If you’re thinking of starting a new equine business, this is a must-read! Make sure you’re protected and have the tools essential to marketing your brand.
By Kaitlyn Schultz
Do you have a new equine business or are you planning to launch one soon? If so, this article is for you!
Starting a new equestrian business can be a daunting task. From contracts to social to choosing a name, there’s so much to do. It’s easy to get caught in a rut of inaction simply because you aren’t sure what your next move should be.
In this article, we outline the five most important things every equestrian startup needs. Go through our list and get each item checked off for your business. Once you have, you’ll be well on your way to the thriving business you’ve dreamed of.
1) Legal Protection
One thing that is commonly overlooked in startups is legal protection. And it’s one of the most important things to have in place! If something happens to your business, the last thing you want is to be personally financially responsible. Make sure you have these protections set up as soon as your business is started.
LLC – Limited Liability Company. This allows one or more people to operate a business and have liability protection along with certain tax advantages. An LLC protects personal assets of the business owner from business liability. That means if the business goes under, you’ve only lost what you’ve invested, not your entire life savings. Most states require only a single document, the Articles of Organization, to apply for an LLC so it is often simple to apply for.
S Corp – S Corps are similar to LLC’s in that they provide liability protection and tax benefits. One of the distinct advantages of an S Corp over an LLC is that they may actually reduce liability on your self-employment taxes. S Corps are, however, a little trickier to apply for as you must meet certain IRS requirements.
DBA – Doing Business As. Every business has a true, legal name (this can be the name of the owner, or the name on its formation document). Often, the business does business under other names or “trade names”. The DBA lets you also do business under your trade names. There is often no limit to the number of DBAs a business can have. You may need to use a DBA if your business’s legal name is your name (i.e. John Smith), but you want to do business under a name like “John’s Custom Saddlery”.
EIN Number – Employer Identification Number. This number is like a social security number for your business. Most businesses need one. You use your EIN when you open a business bank account, apply for business licenses and file taxes. You can apply for your EIN online on the IRS website.
Contracts – These are a must! If you are providing a service, make sure you have a legal contract with each client. If you have employees, make sure you have a legal contract with each employee. In addition, you must know the difference between hiring employees and independent contractors. Each state’s requirements for both types of employment are different, so look up what is required in your state. Contracts protect both parties in a number of ways and are incredibly important to have in place. They make expectations of both parties transparent so there is no question if everyone is either fulfilling or failing to meet their obligations. This is especially helpful if there is a payment dispute or a question about what services were supposed to be fulfilled. Having contracts also makes the end to a client or employee relationship more streamlined. There is no question about who gets what and what the terms are. You can find many different contract templates online which can be customized for your needs, but it is also very valuable to consult with an attorney to make sure your contracts will hold up in court (if something were to come to that!)
Liability Insurance – Liability insurance is key in protecting your business from unforeseen accidents. If someone gets hurt on your property or using your service or product, your liability insurance covers legal obligations such as medical costs. Liability insurance can also cover claims of false or misleading advertising, including libel, slander, and copyright infringement. Protect your company’s assets and make sure you have liability insurance.
2) Social Presence
Do you like and follow your favorite brands on social media? Many people do! Often, people find themselves not only following, but often engaging with their favorite businesses on social media. If you are starting a new business, setting up your social media presence is an absolute must. While most businesses do not directly make lots of sales on social media, almost all businesses have a social media presence. Why is this?
For starters, having a Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. provides legitimacy and trust between you and your future customers. These days, when first discovering a business, many people go straight to the business’s social accounts. They want to make sure the business really exists, but they are also looking for how active their page is, whether the information and posts are relevant, and whether or not other customers are interacting with the business.
Social pages are one of the best ways to strike a connection with future customers. On social media, customers get to interact with the human side of your business, see your personality shine, and find the answers to questions they may have. Also, in some cases, they may be able to more easily reach out to you here than on your website.
Unlike many forms of advertising, social media pages are a great way to grow your business on a budget. That is key for most equine businesses just starting out! Without spending a dime, you can build awareness of your brand and services, encourage engagement from potential customers, provide support for current customers, and build a following and buzz around what you offer.
