To Buy a Horse Business...or to Buy its Assets?

Have you seen certain websites (like Equestrian Life) or blogs (like Dappled Grey Equestrian Style) close up shop, but as they do so, pitch an offer to sell the business to an interested party?
Or perhaps your local hay seller or barn construction business has put up notice that they are "Under New Ownership."

If you work in the equine industry you may find it more efficient to buy a business rather than start one from scratch.

For example, you may buy a training stable rather than starting your own barn.  You may buy a tack shop rather than putting up a shingle on your own.  And as we have seen, this also applies in the digital world of buying an online site rather than building and growing one of your own.

Why would this be a good idea?  Wouldn't it be more economical just to save the cash you would spend to buy the business and put it into building your own business? It might be, but there are also many benefits to purchasing a horse business.

When purchasing a horse business you should evaluate whether you are purchasing the business, or whether you are just purchasing the assets of the business (a BIG difference!)
To illustrate:
Tacky Tack Shop has one store in California, one store in Florida, and a parent company in Germany.  You may buy the Tacky Tack Shop business, which would prevent the present owners from doing business under that business name, OR, you may buy just the United States assets of Tacky Tack Shop and not the business itself. 
 Assets of the business may include:
  • Ownership of the Tacky Tack Shop trademark (and other intellectual property rights)
  • Current inventory
  • Customer lists
  • Social Media accounts
  • Account Receivables (and may include the liability of Account Payables)


When you buy a business you can save an enormous amount of time, energy, money, and risk by buying into an existing customer base.  Sales are everything in business, and by taking the reins as the new owner of Tacky Tack Shop (in our example), you have access and rights to all the data of best selling items, top buying customers, wholesale and retail licenses and rights, and more.
The same applies to buying a training business- when you continue to operate under the existing name of the business there is a continuity of business flow that allows you to step into the shoes of a (hopefully profitable) business so that you can already know the estimated monthly cash flows of the business and avoid the time and cost building a business with unknown results.

Have you ever been at a barn that sold to a new owner?  This just happened at one of my previous barns, and by all accounts, my friends (the boarders) LOVE it!  There is a fresh perspective by the new owners, a little more money coming in to spruce up the facilities, and it appears to have all gone smoothly.  I imagine, however, there may be some horror stories out there as well (drama in boarding barns?! Impossible!)

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Own a business, selling a business, buying a business? You may have seen the recent Equine Entrepreneur Mastermind post.  We're a group of equestrians that network to grow each other's businesses, provide a sounding board for questions, and support each other push for greater business growth.  We have decided to briefly open the doors to a few other motivated people in the equestrian business (online business, physical business, products or services!). There is a nominal fee to join, which is currently discounted for the next few weeks.
If it sounds like something you, or someone you know, would like to be a part of...check out the page linked at the top of this blog! 

Equine Entrepreneur Mastermind


The Equine Entrepreneur Mastermind is an energetic, supportive, and educational membership for people who:

  • Own a small business that sell equestrian products or services 
  • Want to grow the reach and financial profitability of their business
  • Want specific and efficient advice and tactics to get better results
  • Want to learn how to set their products apart in a saturated market

If you want mentors, cheerleaders, gurus, and business colleagues to help you reach your goals, then the Equine Entrepreneur Mastermind is for you.




Do you ever feel uncertain about what to do to make your business grow? Do you ever feel lonely as an entrepreneur and wish you had a sounding board for business advice and support?  Would you like to receive personal, one on one guidance on how to increase your profits and product/ business presence?

The Equine Entrepreneur Mastermind will give you
Support and guidance in using proven strategies to grow your business;
Networking and cross-promotion opportunities;
Regular feedback and encouragement during the highs and lows of entrepreneurship from other horse business owners like you;
A unique experience from all other groups and memberships on the Internet: we are specifically horse-focused, small business oriented, and maintain a small size so we can focus well on helping each other.


 Is the Equine Entrepreneur Mastermind right for your business?
You are probably aware of a lot of membership sites, courses, and groups that promise you the moon.  Maybe you have even joined some and been disappointed with them.  We've fallen for them and their shiny marketing too!
Most of these groups are NOT applying personal advice for each and every member.  Most of them are NOT limiting the number of members to ensure quality attention.

Imagine being a part of a Mastermind that provides your business with as much personal attention as you can handle: website reviews, brainstorming sessions, product promotion, and social media advice all just for YOU.  Regardless of your business type, if you sell anything equestrian, then a tailored Mastermind membership is essential for your business toolbox.

We initially created an equine mastermind to have a safe place where we could have focused and personalized feedback on growing horse businesses.  Our members all met and exceeded their business goals!

If you're like the vast majority of small business owners that have participated in our Mastermind, you know that no one wants to dedicate weeks, or maybe even months, working hard to build a business that is doomed to fail because it's not based on a viable idea.  This is why people can agonize over decisions, go back and forth, doubt themselves, look for more research, and freeze and be stuck in a rut... and in the end, still do absolutely nothing to reach their goals.

They're paralyzed by the fear of heading down the wrong path.

Some of us in the Mastermind have made many right decisions that have lead to awesome business growth...but without a doubt, many have also made far less successful decisions in their entrepreneurship journey.  It is sharing our stories, comparing strategies, and offering a third-party perspective that leads to results and success.

That said, there's no need to run recklessly into a business that isn't built on a solid foundation and is therefore doomed to fail.

So if you want to be *sure* that the idea you pursue can really support a thriving, successful business, in the Equine Entrepreneur Mastermind we'll provide you with the feedback, advice, and insights we each have gleaned from our own business experience...whether you are starting with just the seed of an idea, or whether you have been working away on your business for several years.  If you are seeking growth, but want specific direction then get started by joining the Equine Entrepreneur Mastermind Today.


And when you've done that, you'll finally be able to proceed in building your business with the confidence and ease that come from knowing that it's going to succeed.


