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Happy Thanksgiving everyone! On this holiday, it’s only right that I take some time to reflect on the past year and feel thankful for all of the things that have happened. This blog post may be coming out of nowhere, and God knows I have about a million sessions yet to blog, but something happened this week that I need the opportunity to reflect on and give my gratitude to the people who helped make it happen.

Before I turned 18, I could walk around with the title, “Youth Entrepreneur,” and you have no idea how proud that made me feel. But this title did not come easily, and I haven’t exactly had the chance to tell everyone where it started in the first place.

If I start at the beginning, all you really need to know is that ever since I was around 5 years old (or maybe sooner; you can ask my mom. She’s my #1 fan.) I have been completely obsessed with horses. Horses were the fuel for my every move, my reason for existence, and my constant motivation to work harder. I started taking lessons when I was 7 years old, but my ultimate dream was to have a horse of my very own.

Sporting our 3rd place ribbon with one of my favorite lesson ponies, Mona. 

For years I spent every minute I could with horses, even if I didn’t have one of my own. I leased, rode friend’s horses, and even competed in a youth training competition to enhance my horsemanship skills as a 13 year old. I was working with a trainer, Leanna Giles of Bravehorse Ranch, who I’m still working with today.

Me and Echo, the pony I worked with for the amateur trainer’s challenge.

But the problem remained: I still dreamed of having my own horse. As a 12-13 year old girl, I knew I could not get a “normal” job, and I couldn’t drive to get to a job anyway. Eventually, my will to get a horse of my own grew large enough that I took matters into my own hands. I decided I should make English saddle pads and rope halters and try to sell them online. Around this time, Instagram had just become very popular and I had a horse account where I posted pictures and videos of all of my horsey adventures. I was very involved in what I used to call “The Instagram Horse World”, and I loved sharing my love for horses online with others who had the same passion.

I honestly can’t remember when exactly the idea came to me, but I definitely know that I never expected it to become what it did. I had my mom bring me to JoAnn fabrics and I bought all the supplies I needed to make my first saddle pad. I also stopped by Fleet Farm and picked up some rope I saw sitting on a shelf. Then it all began.

I started out making saddle pads but I soon realized I wasn’t much of a sewer and could not be precise enough to make them look really nice. I successfully made a few pads that were perfectly safe for using (I think I still have the first one actually… Although now that I’m older I curse my color choice as a 13 year old.) but it wasn’t worth it for me to put in as much time as I did for the price I was charging. Luckily, the rope halters went a bit better as far as making and selling.

One of the first halters I made worn by my step-mom’s horse, Jojo.
One of my first posts on Instagram!
I used to hold giveaways and contests to attract more people to my page and build my brand.

 

And so, Equine Essentials was born in early 2014 when I was just 13 years old. I made an Instagram account, helped my dad set up a PayPal account so that he could make me a student account, and I began marketing my products.

Soon I realized that I should hold off on the saddle pads and focus on my halters. I started making just halters and eventually became more creative with the designs and things that I could add to them. I created the “Cobra Halter” which consisted of a rope halter with 550 paracord braided in a cobra braid over the noseband. My customers loved this, and I allowed them to completely customize their halter size and all colors. I started making connections with suppliers around the US and built business relationships to get the best prices possible so that I could maintain an affordable price for my customers.

Eventually, selling on Instagram wasn’t enough and I knew that I needed to expand. I discovered a new platform, Etsy, and began a little online shop where I could sell my products. I started accepting credit cards and introduced many more products into my line, including bridleless neck ropes, braided and rope reins, lead ropes, and bitless bridles. I was very interactive with my customers and made their order as soon as I received it, and had the product shipped out the next day.

In 2014, I’m not embarrassed to say that my business was not very popular. Over that first spring and summer things were pretty slow, but luckily my determination did not let me give up. And I am so thankful for that, because that fall and winter is when things really started to pick up. The introduction of all of those new products hit my Etsy store and everyone wanted to order something for Christmas. I was delighted at the surprise of my business gaining a little traction and getting attention. Eventually, Etsy actually sent me an email saying that with the revenue I was pulling in, they needed me to have a Federal Tax ID number on hand. It was then that I learned how to actually create a business through the state and Equine Essentials LLC was officially formed.

