn by their horses.
I honestly haven’t thought ahead that far yet. I mean a few months ago I didn’t even think this would take off the way it did. I am hoping that some of my browbands will eventually end up being sold by private stores and hey, maybe one day we will see one being worn by a movie horse on TV! They do say dream big right? And like my dear mom used to say “you can achieve anything that you set your mind to. There are no limits out there. The only limits are those that you impose upon yourself.” That’s how I feel about it too.
My customers come from all over. Since I offer such a vast array of versatile items, I have tack available for your everyday trail rider, dressage, jumping, western as well as tack for breed shows, keuring, costume classes and photo shoots.
Besides browbands I also make Western and English bridles. English breast collars, halters, lunging cavessons, blingy nosebands, cheek pieces, reins, English stirrup straps, spur straps, white keuring tack, dog collars, belts and bracelets. If you’re looking for something very delicate and classy or you are into big bling, chances are good that I can make it for you. The motto is “You think it, I make it.”
Do you have anything else you would like to add?
I would like to add that I’m extremely thankful to all of my customers, friends and family who have supported me thus far and to everyone that will join their ranks in the future. Without their encouragement and faith in me I wouldn’t have been as inspired as I am now. I’m really looking forward to what the future holds in store for me. And I’m hoping that with this spotlight I will be able to reach out to the more competitive crowd as well. I would be so honored to see my tack being used in the competition ring by dressage riders.