Stable life is filled with regular unplanned challenges ranging from a thrown shoe on your farrier's day off, a frustrating lesson trying to execute a new exercise, a minor laceration requiring a topical treatment that is missing from your first aid kit, and the list goes on. We all can relate to each of these situations and in every instance reflect on a moment when another equestrian has stepped in and helped out.
As the COVID-19 pandemic generates the need for assistance mentally, financially and medically, individuals from within the equestrian community are demonstrating the same "will help" attitude. Regardless of size of contribution, we are tapping into this cultural attribute that defines our group by jumping in to problem solve and encourage others through this difficult time.
For years I have been interviewing entrepreneurs, artisans and educators that help sustain the equestrian way of life. Amid this recent crisis, my newsfeed has been filled with examples of all sizes that exemplify how these individuals are applying their skill sets to assist in the fight agains COVID-19.
Last fall, I first interviewed Lauren Pileggi, the founder of the Show the Bows, a niche business that creates custom made equestrian show bows and accessories.
During our first call, the enthusiasm Lauren has for our industry projected from her voice as she explained the story behind her business. The first bow was created as a favor to help a friend who wanted a special set for her daughter that was showing at the iconic heritage steeped Devon Horse Show.
Fast forward and the kind gesture parlayed into the formation of a business to assist Lauren pay for a large sum of veterinarian bills necessary to help her beloved dog, Quinn, who had become quite ill (READ COMPLETE STORY IN INTERVIEW BELOW).
Lauren's helping hand has once again caught my attention. Recently she tapped into the resources necessary for the operation of her small business and created face masks to donate towards the battle against COVID-19.
Simultaneously, she is sharing uplifting social posts for her followers during a time when most of us need a boost in our spirit.
As a small business owner that directly relies on horse shows for sales and marketing, her daily entrepreneurial activities have adjusted as Show the Bows shifts to online sales, social marketing and direct correspondence to connect with customers (CONTACT INFO AT BOTTOM OF PAGE). Additionally, this week Lauren officially launched the brand's darling "Dog Bowtique," which carries colorful dog bananas and leashes.
Lauren's assistance is exemplary of the helping spirit that is the foundation of our equestrian heritage. One small good deed has the ability to make a difference in helping another and even elevating the spirit of an entire community.
INTERVIEW: ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 10/24/2019
Name of Company: Show the Bows
Entrepreneur: Lauren Pileggi
Company Overview: “Custom made equestrian show bows and accessories. Find that winning touch!”
You hold a full-time career as a specialized marketer for a company that is on the forefront in technology within the electronic sector. Was there an instance that motivated you to create your own “side-hustle” business in the equestrian industry, after hours?
LP: Since I was in college, I have always ran social media for farms I’ve worked for, or helped friends out. That’s what has led me to finally start Skyelaur LLC Equestrian Marketing Consulting. I love marketing, and I love horses, but owning a house at 25 and having that responsibility has led my career path differently since, money buys happiness lol! March of this past year, my pride and joy 4-legged child,Quinn, became really sick and having been living alone without a roommate, the bills added up.
Devon was just around the corner and I always have a special little girl I make bows for. That then led my boyfriend to asking me “why don’t you do this for real on the side?” So, Show The Bows was created. It took months to work out a system and I still catch myself finding ways to make it easier and more productive. It’s always a learning experience!
Show the Bows grew rapidly due to word-of-mouth sales from customers seeing your bows on riders at shows. Where was your first bow ever debuted?
LP: My first bows were debuted at Devon, 2014. I actually started making them when I worked at Bucks County Saddlery in high school, but that was way back when. My best friends daughter, who is like a niece to me, was showing in the leadline 3&under at Devon that year, and we made them to match my dress since I was leading her. That then grew into my other friends daughter doing it the years after Ryleigh was done, so for the last 5 years I’ve always been lucky enough to make a special pair for the most prestigious leadline class in the country, if that’s a thing!
How do you differentiate your products and business model to stand apart from other high-quality competitors in the horse show accessories market?
LP: All of our bows are handmade by one person (myself). Each set is made up of 6 bows. 3 bows per bow. They are hardwired then glued for extra sturdiness – because, we know, they get banged up out there!
We pride ourselves in never creating the same two sets, unless it’s for awards or a big project where we can’t. Every set that you design, there will never be another made. So, your little equestrian has a one of a kind lucky charm. We aren’t trying to compete with anyone. We love to talk to each customer and let them design exactly what they want. It takes time, communication, but overall patience and just being able to connect with people across the country all because you have one thing in common (horses) is pretty neat.
You ride professionally and your resume includes, but is not limited to, schooling horses for Heritage Farms and later coaching your own clients. Has the perspective as a professional influenced Show the Bows customer service and designs?
LP: It definitely has. It actually makes it even more fun when creating for your own students! And, being able to see their hair length and what colors to work with that could compliment their hair color, their jacket color, etc, helps create the best set possible. Their faces light up when they see what they get to choose from, and that lights my heart up. It’s also amazing meeting up at shows with customers that are nearby and being able to hand deliver your handmade product. It makes it even more special. It is just so cool walking around a horse show since I’m involved again in the horse show world, and just seeing a little kid walk by, and you’re like “hey I know those bows!”
Who assists you with Show the Bows?
LP: I do everything myself. I learned how to get the LLC, I learned how to set up business bank accounts, I learned how to do the retail website (Shopify), and I run all of the marketing. I had an order of 24 sets that hit the same time that I began the fundraising project for Kevin Babington bows, and my mom stepped in to conclude that she really is the ultimate horse show mom, now pitching in to the company, of which, she taught me how to even start them.
What is the most gratifying aspect of developing and marketing your own products?
LP: I love the marketing aspect. I love interacting with every single customer. I love designing and bringing it to life. And, believe it or not, most customers let me “run with their idea” and usually are pretty easy. They love knowing the person they’re talking to is going to actually hand make them. It’s amazing being in control of everything when it’s a business where you have to be so involved. I never have to do any research, I always have an answer for whatever they want to know!
My “coolest” point was showing up to the barn for a couple lessons one night, and a mom of a student said she just saw bows she wanted to order (when talking about how her daughter might show that weekend). I looked at her and said oh I can help you, and she showed me my Instagram page! I said, that’s me! And she totally mom-fan-girled and it was awesome. Her bows are actually done now with a custom monogram on them of our farm logo and she can’t wait to wear them at her next show!
Is there any advice you would like to provide an individual considering starting their own business, while also holding a full-time professional career?
My only advice is to go for it. But, don’t overload yourself. I definitely overloaded myself because I have a hard time telling someone “no”, but that’s now the best word I’ve learned. You have to still give yourself time. Time to lay on the couch, meet your family for dinner, etc. I was going to work, going to teach lessons, coming home and doing bows for a few months and I was a hermit crab. But, it built up the company quickly so now it’s smooth sailing, I hope! It doesn’t seem like work when you are working for yourself. It’s something I wanted to do every night. So, you don’t feel as burnt out when you know it’s a job for yourself and it’s just so fun to market too! And, having my dad’s guidance of starting it correctly from the beginning (putting the money out to get the LLC, materials, etc) paid off incredibly. It was easiest to start with a bank account for it from the beginning, keeping all correspondence and the “money trail” together and easy.
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