I was so excited by this new brand that I reached out to Rachel as soon as I’d heard about it. An equestrian makeup brand?!? Whooooooo!!!! As a bit of a makeup addict (did you know that about me? I bet you didn’t!), I was personally VERY excited to see what it was all about and now I’m excited to share the story with you! BTW…Rachel is 21 years old! With her own brand new business that she runs with her brother Jon. Lady Boss goals there. Oh and did I mention she created the artwork for both of these palettes?! Talented to boot!
Reviews on both eye shadow palettes from Blue Ribbon Beauty are in the works (one by me and one by Kristin).
What inspired you to start Blue Ribbon Beauty? Makeup marketing specifically to equestrians! What an idea!
I started Blue Ribbon Beauty because I saw something the horse show world was lacking: makeup built for the show ring. When I began showing horses as a 13-year-old tomboy, makeup was the last thing on my mind. My first show outfits were absolutely hideous, and as far as makeup went, my mom couldn’t even get me to put sunscreen on! My trainer Denise knew the importance of the polished show look, and she set about polishing my image while she polished my equitation. I’ll be honest, getting jabbed in the eye with a mascara wand at 5:30 in the morning by your trainer isn’t exactly the best way to start a show day. After an entire show season of that, I finally broke down and bought some cheap drugstore makeup and attempted to do it myself. Boy, was that a struggle! I had no idea what I was doing, and learned a lot the hard way.
I eventually did find a show makeup routine that worked for me, but I struggled more than I care to admit. One day I thought “hey it would be really nice to have makeup made just for showing!” I knew I wasn’t the only one struggling to figure out what to wear, and how to apply it. So starting in 2017 I began a 3-year journey to create products that would help cut through the confusion and make horse show makeup as straight forward and fun as possible. As it turned out, Blue Ribbon Beauty products became more than just cosmetics for horse shows. We ended up with high quality eyeshadow that not only excels in the show ring but also works equally well as a day-to-day product. A lot of customers tell us it’s become their “go-to” eyeshadow palette, some of whom don’t ride or show horses at all!
What is your background and how did that help you start Blue Ribbon Beauty (based on my math and your profile pic… you are very young!)?
I am 21, and have always embraced the role of the “annoying little sister” to my two older brothers, Christopher and Jonathan. Which actually brings me to a really important part of Blue Ribbon Beauty! In July of 2020 Jonathan joined the BRB team as a full partner. It took a little over 3 years to get from start to launch, but those last three months before launch were warp-speed fast because of Jon. Honestly if he had not joined when he did, I would probably still be working on getting it to market. I had a lot of “squirrel!” moments in the development stages, and having someone to keep me on track really made all the difference. His skills fill in all the gaps that I can’t fill on my own, which makes everything so much less stressful. Jon handles all the numbers and the financial aspects of BRB, as well as advertising and analytics. He’s very technical and analytically minded, but he also brings a fresh perspective to the design and packaging side of the business. Plus, he knows how to deal with my (sometimes) very spacey brain!
Jon is 24, and though he doesn’t show horses, he loves going for trail rides with me and occasionally playing a game of bareback tag in the pasture. We were home educated, so we grew up really close and work well together. When we were in school our mom read a lot of history books to us, and I remember drawing a lot of horse pictures while she read. Meanwhile Jon was building intricate domino chains, fixing all the kitchen appliances, or taking apart and rebuilding a lawnmower engine. (Don’t ask me where he got the lawn mower!) My love for history and drawing/painting really grew during that time, which is why I was inspired to design and paint the retro packaging you see on BRB products. Jon still loves fixing things, which means I don’t have to fix the office printers when they inevitably decide to stop working.
SW Michigan is home now, but growing up we moved quite a bit for our Dad’s job. Living/traveling all over the US was a great learning experience! Our family is definitely the best support group ever, and they’ve been there every step of the way.
Is running Blue Ribbon Beauty your day job? If not, what else do you do?
For now, my day job is working for a shop that makes and sells woodprints on Etsy! We launched BRB only 3 months ago, and it’s quickly taking up more and more of our time. Jon is in his last semester of college working toward an Aviation Management degree at Southern Illinois University. He has been flying since 2013 and became a licensed pilot 5 years ago. Our Dad and older brother Christopher are both commercial pilots as well, and I always joke if I wash up in the horse industry I may just take up flying. Just ask my family how terrible of an idea that would be!
How did you decide on your first products to launch?
It was a super hard decision! I knew I wanted to start with eyeshadow palettes, but I wasn’t sure on colors, size, packaging, or which disciplines to include. I had so many different ideas, and some of them were pretty complicated. I have notebooks filled with notes and sketches. After many months of feverishly researching and bombarding my friends with questions, I finally narrowed it all down to the two initial palettes. Between “Latigo ‘N’ Lace” and “In The Irons,” Western and English riders are sure to find something that fits their discipline or class. Each palette is well rounded and works for a variety of classes within each discipline, and you can totally mix and match them!