The Equine Entrepreneur Mastermind is for you if:

  • You are short on time and want efficient, actionable steps to grow your business
  • You are overwhelmed by all the ways your business can grow and want specific feedback and advice
  • You are new to small business and want the building blocks of getting your passion project off the ground

If you have one specific passion that you want to build your horse business around, you'll learn how to focus and position it in a market where it will easily be profitable.
And if you have too many passions, you'll learn how to narrow them down and find the one that has the greatest potential, and presents the biggest opportunities.
From there, you'll learn how to find your ideal customers, evaluate your competitors, and the perfect way to enter the market.

Instead of being stuck in a perpetual state of reluctance and uncertainty, you'll finally be making steady, tangible progress towards creating a real business.  Does this sound like exactly what you need? Join our Equine Entrepreneur Mastermind now!


So you may be thinking: 
Is my business ready for a Mastermind? Can the other equine entrepreneurs really offer assistance to me? Is this group different from the hundreds of other groups out there?


I really like that a lot of people who work alone and have to self-motivate all of the time can interact and rely on each other- I think that that is greatest thing I appreciate. I am in a pretty remote part of the country, so I love the interaction and accountability.  Dr. Piper Klemm, The Plaid Horse Magazine and Dr. Piper Klemm Equestrian Ponies



I've loved the mastermind. 1. I've developed marketing partnerships that have resulted in more facebook likes and traffic to my website. 2. The sense of accountability and support from other business owners also trying to get things off the ground. Kimball Wilson, The Equestrian Health Coach


I appreciate the connections made and the overall collaboration and genuine help – with everyone jumping in with thoughts and suggestions. Love that. Matt McClay, McClay Designs  

The Equine Entrepreneur Mastermind will work for your business if:
- You write books, blogs, or sell products or services geared to the equestrian market
- You have just the beginning of a business idea, or have been in business for awhile but would like to help stimulate your sales and customer base
- You want a group that is personal, small, and motivated to see YOU succeed

Remember that forming joint ventures can make the difference between a few sales here and there, and a business that can reach thousands of people.  Our private consultations and group input can help you learn how to choose the partners to work with, using proven strategies for approaching potential partners and cross-promoters of your horse business.

Equine Entrepreneur Mastermind membership is LIMITED! We do this to ensure your horse business receives personal and attentive advice and support.  For the remainder of 2014 we are offering a rare discounted price to participate and grow with us.  Normally membership is $197, but until January 1, 2015 you can join for a bargain of $97!  This is only about $7 per month!  For the cost of about two coffees you can be a part of an invigorating group that is focused on helping your sales succeed.  Remember, we have to LIMIT the number of Mastermind members to ensure high-quality delivery of networking, advising, and support, so don't hesitate to JOIN NOW AT THE DISCOUNTED RATE OF $97.00!


Corinna you are very skilled at facilitating. Believe me, I know, because my former profession was being a therapist/counselor. It is challenging to strike a balance between being positive and warm and encouraging, while also motivating and creating accountability. You are well able to do both. You ask relevant questions, you took the time to get to know each person's business so everyone felt valued. And yes it can feel very isolating to be in this world without support, so this group has done so much to help me. Not the least of which has been the value of feeling LESS isolated. Also so many great business ideas I've learned from reading what other people are doing and looking at their web sites. Suzanne Cannon, Electronic Veterinary Electronic Billing

Mastermind Membership Includes:
  • Exclusive access for 12 months to our private and highly productive Facebook Mastermind group with other amazing horse business owners.  We utilize Google Hangouts, chats, regularly programmed Website Reviews, and accountability measures to help see each other succeed
  • A PDF of the The Equine Entrepreneur: Your Guide to Building a Profitable Horse Business
  • A 20 Minute Private Consultation with Corinna Charlton, equine business attorney, author of Ribbons and Red Tape and "The Equine Entrepreneur: Your Guide to a Profitable Horse Business"
  • A 20 Minute Private Consultation with Nichelle Martin, horse business reviewer extraordinaire and author of We 3 Equines, a specialized review site that receives nearly a half million page views each year
Your membership, with two private consultations and the provided literature and the private support and networking group, is valued at several hundred dollars, but because we want to see your business SUCCEED in 2015 we are offering you a membership at LESS than $100.  We are keeping membership limited to a select number of Equine Entrepreneurs who are serious and excited about growing and succeeding.  Join Now, membership prices will go back up to $197 on January 1, 2015.



Here's to your passionate business and profitable ideas!








Terms and Conditions: twelve month membership.  Re-purchasing membership will be required 12 months from the time of initial purchase.  No results or profit are guaranteed.  You will not receive legal advice from Corinna Charlton and will be encouraged to see an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction for legal advice for your horse business.

It's Clinic Season!

Winter and horses go together about as well as a peanut butter and mustard sandwich.  Sure, the weather is cooler and Pinterest has some beautiful photos of horses in the snow, but the reality of my winter riding tends to be muddy paddocks, lost shoes in said mud, hooves packed solid with said mud (or the wet arena footing), and hyper horses that have been stall bound due to inclement weather.
But the upside of the winter riding season is that it is clinic season! 



Summer is for showing, and winter is the time to improve techniques and prepare for the next show season ahead.  In winter I work on riding without stirrups (helps keep me warm too!) and repetitive exercises to work on my horse's responsiveness.  This is why clinics are so perfect for winter, particularly if the clinic is held at a facility with an indoor!

I love to ride in clinics that give me specific homework for the dreary months ahead, or I love to audit clinics if I can't ride in it (and I always bring a thermos of hot tea because auditing always seems to be freezing!).