I continued to grow my business through social media and Etsy. Brand ambassadors from all around the world were representing my company and posting about it online. Around this time, I was a freshman in high school and decided to enroll in online school. Being in a virtual high school allowed me to spend more time focusing on my business to help it succeed. I worked day and night on expanding my company.

In the fall of 2015, I was about to turn 16 years old. I was ready to get my driver’s license and buy a car. On September 27th, 2015, my ultimate dream came true. I got my very first horse and named him Flynn. He was a scrawny little grey Arabian gelding who was 11 or 12 years old. He was sort of a project, and turned out to be a very willing partner. I am so happy to say that over three years later, Flynn is still my one and only horse who I will cherish forever. Because as a kid I had a dream, and I decided it was in my own hands to make that dream come true.

Meeting Flynn for the first time.
Photo by Shelley Paulson Photography. Flynn and I in late 2017.

At this point it would seem that my initial goal had been accomplished. I started Equine Essentials because I wanted a way to earn an income to be able to afford a horse. However, along the way I discovered a whole new passion of owning a business and learning about the business world through hands-on experience. Even though my goal had been achieved, I set new ones. I wanted to make Equine Essentials a successful company for the sake of making it the very best that it could be. I continued running the business and expanding wherever I could with new ideas, products, sales, and marketing tactics.

Photo by Rebecca Paro Photography.
Flynn sporting his custom reins made by Equine Essentials and me sporting my EE cap.

In 2016, Equine Essentials reached over $26k in sales. For someone running a business out of her bedroom, this was a major accomplishment. I had some amazing features along the way which I would like to now share with all of you.

In March, 2016, I was featured in the March/April issue of Young Rider.

In May 2016, I created a whole new website to make it easy to custom order all of my products, showcase all of my color options, and even offer “EE Education” which explained to my customers the quality of my products.

On October 25th, 2016, I was featured on Horses in the Morning by Horse Radio Network. You can listen here! Skip to 17:40 to hear my interview. (I also mention my photography business!)

In early December, 2016, I was a vendor at the Horse Crazy Market in Minneapolis, MN. Normally all of my sales occurred online, so this was an amazing learning experience and an incredible weekend overall. I would like to say a huge thank you to my parents, Sarah Knack, and Haley Anderson for all of their help that weekend!

On May 22nd, 2017 I was featured on KSMP (Fox 9) with MA Rosko.

The Fox 9 feature from 2017.
MA Rosko got to ride Leanna Giles’ horse, Freedom’s Flame, during part of the interview while I rode Flynn.

On June 13th, 2017 I was featured on KARE 11.

You can read the full article here!

It has been such an incredible journey. I have learned more than I ever imagined about working hard, being responsible, and never giving up. Equine Essentials has been a defining part of my life up until now. I have decided to sell the business because I want to focus on my photography, and I also am going to college full time while working two other jobs. Things are incredibly busy right now and I don’t have time to continue Equine Essentials, even though it kills me because I know there is potential for more growth. The business will be passed on to someone new who will change its direction a little but will overall still gear it towards horse lovers.

Even though the journey has come to an end, I wanted to express my immense gratitude to all of my amazingly loyal customers and my friends and family (especially my parents Jeff Knack, Colene McClard, and Monica Knack) who always supported me along the way. I received so much love and encouragement from everyone around me while working hard on this business. I learned more than I ever thought possible, and I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to connect with equestrians all around the world and share in our love of horses.

Thank you for reading about my journey. I am so glad I have such a wonderful support system and I will forever be grateful for the experiences that Equine Essentials taught me.

This is not the end, only the beginning. There is so much more to come.

Photo by Shelley Paulson Photography.

Happy Thanksgiving, ya’ll! Have a spectacular holiday.

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