How did Knotty Horse come to be? What inspired you? What year did you open the company?
As a product formulator for 20 years and a life long equestrian, I began formulating the Apricot Oil Treatment & Detangler in the lab in 2014 for my senior quarter horse, Reese who began showing signs of hair thinness and breakage as he aged. His forelock became so short I was inspired to create a product for him with nourishing ingredients. It bothered me that so many product lines contained harsh chemicals and I wanted something that could treat the hair, not just untangle it.
It took almost a year for the detangler to possess the qualities I wanted – fast absorbing, dust repellent and lasts for days as it treats the hair. I launched it in 2015 by going door to door to my local feed stores and the rest has been history thanks to the amazing response it received.
What makes Knotty Horse different than other products on the market?
Knotty Horse is a natural alternative line offering great results without harsh chemicals found in so many products on the market today. It gives customers peace of mind knowing they can feel good about it touching their own skin too. It has a pleasant, not overpowering Apricot fragrance that I custom-made that is both horse and horse owner approved! My older gelding, Reese is very sensitive to smells and was a big help in finalizing the yummy scent! The brand motto is “Grow Long, Stay Strong” because products are formulated with an active level of Apricot Oil and Omegas 6 & 9 plus UV protection to help nourish the hair from the inside out- while detangling and adding healthy shine that’s noticeable from the first time it is applied.
The line contains 4 simple products: the Brightening & Conditioning Shampoo helps to brighten all coat colors and clarifies stains out of the hair without stripping the natural lipids. The Detangler is effective even on the worst of tangles and makes the hair very silky and soft. The Highlighting Coat Shine spray is a “dry oil” which means is isn’t slick to the touch and will not cause your saddle pad to slip. I love this product because it also acts as a quick, nourishing hoof shine and natural based fly repellent when you’re handling your horse! The RECON Leave-In offers serious reconditioning and a protein treatment for the hair cuticle as it helps to soften the hair and can be applied wet or dry.
Do you have plans for new products in the line in the near future?
I don’t believe in overwhelming customers with a lot of products, it’s amazing what a few quality products can do and as a busy professional, I like an easy system! I’m always open to developing a product that is a problem solver if I can find a solution for it so you just never know when a new product may pop up in the line! My long-term goals are to launch a few hair accessory items that help prevent hair breakage and I can’t wait to share these when they are ready in the future! I also aspire to continue educating consumers about the importance of using products specifically formulated to work with a horse’s sensitive pH level and knowing that you can get effective results without the harsh stuff!
How did you develop your product?
Through lots of trial and error! Everything is a learning process and sometimes your ideas don’t work but with a lot of time and dedication, eventually I get the results I’m after when developing a product. I work closely with my lab and having a product development background is crucial to ensure I can provide submission feedback properly and effectively in what I like to call “lab lingo” so I’m speaking the same language as my chemist because not too many chemists speak horse.
What product is your personal favorite?
Oh geez, this is a tough one because I put my heart and soul in each product! In fact, every formula is tested for close to 12 months before it hits the shelf so I’m pretty excited when I feel I can put my stamp of approval on them and launch to market. But okay, time to answer – my first product, the Apricot Oil Treatment & Detangler is my top contender because it’s the original hero product in the line. I love how soft my hands and my horses’ hair feel after I apply it and how silky and shiny the hair is even from the first application.
What is your professional background? Is Knotty Horse your day job? If not, what else do you do?
I worked in the beauty industry for several large cosmetic companies, heading up the product development dept. for each one before I worked exclusively full-time on Knotty Horse. My first year, I needed the travel time to go door to door to open new accounts so I took the plunge and launched Knotty Horse on my own and was unemployed. I took cases of the detangler in the trunk of my car to stores. I was determined because I had a horse to support as well as myself. By year 2, I had steady accounts so I went back to work in the beauty business, but it was tough because I worked as a full-time corporate executive during the day and would use my lunch breaks to send out Knotty Horse orders. After work, I cared for my horses. When I came home late from the barn is when I would handle invoicing and making packing slips for the next day. It was a lot to juggle but handling every role in a growing company is how your learn the best insight and appreciate it’s success. I can honestly say I have the best job in the world!
I hope I can say in 5 years it will be in every tack shop and feed store! A girl has to believe!
What is your horse story?