The most important thing to keep in mind when building your social presence is that it takes time to build. So start now! Don’t let the perfectionist inside get the better of you. Just get going and start posting. You’ll soon find your voice and realize what your audience reacts best to. So, if you haven’t already, create social accounts for your business on each relevant platform and get to posting!
3) Visual Branding & Website
If you were trying to find a horse trainer in your area, what’s the first thing you would do? For most people, the answer is “google it”. If you don’t have a website, you’re missing out on tons of potential customers. When you decide to start up a business, one of your first steps is to establish your online presence with a website.
But don’t stop there! What happens next after someone googles “horse trainer near me”? They get a list of the local trainers that are online and they click through each one to see which they want to reach out to. They are basing that decision on what they find on each website. If your website doesn’t have a nice logo, clean design, sharp images and well laid-out information, you won’t be the trainer they contact. You should also have a Google My Business account set up so your information and location come up directly on Google.
It’s important that your logo and website design match the feel and overall vibe of your business. Consistency in visual branding is key in creating a cohesive, recognizable brand. Make sure you have chosen brand colors, brand fonts and a design style before designing your logo and website. It is also important that your website has clear contact information so customers know how to get in touch with you when they are ready to move forward.
So you not only need a website, you need a GREAT website. Anything less and you won’t be winning over customers. Your website is the first impression most customers have with your business. It is also what will make you either memorable or forgettable as they search for who can best solve their problem.
Your business should be more than just visible online. It should be unforgettable.
4) Stunning Photography
More and more often we are doing our shopping and service hunting online rather than in person. Whether your new equine business is selling a product or a service, most of the time a customer will interact with you only online before they purchase. That means they won’t be coming to see what you offer in person, they’ll need to see everything required to sell them on you online.
The photography on your website and social pages needs to tell the story of your brand in the best way possible. Grainy cellphone images just won’t cut it anymore. Your photos need to be crisp and clear so people can see what you’re selling. Professional photos are what help your brand look like a serious, professional business as opposed to a garage startup.
If you are selling a product, you should have professional product shots and professional photos of the product being used. Each product should have multiple views so your customers can see all the angles or information on packaging.
If you are selling a service, then having professional photos of you, your horses, your service in action, etc are must-haves.
These photos are not only important for your website, they are also essential for your social media pages. Images with inconsistent sizes, awkward angles, bad lighting and poor quality do not give a good brand impression. Be sure your images are telling the story you want about your business.
5) Advertising & Sponsorship Budget
While we know money can be tight in a startup (we’ve been there, too!), it is important to find some room in the budget for advertising and sponsorship each month. Even if you have the greatest product, you won’t be able to sell it if people don’t know you exist.
That’s where advertising and sponsorship come in.
Digital ads are a great way to increase traffic to your website and drive sales. In most cases, you pay per click so you only pay when someone clicks on your ad to go to your website. Digital ads can be created on both Facebook and Google.
Sponsorship is one of the best ways to participate in the community with your brand. If your target customers are in the horse world, sponsoring riders and showing up at events is a great way to increase brand awareness and name recognition.
If you believe that what you have to offer will help others in the horse community, you have to make sure people know about it! Start with several types of digital ads and sponsorship opportunities to see what works best for you. Then, as your business grows, continue investing in these areas to keep your business moving forward.
Starting the Start Up
Every day, new, successful businesses are being started. With the right elements and protections in place, your new equine business could be one of them. Do your research, spend some time on your digital presence and branding, and be sure your legal protections are in place. Then, it’s just a matter of letting the world know what you have to offer!
Great success in business is possible with thorough planning and good strategy. We hope that this article answers many of the questions you had and helps get you going in the right direction.
Kaitlyn Schultz is a certified copywriter, web developer, and ads manager at Entrigue Consulting, who graduated with an Equine Science degree from Texas A&M University. Her goal is to help each and every client succeed through unique and eye-catching digital marketing. She is a Texas girl living in Iowa, who has a deep love of travel. If you have questions about equestrian marketing, get in touch with the team at Entrigue Consulting!