An important part of a clinic is the Clinician Agreement.  The Clinician Agreement can work in a couple different ways:
First, between the facility host and the clinician
Secondly, between the facility and the clinic participant

The facility should always use Clinician Agreements to help protect itself from liability.  Liability can arise if the relationship between the clinician and the facility isn't clear.  For example, does the clinician have aspects that make him/ her appear as an employee of the facility? Or an independent contractor?
How is payment made (or not made) between the facility and the clinician? What are the expectations of profit sharing (which can look like a default legal partnership if you aren't careful!)?

The facility should have also have a Clinic Agreement with the participants to clarify who has the legal duty of care.  If the clinician instructs a rider to ride a grid that the clinician should know far exceeds the rider's capability, and the rider falls and dies (legal examples are always better when they show worst case scenarios!), then the facility wants to have a signed Agreement on record in which the participant has relieved the facility from any liability arising from the clinician's instructions or teaching style.  And in this example, the Clinic Agreement should also clearly state that the participant understands and accepts the risk of harm or death from participating in equestrian activities.
If a facility uses a standard Release of Liability for the participants, then the Release should specify that it applies to clinics or lessons with independent clinicians on site.
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This weekend my barn is hosting a clinic this weekend with Rob Gage, a hunter/ jumper rider who has been Rider of the Year four times and has won over forty Grand Prix show jumping events throughout the world.
I encourage you to seek out riding in or auditing as many clinics as possible this winter- it will help inspire your training for spring riding and showing!

Any fun clinics coming up for you? Let me know if you ever sign a Clinic Agreement!

Hello!

I know, things have been a little silent.  I hope you have had a wonderful summer and fall!  

There are some exciting things coming up on the blog: projects to launch, posts to write, announcements to share, and more! 

Have you missed your dose of equine law and business?! Let me know what it is you want to see more of on the blog.

And for you small business owners who market to the horse world... keep your eyes peeled on this space because we have something BIG and EXCITING and game changing coming at you!

May is for Mares and Mothers!

 
Continuing our series on Motherhood and Riding, we have a special treat today! 
Two professional women, who love horses and their young children, share HOW and WHY they have stayed active in the horse community during this busy chapter in their lives.

I think it is a shame that women leave the saddle during the young-child phase, though I can certainly understand why.  Horses and children can both be expensive, time consuming, and demanding.  But I believe that with the right planning (such as co-leasing your horse), and the right collaboration with your horse service providers (your stable, your trainers), more mothers may be able to stay in horses.  Even if this period of your life requires you to sell your horse in your family's or your horse's best interests, I would still advocate the value in continuing to be involved in the horse community, even if you are not regularly mounted yourself.  The soul-soothing it can give you, the value in exposing your children to the barn, and the value and encouragement you can add to your fellow equestrians are all compelling reasons to make it to the next horse show or clinic or lesson to audit, help set jumps, or to just be refreshed by being in and around the horse world.

Have a read to see what our two contributing working/ riding/ mothering women have to say about horses and motherhood!



Dr. Camille Knopf, who has contributed regularly to Ribbons and Red Tape, starting with an introduction in this post, shared about stallion STD testing in mares, about Sex Ed for Mr. Ed, and many more! 

Jackie of Regarding Horses writes a personal blog about her life with horses as a mother, on horsemanship and training, equestrian event coverage, tutorials, product reviews, and more.  She recently offered a very honest post, "6 Confessions of a Postpartum horse back rider" which is essential reading for any expecting equestrian mother...and for horse businesses that serve mothers and want to understand their target market a bit better!


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Do any of these reasons resonate with you, either as a riding mother, a horse-crazy mom who had to leave the barn during the hectic years, or as a barn that loses the income stream when moms can't keep up a horse while also raising young children?

Moms: we love them, we sell to them

This is the first of several posts in the month of May that will look at the unique situation of Motherhood and Horses.

Happy Mother's Day! 
We all have different mothers in our lives, women (or mares!) we admire for their strength, compassion, and leadership.  Birth mothers, adopted mothers, barn mothers, we're so grateful for their wonderful presence in our lives.
Left to Right: Mom, Sister, and Me

Do you cherish the mothers at the barn?
I encourage you to take the opportunity to thank the women who are there for you with their supporting and encouraging wisdom.

And I also encourage you to make sure you are also nourishing the mothers in return, not only will it be overwhelming appreciated by these hard-working women, but it may also be a rather equine business savvy thing to do!

Women are unique.  While many fathers now stay home while the mothers work, or mothers work flex schedules to be able to be present in both the office and the home, among other arrangements, women are the only ones that can give birth! Consider this Mother's Day how you can in fact use that to your advantage....

Business Savvy

My friend is a personal trainer and mentioned that her evenings were booked with clients but that she needed to find an angle to fill her afternoon spots.  She told me that her target market was moms.  Moms who don't work a traditional 8-5 job, moms who might have time for a training session before picking the kids up from school, or moms who can take a personal fitness break while someone stays at home during the children's nap time.

Problem: When women become pregnant at a certain point they will not be safe to continue in lessons or riding.  They either need to sell their horse, lease their horse, or quite taking lessons on the lesson horse.  How will you retain their business during and after this time?

Problem: Women feel they can't take the time away from a newborn or a young child, and think they need to wait until the children are in school until they can ride again, the amount of time varies number on how many and closely spaced she has children.

Product Sellers: what makes a mom's life easier?  She always needs to save time, are you telling her how your product helps make her life easier?
Service Providers: What makes a mom's life more pleasant so she can forget about the tears and tantrums? Quality quiet time alone with her horse, and perhaps also her happy children on horseback with her.

Make it a win-win.  Reflect on how YOUR horse business solves a problem, and then pitch your product or service from that perspective.  Moms will love to feel appreciated by your business and to be able to stay around horses; and the win to your business is client retention and an amazing community reputation (perhaps your unique selling perspective, remember this post?) and a great referral base among the other horse-crazy mothers!
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Are you a mom who feels her barn complements her busy lifestyle?
What horse products, or services at the barn or in training, have made it possible for you to stay in horses with young children?

