By Wiola Grabowska
This blog series follows a story of two freelancers – a livery manager/groom/rider and a riding instructor with a coaching programme who thought it might be a good idea to join forces and set up a company with a vision beyond what’s achievable by oneself. The trick is – neither of them is that good at business…What can possibly go wrong?
There is one problem with Red Lion Pub & Restaurant in Handcross, West Sussex. They don’t have 0% Kopparberg. I could probably get the alcoholic one but when you are about to spend a couple of hours with a business consultant and you have zero tolerance for alcohol, it isn’t advisable. Especially when following ins and outs of business details is difficult enough on a bottle of sparkling water.
I get still water for Kelly (apparently sparkling water is a no go for her). She’s the livery head honcho in this story. My name’s Wiola and I am the instructor in this story. In 2010 I set up a coaching programme which I named Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy. I freelanced happily for several years, loved every minute of it until I realised that if I wanted to do a bit more and reach some goals I had in mind, I needed a business partner to rent a yard with.
There followed a couple of years of many very bad decisions, debts and difficulties which does happen if you know very little about real life business. Return to solo freelancing felt good. For a while. Until it didn’t and my unfounded entrepreneurial drive, that I have god knows from where (my self employed parents most likely 😉 ) and which is supported by minimal knowledge of only what I don’t know, have returned.
In 2015 I contacted as many people as I knew, including various former colleagues at numerous riding schools and livery yards I worked at, to find the right set up to grow the Academy at. I gave a few options a go for a while until eventually focusing most efforts on one location in West London where Kelly suggested my young rider could loan her mare. I knew the horse as I taught on her previously and I knew Kelly from a busy London riding school we both worked at years before. Apparently, best chances of survival have those business ventures that are formed by former colleagues. That gives us one thing ticked off on a long list of theoretical successful business must-dos 😉
Our plan is to bring together our respective skills to create a fairly unique livery service, a small coaching centre focused on equestrian grassroots sports otherwise known as lower levels of Dressage, Show Jumping and Eventing as well as a few more services of which I will write more in due time.
We drove to West Sussex for this meeting because there’s one thing to just do something and another to do something very well. I’ve done my fair share of just giving it all a go. You don’t need to be an expert in running a horse business to know that profit margins in this industry are low, rates and bills are high and many livery yards close down because they can’t break even despite owners working their butts off 24/7. Most horse people are exactly that. Fantastic horse people. They are not business people.
So here we are. The horse people in the trenches with an idea. We don’t know how this will end but we thought it might be interesting to share our journey. I’ll try to make sure the account of it is honest and transparent and I hope there won’t be too many embarrassing details!
If you run a successful yard already and would like to share some of your know-how with us, let us know. We would love to road trip to you or just chat online with you, maybe even blog about you.
Until very soon!