I have been riding since I was 5 years old. I have competed in Hunter/Jumper events, Hunt Seat Equitation, Western Pleasure, Barrel Racing and Ranch Riding. I love learning something new and couldn’t pick just one discipline! I showed in many AQHA events in my later teenage years. As an adult, I took a few years off from barrel racing to learn classical dressage before going back to it. I currently have 3 horses of my own, one is a young barrel bred stallion that I look forward to bringing along and competing on in the near future. So horses have always been a major part of my life. In fact that’s how I met my husband while I boarded at a stable in Orange County. We now have 2 children and 5 horses between us and they live on our property. We have incorporated them into our growing family and I can’t wait until our kids are old enough to go to shows with both of us.
Which horses have been the most important in your life?
My first horse, Chief was nothing short of magical. He is a Quarter Horse/Arabian gelding that I paid $850 for out of somebody’s yard when I was 13 years old. We learned everything together from jumping, western pleasure to barrel racing! To say he tolerated me in my youth is an understatement. My fondest childhood memories are because of him. When I outgrew him, he went on to take another special young lady down the road in hunters where he competitively excelled even in his 20s. He is now in his 30s and still loved by that same friend enjoying his retirement in his 30s. When I travel back home to VA, I still visit him!
My second once in a lifetime is my AQHA gelding, Reese. He is now 23 and this amazing horse also came out of someone’s backyard as luck would have it. This time, he was 13 and I was 27 and we went on to learn dressage and ranch riding, even a little liberty work and bridleless riding. His true love was barrel racing and he brought back the joy for me after not competing in it since I was a young girl. Reese and I have a connection that is just special. We both know what the other is thinking, no words are needed. He is truly my best friend and co-founded Knotty Horse with me.
It can vary quite a bit. If I get a lab submission in for a new production run, I’m outside testing it on the horses so I can get back to the lab within 24 hours. Everyday, I handle email communications with vendors, stores, the lab and customer inquiries. I also handle community management on social media and I like to spend part of my day researching – this could relate to innovative packaging or ingredient research.
What parts of running a small business do you find the most challenging?
Being heavily involved in my brand, I wish I could be at every store or sponsored event and major trade show or expo. I try to attend as much as I can. You have to really focus on building your brand and developing growth strategies and delegating other responsibilities to avoid feeling overwhelmed. I’m blessed to have such an amazing team of women that support the crucial day-to-day responsibilities that help Knotty Horse run like a well-oiled machine. I don’t know what I would do without them!
What parts of running a small business do you find the most rewarding?
Because I handle all component sourcing and formula development, it can be stressful at times when it comes to production lead times and staying on budget but to see the finished product on display at stores and online or in catalogs still brings butterflies to my stomach. I feel really honored that Knotty Horse has such a loyal customer following and they spread the love and post about it! That’s incredibly gratifying for me to know that I helped make someone happy in improving the look and quality of their horse’s hair. After all our horses are our pride and joy and we want them looking and feeling their best!
A special moment in my career was when I made a distribution deal with Kensington Protective Products. They are a long-time respected company in the equine industry and have been the perfect distributor for Knotty Horse Products. Having a reliable distributor takes off a lot of the weight on a daily basis so I can also dedicate my focus on my family.
Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurial equestrians that might want to start their own small business but are hesitant to take the leap?
What helped me take the plunge is I did my homework and felt confident I could fill a void in the market. I researched all competitor brands in the same industry I wanted to become a part of and I also reached out to 2 prominent CEO’s and met with them for their own advice and guidance. This helped me get started in knowing what some of the challenges were that I could face in business. The one thing both of my mentors taught me is that no one would be as passionate as I am in building my brand. I kept that advise close to me and took that fire inside and showed it to every store I went door to door to if I wanted to make them a believer!
If you are considering starting your own business, ask yourself 3 things:
1. Do I have all the components necessary to make my idea successful? This can include a marketing strategy, an idea of how resilient your business model is in the market place you seek a share of, what it will cost to get started and the tools necessary to execute the business idea?
2. Am I willing to be under financial strain until I make it? Because chances are, you will.
3. Do you believe in yourself so strongly that quitting is not an option?
If can answer yes to all of these things, my advice is to follow your passion and go for it.
My favorite quote is, “97% of people that quit too soon work for the 3% that never gave up.” – Anonymous