Getting an Equestrian Trademark is Fashionable! (an exclusive interview)

I am SO excited about today's post!  We have an AMAZING equestrian fashion brand sharing business insights with us!

One of the most common questions I receive from horse people is whether a trademark is needed for their small horse business.  You can click here to read my previous post, "What's in a Name: Trademarking your Equine Business." 

Today we have Le Fash, an equestrian apparel company based out of New York that specializes in the use of beautiful bamboo fabrics, share its Trademark journey with us.  I love the Le Fash clothes; they are fashion-forward, soft, and can even transition outside of the ring into street wear.  When I saw Le Fash post a picture of its Trademark certificate, I could not wait to share the Le Fash story with all my readers here at Ribbons and Red Tape

Le Fash is an equestrian business to watch: it has grown enormously in just two years, has a large and quality distribution, luxury products, and operates with impressive equine business integrity.

Arianna Vastino, President of Le Fash shares her interview answers exclusively with us...


1. What is your company and how long have you been in business? My company is Le Fash, a high end equestrian lifestyle clothing brand all made in New York. I launched just over 2 years ago

2. What has been the greatest struggle from a legal or business standpoint in growing Le Fash? Capital. When starting a company, it's hard to grow and do what needs to be done in order to be competitive in the market without capital. I've chosen to grow organically as opposed to through an investor and therefore have tried to find interesting ways to promote my brand without having to spend a ton of money. 

On that note, another struggle is protection over the ideas in both designs and marketing from the larger companies. With all the promotion that is required to be competitive in the market, you're exposed to these larger companies that will "borrow" good ideas, sell for less and eventually can shut you out of the mix. Protecting fashion designs is a huge problem for designers.

3. What successes are you most proud of accomplishing with Le Fash? I'm proud of even being considered for this interview! (Ha!) Honestly, I'm proud to have brought my brand to the market from a sketch on paper. I couldn't be happier doing my dream career. I also am most proud when I hear great feedback from my customers who say they feel and look great in my products.

4. Tell us about your Trademarks! Why did you decide to Trademark, how many do you hold, and did you find it a difficult process? I own 4 trademarks; my logos, the "Le Fash" name and my slogan "ride in style". As I mentioned, fashion designs legally don't get a lot of protection so I decided to protect what I could. 

I found the process rather simple. It just took some time to go through all of the questions. If your proposed trademarks are original and you're very thorough in the application, you can do it once and it goes through. 

5. Can you share a piece of insight or advice for horse business owners who want to grow their company on a solid business foundation? Write a formal business plan. Do all of the market research, find out the barriers to entry, study your competition, find out what will make your business unique from them. It may take a very long time but it's worth it. Even if your eyes are the only ones who will ever see it, it will act like a guideline for your business and give you all the necessary tools you'll need to survive.


Amazing, thank you Arianna! 

Do you wonder if you need a Trademark for your horse business? Or have you gotten one already?

p.s. le Fash is currently having a 25% off sale.  These products are rarely discounted, so I'd highly advise snatching some up now.  Perhaps a Mother's Day gift for the discerning equestrian women in your life?

WHAT did you say?! Word of Mouth Opinions in the Horse World

If you buy horse products, board your horse at a stable, go to shows, or take lessons or clinics then you form a positive or negative opinion or association with that service or product.  
You probably tell your friends or family, or other riding contacts, about your experience with that particular equestrian service or product.
Likewise, you might ask other riders their experience with a particular type of trailer, the footing at certain shows, or a farrier that they could recommend to you.  Based on that recommendation you may choose to NOT attend a show, buy a particular saddle, or use a certain veterinarian; you respond by withholding both your time and your money from something that has negative feedback.

This is the basics of all relationships- it is valuable to help each other, inform yourself, and to improve the horse industry and community.  This is also the basics of marketing and sales.  Companies want you to share your positive experience with your friends because a trusted referral is something dollars cannot buy.  
There are laws that govern how your business can request feedback and what it can do with the feedback (such as disclosure laws, laws regarding the use of personal contact information, and more).  These laws are important and will be discussed how they relate to the equine world on the blog in the future, but for now, consider the role that your feedback plays in the horse world, as well as how helpful it is to you when you have customers, clients, or friends give you their honest thoughts (when requested of course! I don't particularly love unrequested feedback from the sidelines when I'm posting without stirrups).

Three common types of feedback in the horse business world
Customer to Customer: your experience with a horse product or service or event, and what you tell your friend about that experience

Customer to Business: responding to surveys or on the phone with customer service (an experience in itself!) to let the business know your positive or negative reaction to the business' products or services

Business to Business: rather than viewing other businesses as competitors, other business owners can be collaborators in your horse business.  Whether a business is at the same point as yours, ahead or just behind you, there is value in providing feedback to each other.

Where do you most frequently find yourself in these feedback relationships?  Which are most frustrating, or pleasing, to you? (I love highly-personal customer service as a customer with a horse business, like the tack store Farmhouse Tack.)
What have you chosen NOT to spend money on because of negative feedback? (i.e., a certain clinician who you were told is condescending or a saddle pad that falls apart after one wash?)

The past two months I have hosted an exclusive horse business group composed of a hand-selected group of equestrian entrepreneurs and others in the horse business.  The members are both horse product businesses as well as service providers, such as trainers and coaches.  We have collaborated in the group to provide each other with feedback, touching on all three types of feedback mentioned above.

The Online Horse Business community is a very special place, where people can get help and support, learn new things, build relationships, and grow sales - a safe, encouraging, professionally constructive space for all involved. 

If being part of a horse business feedback group is something that you're interested in, and you have not yet subscribed to the Ribbons and Red Tape mailing list by requesting the free Start Your Horse Business checklist, I wanted to give you an opportunity to put your name on the waiting list.  The doors are currently closed to new members, but will be re-opening again soon.