What is your creative process for developing your products? Why should equestrians buy Blue Ribbon Beauty vs. something already on the market?
Because horses and design are two of my passions, thinking of creative product ideas for BRB is something I love to do! I like to write down plans and thoughts in a notebook, along with sketches of artwork and design concepts. Then I discuss these ideas with some of my connections in the horse industry as well as people in the makeup industry. Getting feedback from these two groups help turn good ideas into great ideas. During the development stages I also got a lot of help from my friends Anika and Erin, who are not only makeup pros, but barn buddies too!
Each shade was carefully chosen to create beautiful and versatile color stories unique to the palette. The shades in “Latigo ‘N’ Lace” are bolder and warmer toned than the cooler toned classic shadows we chose for “In The Irons.” Generally, in classes that are far from the judge riders will want to opt for a bolder eye look. If they come close to the judge in a pattern class, it’s safer to keep it toned down. Our tutorials on the back give suggestions that reflect that, and give riders an idea of what works best for a few popular classes.
What makes Blue Ribbon Beauty stand out against the ton of other beauty brands on the market?
We were really picky on the formulations because they needed to be easy to apply, but also have a fantastic color pay-off that was long lasting. Blue Ribbon Beauty eyeshadows have the perfect balance of stick-to-itiveness while remaining easy to apply. Plus, they blend beautifully on their own and with other brands of eyeshadow. The other great thing about our products is that they don’t have to be confined to the show ring. Our cosmetics work equally well for special occasions or everyday wear! The reason equestrians like our products so much is because we brought something new to the table that they have never seen before. It’s a product made with their lifestyle in mind, and the products are not only cute, they work great too. I wanted to create something to ease the horse show makeup struggle, and make the polished show look a little more accessible.
What are your future plans for new products? I see lipstick is coming!
Yes! Lipsticks are hopefully the next thing we launch. We are always doing R&D for other products, as well as gathering feedback from our customers on what they want to see next. I had such a hard time deciding on what to launch with, and I can’t wait to bring out the other ideas when the time comes. We’ve already had a lot of suggestions, and it’s so fun to add to the list and sketch out new concepts for later down the road.
Where do you see Blue Ribbon Beauty in 5 years?
We have so many ideas and plans. I hope that 5 years from now is as fun and amazing as I think it could be! We want to start selling wholesale to tack stores, as well as grow our online presence. Going to expo events with a booth is hopefully in the future as well. I’m definitely excited to see how the line grows, and what products will come out between now and then. We’d like to see BRB take off internationally as well as grow here in the US, and I would love to see it become a staple for girls in a variety of disciplines. It would be really cool to see it become a household name like Ariat is to boots, or Tailored Sportsman is to breeches!
What is your horse story? Tell me about some of the most important horses in your life.
I knew I wanted to do something in horses since the age of 5, but my first lesson wasn’t until I turned 12. It was worth the wait! I’ve been totally sold on horses ever since.
I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to ride and show a variety of different horses. I began riding at a hunter/jumper barn, but after we moved to Michigan, I found my trainer Denise who got me hooked on trying new disciplines. Denise shaped every part of my riding and gave me some incredible opportunities! She put me on starter horses, pleasure horses, jumpers, barrel horses, buckers, bolters, and everything in between. Our barn really enjoys rescuing horses, and in 2015 she took in a group to rehabilitate and rehome. That was when a scrawny, 8-year-old, un-started bay named Sara came to our barn. I was given the chance to start riding her very soon after she was started. I promptly fell in love with her, despite her best efforts to buck me off, or bolt into the sunset whenever it suited her fancy. After countless tumbles, and years of work, the pieces finally started to fit! She’s been my little versatility pony for 6 years now, and we compete in a variety of open English and Western events.
There have been a lot of important horses in my life, but two that stand out are Midnite and Cruise. Midnite was a little POA barrel pony that gave me a love for speed events. Midnite passed away in 2017, and that sweet, spunky little guy is dearly missed. Cruise is a one of a kind, let me tell you! You hang on, and pray you make it through the pattern without getting in his way. Both Midnite and Cruise are my friend Kimmy’s horses that she gave me the opportunity to ride and compete on. Every horse I’ve ridden has taught me something, and I’m so thankful for each one.
What parts of running Blue Ribbon Beauty do you find the most rewarding and most fun?
Meeting new people! I love connecting with our customers all over US and even internationally. Hearing the feedback has been especially rewarding. Our products have been a huge hit with other horse girls, and it’s really cool to hear how it resonates with them. I could talk about horses all day, so it really is a dream come true!
The most challenging?
Probably juggling work and school while we run the business. Between work and the barn, I have had a lot of early mornings and late nights trying to fit it all in. Jon’s school is all online right now, and it’s been pretty exhausting for him to keep up with a full school schedule, getting flight hours, and doing all he does for BRB. We usually get going pretty early before work/school and tackle as many things as we can, then reconvene later that night to work again. I’ve used a lot of lunch breaks for phone calls and emails instead of lunch, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything!