When you shop small, you support the hard work of individuals with a vision.
Especially as we start to shop for the holidays, it’s easy to forget that some of our favorite equine businesses are small companies with just a few employees, and our favorite products are the result of hard work and innovation by just a handful of individuals. Our sponsor Draper Therapies is certainly one of those small businesses, partnering with two other small businesses in Saratoga Horseworks and Wilker’s Custom Horse Products to produce our favorite equine therapy products. We caught up with all three companies to chat equine small business and the unique challenges they face — just in time for #SmallBusinessSaturday!
- Becky Shipps of Draper Therapies: “Draper Therapies makes equine, human, and canine therapy products featuring Celliant®, a recently FDA approved fiber that helps combat muscle fatigue. We’re based in Canton, MA are are a part of the Draper Knitting Company, a 180 year old family owned/operated textile manufacturing company.”
- Kate Stephenson of Saratoga Horseworks: “Saratoga Horseworks Ltd specializes in custom horse clothing (from dress sheets to fly sheets) and accessories, such as our popular Saratoga Bandages, K9 Kooling Coats, Storage Bags, and more. We’re based in Amsterdam, NY.”
- Kristyn Rogers of Wilker’s Custom Horse Products: “Wilker’s Custom Horse Products has been a manufacturer of saddle pads and leg wraps since 1974. We are located just south of Nashville in Franklin, Tennessee. Consumers can find our products in many local tack shops (a map of our dealers is available here) or can purchase a small selection of items directly from us here.”
Becky on Draper Therapies working with Saratoga Horseworks and Wilker’s Custom Horse Products:
“Draper Therapies has been working with Saratoga Horseworks since our inception. Quite literally, our equine line would not be possible without them! They make our polos (and Perfect Polos!), saddle pads, stable sheets, coolers, quarter sheets, hock boots, quick wraps, and dog coats. Their specific knowledge about equine garments makes them invaluable to us – they have the brilliant combination of horse AND textile knowledge to help us develop new products that are not only functional but that are beautiful and last a long time.
“Draper has been working with Wilker’s for two years now. We originally started working together on developing what is now our No Bow Wraps, and now we have started developing other products (look for an XC pad from Draper that is cut and sewn by Wilker’s soon!). When I start developing a product I look around and see who is producing the best products in that category. Wilker’s is a trusted name that has been around forever and their no-bows have been a staple in just about every barn I’ve been in so I was thrilled that we got to work with them to incorporate our fabric with Celliant® into a product that was already tried and true. The sales have spoken for themselves – our No Bows are a HUGE customer favorite and I love hearing all the stories of how the wraps are helping horses stay on the top of their game.”
What are some of the unique challenges you face as a small equestrian business?
Becky: “Being seen! Even though the equestrian market is small in the scheme of the world, it’s always bustling and there are so many brands competing for attention. Always being creative, innovative, and staying one step ahead is tricky, but staying hungry is how small businesses survive. And it’s fun to be creative!”
Kate: “One of the biggest challenges we face is the competition with less costly imported brands and products. This is a two-part issue, as not only can imported products be marketed at a lower retail price, but the lower cost of production means these companies can spend more on marketing and promotion. Consumers may not realize that all of the big marketing they see does not always translate to a better product. Another challenge along these same lines is that brands that produce internationally do not always have the same level of regulations, which again makes it cheaper to produce while sacrificing sustainability, workforce safety, and more.”
Kristyn: “As a small business, it can be difficult to compete with lower prices of foreign-made goods. We believe that the high quality of our products, as well as our vast range of custom colors and options, sets us apart and keeps customers coming back to Wilker’s.”
What’s your unique niche in the market and how do you address that need?
Becky: “Our products are unique because they’re not exactly what you think of when you think of a “medical device”. We’re really changing the way people think about alternative therapy products and how they can be integrated into daily care of all horses, not just senior or injured ones. Being small has been helpful because it allows us to build a strong relationship with each customer. It starts when they first find us and we explain how the product works. It grows when they have questions or need help ordering and, with the help of social media, the relationship continues to be interactive as we release new products and information about our brand. As a brand we try to be helpful and friendly, so after awhile many of our conversations with customers end up sounding like two old friends catching up! We truly love our customers and are grateful that we can always be a friendly and familiar face in the equestrian marketplace.”
Kate: Our “niche” is creating high-end custom horse clothing with impeccable quality and attention to detail. Being a small business allows us to offer an incredibly personalized buyer experience for our consumers, something that we believe is key when it comes to creating one-of-a-kind items. With a small work force, we can also better insure that each and every blanket meets the highest of standards when it comes to quality and appearance.
Why should consumers “shop small” this holiday season?
Becky: Because small businesses take pride in their work. That item that you bought from a small business someone took the time to dream up, design, then make, package, market, etc possibly all by themselves. They will always go the extra mile to make sure you’re as satisfied and as proud of your purchase as they are of their creation.
Kate: We think it is important because you are not only supporting a small business, but also supporting our workers here in the USA, American suppliers of materials and raw goods, and the community as a whole. When you shop small, you set off a chain reaction that reaches far beyond just the company you have purchased from!
Kristyn: We encourage consumers to shop small this holiday season because you’ll have a memorable and personable experience. Many tack shops offer far more than just the products on their shelves; they offer services and benefits that make shopping with them a more hands-on experience, ensuring you have exactly what you’ll need to for a fun and safe ride.
Support small business this holiday season and shop small! Check out our sponsor Draper Therapies for their unique therapeutic products, plus partnering businesses Saratoga Horseworks and Wilker’s Custom Horse Products.
Go small business, and go riding!