This horse business feedback  group is for you if you work for a horse business or own an equestrian entrepreneurial venture and you are interested in growing your horse audience and sales.   And if this doesn't sound like something for you, no pressure at all.




I also wanted to let you know that one of our current horse business group members is the Equestrian Health Coach.  Kimball Wilson, a certified health coach and rider has opened the doors to her 21 day healthy eating cleanse for equestrians, beginning on May 5.  If you are struggling to maintain your New Year Resolution to get fit and healthy, or if you want to get your health on track for a demanding summer show schedule, I encourage you to sign-up! I am always shocked at how much attention riders give to feeding their horses the right nutrition, but then riders will feast on sugary store-bought muffins and soda all weekend at a show.  Check out the program and see if it could be the right fit for you or someone you know.  But hurry, you only have until this coming Monday to sign-up before the doors close!

Note: I do not receive a commission if you sign-up for the Equestrian Health Coach program, I just want to help spread the word about a great online horse business!

Why a Horse Biz should say NO to Distribution (PLUS a 25% Discount!)

In our last post we discussed the basic outline of a distribution agreement for horse products.  As you can imagine, problems can often arise between the buyer and seller.  And even with a distribution contract in place there may still be issues that emerge that are contrary to the vision that you have for your horse business.  You should therefore carefully consider whether a distribution of your horse product is the right decision for you and your business, and how you might enforce your brand vision in your contract.

Today we are sharing the story of a great small horse business, Deco Pony, which offers a variety of equestrian purses and products, as well as providing many custom options.  The Deco Pony custom photo stall guard was named by Professional Horseman's as a top 10 gift!  Deco Pony was offered a distribution agreement early in the business, and Jenn Hogan, the company owner, decided to reject the offer.  Here is her story.


I was extremely flattered to be called from a big Equestrian Supply Manufacturer & Distributor saying "they would love to meet with me when they get back into town to talk about getting my bags into stores for the Holidays!"

I had given them a few bags to try out & show around the Rolex 3 Day Event & other venues in the Spring to generate buzz, so they had been using them non-stop ever since. It never ever dawned on me that they might end up liking them so much that they would want to "buy my company." They were in the business of bits, apparel & saddle pads.

Why Distribution wasn't right for Deco Pony for now ~

We met - they told me how impressed they were with the designs & especially the quality & durability of the construction, which was impressive coming from a Manufacturer.
I told them I have been very pleased with my Manufacturer & I am proud to have them made in the USA.
They told me they would love to take over manufacturing & distribution, keeping the Deco Pony name & still allowing me to do my Custom orders on the side, while giving me Royalties. What an offer within 9 months of starting my business!

The #1 reason I chose against the offer ~ I was just getting started & really wanted to see where I could take it on my own. I was absolutely not ready to give my designs away for 5% royalties. It was tempting though, because all I would have to do was turn out a few designs a season - the part I loved doing the most - but not for such a small piece of the pie.

Reason #2  ~ They were going to make them in…. you guess it - China. No thank you - I couldn't sleep at night knowing this was happening. Ethically it was not the right choice for me along with quality & copyright concerns.

Reason #3 ~ Having never been in a situation like this before I was very concerned about what control if any I would end up having over my brand once things got rolling & where would I find a Lawyer to help me negotiate these new waters?

Reason #4 ~ This was my baby were we talking about, it was only 9 months old and I wanted to nurture it along & see what we could do & learn together. My curiosity & pride weren't interested in taking a back seat.

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As you can see, deciding whether and how to distribute your horse products is both a very personal decision, and one based on financial, legal, and business savvy considerations.  I applaud Deco Designs, and any other horse business, for realizing that negotiating distribution waters is certainly an aspect in your business when an attorney should be consulted.  

If you are considering distribution agreements, search "distribution" in the blog's search box to review the relevant posts; this will help you be aware of the general concerns and parameters of distribution of horse products.  You can take these elements to an attorney, which will help reduce the amount of time the attorney needs to work with you to understand your goal and motive to the distribution agreement, and also provide a great foundation for the Distribution Contract.  If the distributor provides you with a contract it would be highly advisable to have an attorney review and talk with you about it to make sure you aren't giving away too much of your business.

As a consumer, have you ever been curious why your tack store no longer carries certain brands?  Did you realize it could be a distribution agreement issue?

And if you are a horse business owner: is a distribution offer something you dream of for your company, or is it something you can't imagine yourself accepting?


Special Offer! For Ribbons and Red Tape readers (the most horse savvy readers around!), Deco Pony is offering a generous 25% off any product! Head to the online store and enter code "Red Ribbons" at checkout. Valid for 2 days only!

Distribution Agreements for Horse Products

We all love "vendor row" at the horse show, but do you ever wonder about the scheme of horse product distribution that goes on behind the scenes? Or want to know how to get YOUR horse product into popular stores?

I recently worked on a case regarding a distribution dispute of riding breeches.  A company provided breeches to a local barn that had a tack shop.  There were several issues that lead to the dispute between the two parties.  I've included two of those issues in this post to help guide your decision-making when you consider distributing your horse product to a retailer (as opposed to direct to consumer).


Payment for Horse Product  
There are a few different ways that payment is handled in distribution agreements, and there are "industry norms" for different types of products.  Money is always the greatest catalyst for dispute, so make sure you are happy with and fully understand the financial arrangement prior to signing a contract.  There are many different blends of structuring the deal, here are two common and straightforward methods:

1. The product is purchased by a tack shop at the supplier's wholesale price.  Tack shop bears all risk for any inventory that doesn't sell.

2. The product will be paid for at wholesale price, but contingent on sales of the product.  Here, the tack shop is motivated to sell the product for the profit margin.  However, any product that isn't sold can be returned to the supplier.  In this situation, the supplier bears the risk for the inventory: the product may be out of style when the tack store decides to send it back, the product may have faced some wear and tear, and now the supplier needs to figure out what to do with the leftover supply.

Promotion of Horse Product
An important part of any horse product is preserving the brand identity and integrity.  A brand may be known for excellent customer-service, a generous return policy, excellent quality, great for a particular horse industry (western, english, etc.), and more.  If you decide to use third parties to distribute your horse product to the consumer, you bear risk of losing control over the brand of your product.  Be sure to include in your distribution agreement whether there are parameters to how the product may be promoted (and give yourself a way out of the third party fails to adhere to your brand's commitment).  Consider:

1. Can the product be put on sale? When can it go on sale and for what level of discount?

2. Can any product be used for sponsorship purposes?  For example, can the local tack store provide local riders with breeches and call the rider "sponsored by" your breeches company, or would it be the local store as the sponsor?

3. Are any of the items permitted to be used without cash payment for the purposes of promotion of the product?  This is similar to the one above, but involves for example a tack store requesting a shipment of 100 breeches, and 10 of the breeches will be given to top riders in the tack store's discretion, and those 10 breeches will not be paid for in cash because the company is receiving valuable exposure through the tack store's contacts.
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If you're a consumer you likely don't think about distribution agreements much, you just want to purchase the products you love with the price and quality that is important to you.  But next time you shop the sale rack at your local store, think about all the mechanics that have occurred behind the scenes to get your favorite horse items to you!

Would you ever consider distribution of your horse product? If so, what limitations would you want to include?

Image Source: Oughton Limited

Keep 'em Safe on your Horse and Don't Lose $300 grand

A recent equine law Florida case provides valuable insights into ways YOU can avoid liability when allowing anyone to ride your horse.
It is such a shame that fear of liability has caused so many of us to become hyperaware and fearful of accidents and lawsuits with our horses.  It makes me supremely cautious to ever allow a friend to ride one of our horses, help lead a calm horse into the barn, or even feed carrots at the risk of a chomped finger!  

First, I'll share a few facts of the Florida case, then Randi Thompson, of Horse and Rider Awareness, shares tips to help reduce risk of injury when guests ride your horse.
 Whether you are a horse business or a private horse owner, and whether you are allowing someone to ride to try the horse prior to purchase, to take a lesson, or as a fun experience, both the Flordia case and Randi's tips will help ensure you can enjoy your horse experience to the fullest while limiting the risk of liability.

Randi Thompson coaching.  Image source Horse and Rider Awareness

The Equine Law Case
A woman owned a horse named Buster.  As part of Buster's diet she fed him a calming supplement from Smartpak, and subsequently wrote a review of the supplement that was published by Smartpak, stating that Buster "can be a little difficult at times, what a difference [the supplement] made in him.  Since he's been on it we've had nothing but great rides."
Buster's owner permitted another woman to ride Buster.  This other woman said that Buster's owner told her that Buster was well-trained.  When the woman applied her legs to Buster to ask him to move forward the horse allegedly reared, she fell and broke two vertebrae.
Apparently someone anonymously sent the injured woman's lawyer the Smartpak review written by Buster's owner.  After four years of legal wrangling and appeals Buster's owner agreed to pay to the woman $300,000 as part of their settlement.

Yikes. My first thought is that just because a horse can be a little difficult at times, doesn't mean he isn't well-trained.  And it was the owner who had nothing but great rides, which says nothing to the riding ability of the other woman.  However, I imagine there are a lot more details to both sides of the story, so here are a few things we can learn from the case:
  • If anyone gets on your horse, have them sign a Release of Liability first.
  • If you allow anyone on or near your horses, err on the side of disclosing that your horse may have MORE quirks to be cautious about, rather than less.
  • As an equestrian, make sure you have the right umbrella insurance policy or rider to your applicable insurance.

Practical Tips
“The Secrets to Teaching a Guest or Rider the Basics"
By Randi Thompson © 2014 Horse and Rider Awareness

What do you do when you have a guest who wants to ride your horse? Would you like a safe process that will let them have fun as they discover how to control a horse?
Your main goal will be to protect your rider. Try to make everything fun, but keep in mind that safety has to come first. Begin by making sure to have a safe, quiet horse. Next, choose a safe location. A fenced in area with level footing is always the best choice.
  • Take special care when the rider is Mounting and Dismounting
  • Let’s ride! To be safe, keep the lead line on so that you have control.  If the rider cannot stop the horse on their own, you cannot let go of the lead line at any time.
  •  Take your time and make sure the rider knows that the horse is moving forward because of what they are doing with their legs.
  • Check that the rider can go in both directions while starting and stopping. As their steering improves you can choose other points of focus and ask them to ride the horse to that spot and stop.
  • Test their controls again. When you are sure the rider is in control, and not before, you can remove the lead line and repeat the process. Stay close to the horse until you are certain that control has been established, and finally, step away. 
  • Some people think it is fun for a new rider to trot or canter. This is where most accidents happen. These gaits are not comfortable to new riders and they will also not be able to control the horse.
Now you have the tools that will give you the confidence to put a rider on your horse. Your goal is simple. Keep them safe first, and keep them having as much fun as you can.

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I know that the fear of liability has caused the decline of casual horse back riding.  But when you take steps to alert a rider of the inherent risks to riding (such as verbal warnings, a signed liability release, and posted signs) AND you take reasonable steps is assessing the rider's ability on the horse before you let the rider independently, then you are far ahead in protecting yourself.  Most states have Equine Activity Liability Acts, but do not rely on these alone because each state's act has exceptions to the liability protection.

I have been riding my entire life, but when I go to try a horse or ride a horse at another barn, most trainers usually hold the horse by the reins while I mount, tell me that the horse may spook in the far corner, and alert me to any other possible risks.  And of course I have always signed a Liability Release before I get on when at a horse business.  Even though I am an experienced rider, I appreciate that the owners or agents of horses take steps to make sure we all have a successful ride.  When these cautionary steps become a part of the everyday make-up of how you conduct your horse business or horse life, it feels natural and not like you are taking the steps out of fear of liability.

I know that lawyers can ruin a lot of things about our great horse sport (by being willing to take some ridiculous horse cases!), but equine law is so great because it provides a vehicle for us to all learn how to conduct our horse lives in a way that ensures everyone, and all the horses, have a better time.  This is what will help our sport grow!


Special thanks to Rate my Horse Pro for sending me this Florida case on Twitter.  You can read the full article at their site by following this link.

You can experience Randi's simple, yet amazing Horse and Rider Awareness techniques that have been tested and proven to work on 1000s of riding instructors, horse trainers, students and horses and can learn more by following this link to Horse and Rider Awareness.

Euthanize Moody Mares! And other thoughts on a crazy Court Decision


Over on Twitter (come and follow me!) we've been having various discussions about the recent Connecticut court ruling.  If you haven't been brought up to speed- please make yourself aware of the case and its potential ramifications as part of your duty as an equestrian representative in your community.
 As a brief backstory, a toddler went to pet a horse in a paddock at a local market.  The horse bit the boy in the neck causing injury.  A lawsuit commenced.  The ruling in relevant part:

The owner or keeper of a domestic animal “has a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent the animal from causing injuries that are foreseeable because the animal belongs to a class of animals that is naturally inclined to cause such injuries,” the court ruled. Owners may be held liable for negligence if they fail to take reasonable steps and an injury results, the justices said.

It's one of those rulings that is frustrating, aggravating, leaves more questions than answers, and in my opinion, doesn't result in any productive solutions.

Here are two PIVOTAL phrases the court uses that I want you to consider with this case...

Marketing your Horse Business (a guest post!)

Are you a member of enough social media sites?  It certainly overwhelms me with how many sites I am told by various gurus that I should join.  Some of them really work for networking and promoting content!  But there is one old tool that many of us are forgetting to use, and today we have a guest post from Peg Cannell of $table In₵ome to offer us a bit more insight.  Peg consults with horse businesses to help create a stable income stream in the often volatile financial world of boarding, training, and showing.  If you're interested in increasing your overall profitability in your horse business, you can contact Peg through her LinkedIn profile.

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During financially difficult times it is most important to offer students and their families value for their money or they will cut out lessons and shows as an unnecessary expense. This does not mean giving away your services, but offering options while waiting for economic recovery. Service is what we give in the horse business and we should never forget it.


First Impressions

First impressions are important to attract the clientele you desire. The first exposure anyone has to your business is usually the telephone. Sadly, most small barn owners do not consider this a priority and hope that future customers will wait for the proverbial ‘hay to be put up’ before being called back. Unless they really want to come to your business for a personal reason, they will call the next barn. We have become a national of impatient consumers and it is best not to forget that. Obviously, your physical site is important too as some potential clients will drive up to see the horses. If the paint is peeling, horse manure litters the site, or things are held together with baling twine and duct tape, you may not attract the customers you desire. The best advice I can give is to take someone you don’t know well on a tour of your facility. You will see it through that person’s eyes rather than your own.


Your Speciality

There are differences between disciplines for sure and it is a good idea to choose what you are
passionate about. If you are passionate, it is infectious. Regardless of your specialty, it is a good idea to pick one. Within broad categories are subsets - do you train young riders only, ponies, jumpers, adults, equitation, hunters, dressage riders, reiners? Gaining a niche as being known for a subset is a long term profitable move. You will become the local expert and people will come to you. Many of us wish to be a mover-shaker in our equine world and if that is your goal and you don’t have the credentials to back it up, go work for someone who does and keep your barn closed until you are ready. The truth is, few of us make it to the very top but many of us have businesses that support us financially and emotionally. And that is what it is all about in my view. Regardless of your category or subset, regardless of your size and recognition, we all strive to have our riders and horses compete to the best of their abilities. 

Excellent horse management and care and a club atmosphere make clients happy. Who wouldn't want to belong? Who wouldn't want to do their best?
Make that happen from the first contact on. Get someone to answer the phone!
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I like that Peg mentioned "from the first contact on."  Remember that attaining a new customer is part of the journey, and retaining satisfied customers that will then refer more business to you is the destination.  Treat the very first contact with a prospect to your business, whether that is a business card, phone call, or facility tour, as a crucial part of that journey.  NOW is a great time to look at your horse business- your facility or website and its corresponding speciality (which corresponds with your unique selling proposition)- with fresh eyes and make needed changes to help improve someone's first and last experience with your horse business.  This will help you establish not only stable, but even growing, income in your horse business.

Have you ever had a great first impression with a horse business that caused you to convert from just a shopper to a customer?  Such as a barn that swayed you to board at that facility?

If you enjoyed this post and want to stay up to date on other helpful tips for horse business owners, sign up for the FREE "Start your Horse Business Checklist" by entering your email at the top of the right hand column on our blog.
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Attend the Equine Law Conference for Free ($550 value!)

Hey Law Students! (Or those who know a law student)

WIN a full scholarship to the annual Equine Law Conference in Lexington, KY!

As you may know, I assist the American College of Equine Attorneys non-profit.  The organization wants to help support law students who are interested in pursuing equine law by paying the entrance and material costs to the annual equine law conference for a deserving applicant (a $550.00 value!).  This two-day conference is amazing!  I have attended 3 years in a row, you can read about some of my experiences in this post and a photo at the conference last year in this post and a Facebook album of photos here.

Not only is the conference content fantastic, but the networking opportunities are phenomenal.  I frequently hear equine attorneys and others in equine business such as professional appraisers, paralegals, and more laud the opportunities and work they continue to receive by virtue of networking at the annual conference.

This year it is again being held at the Keeneland Race Track in the Sales Pavilion, the very site where millions upon millions of dollars have been spent in purchasing the cream of the crop Thoroughbred yearlings.

I encourage you to click this link to the American College of Equine Attorneys page to learn how to apply for the scholarship (hint: it is just a touch of research and 750 typed words).  Please share this post with any law students you think may be interested.
Deadline is April 10, 2014, so do not delay!

Let me know if you have any questions, and best of luck!

p.s. I do have an existing post on this blog that may help in your essay writing!

How to Avoid a Horse Blogger Giveaway that Breaks the Law

It's been so interesting to see the number of 'horse lifestyle' blogs or blogs by amateur riders hosting giveaway contests for large and small brands alike.  This can be GREAT equine business savvy, but there is also MAJOR legal red tape to navigate!


Sometimes the blogger receives free riding clothes or horse gear and writes a review, and then offers a reader a chance to win a similar item.  Often an entrant is required to follow a multi-set of rules to be entered into the giveaway.  At times I have seen extensive lists for entry! Such as:

1. Follow my blog
2. Like my page on Facebook
3. Like the product or service company's page on Facebook
4. Post on your blog about this giveaway
5. Tweet/ Pinterest/ etc. this giveaway
6. Come back and leave a comment on my blog to let me know you completed all steps

That is a lot of requirements to entry!  So have you ever been curious whether these giveaways are in compliance with the law? Or if you want to host a giveaway, have you considered whether it will violate the law?

Giveaway vs. Sweepstakes vs. Lottery

These are all separately defined and have separate federal and state laws that regulate them, and you need to know which you are hosting to make sure you are following the right restrictions.
 
Sweepstakes:
winning is based on pure luck
Contests: winner is chosen based on quality or worthiness of entry (i.e., leave a comment why your horse business would benefit from winning and our blog team will make our selection based on the comments)
Lottery: winner is chosen at random, but entrants have to pay or do something to be entered into the opportunity to win

In general, you do not want to be defined as a Lottery unless you are prepared to comply with all lottery requirements.  Followers are valuable! Did you know that requiring someone to like or follow you could put you into a lottery category?  Also, did you know that because "time is money" that requiring an entrant to navigate away from your page, do a task, and return, that you could be requiring consideration to entry?  

So the MORE steps you require the MORE likely you are subject to lottery laws!  It is legally untested thus far in the blog world how many steps gives rise to consideration, but the general consensus seems to be that you shouldn't require more than one simple step for entry, and that offering the opportunity of additional actions as "extra entries" may also be in violation of lottery laws.

Legal Compliance

Problem: If a person is eligible to enter the giveaway, then you as the host must comply with all the laws of the jurisdiction where that person is located.

Tip: If you do not want to follow the laws of every jurisdiction, then limit WHO can enter.  For example, minors are treated differently under giveaway laws so you may want to restrict entry to those 18 and older.  Also, Canada has very unique (and rather burdensome) laws for giveaways, so you may want to restrict entry to your country only.

Problem: Lotteries are strictly regulated (think of your state's lottery system- same rules!), so you most likely want to host a SWEEPSTAKES giveaway, not a lottery.  However, CONTESTS can also be a great option if you are choosing the winner based on specific criteria and the entrant's qualification, not on chance.

Tip: Follow the sweepstakes checklist below.  Also, if it is a big company providing you with the product, ask them to give you their sweepstakes/ contest/ lottery rules.  Remember: YOU are your only advocate and are the one responsible for protecting your own and your blog's legal interests- the big company just cares about promoting itself. If you are hosting a CONTEST, follow the checklist below but substitute #4 and #5 to match your contest requirements.

Sweepstakes Checklist

Fortunately, creating a sweepstakes can be pretty straightforward.  This article has an excellent checklist and I highly recommend reading the entire article for a more comprehensive look at the laws for bloggers giving equestrian items away to readers.  I have provided here, your blogging convenience, what to include in your sweepstakes announcement to make it legally compliant:

1. WHAT is the prize?
2. WHO can enter, and WHO cannot? (age, country, etc.)
3. WHEN will the sweepstakes begin and WHEN will it end?
4. HOW does someone enter? (Tip: avoid falling into "consideration" as discussed above)
5. WINNER: what random process will be used to select the winner?
6. OTHER: what are the terms of the giveaway? Duplicate entries, how to ask questions, technical site issues, prize no longer becomes available, disclaimers, etc.?

Important Tax Issues

Taxes! Everyone's favorite legal compliance issue.  If the total prize value is worth more than a certain amount of money then the prize has to bonded or insured against loss within a certain timeframe of the giveaway.  This is unique to each state.  As this article points out, in New York the monetary threshold is $5,000.00.

IRS! Where there is financial value, the IRS invites himself over.  If the prize value is more than $600.00 then the recipient must report that as income to the IRS, so entrants need to be told the value of the prize, and that the entrant is responsible for any tax liability that arises- not the host.  For example, when Oprah gives someone a car, she is most likely not going to also pay the winner's taxes on the car's value.

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Remember how in our Copyright post for Horse Bloggers we mentioned how unchartered it is to apply traditional laws to this new online platform?  Giveaways, sweepstakes, and lotteries are an even greater unchartered territory for bloggers.  I know complying with all the laws isn't as fun as just throwing up a giveaway and getting a lot of likes and follows in the process- but read through this post a couple times, follow the checklist, and consider having a page on your blog with "Terms & Conditions" related to giveaways (tip: go and read the T&C of other big horse companies, like Ariat, if you are curious what it might look like).

Do you ever get annoyed with some of the requirements to enter a blog contest?  Have you ever even considered that your blog's giveaway must follow the law?  If any other comments related to this developing field- let me know!

p.s. there is no prize involved, but if you like this post then feel free to do one (or all!) of those 6 steps to follow this blog, google+ the post, or like the page on facebook, as listed at the top of the post! Thanks!