Sunday, May 29, 2011

3,000 fans and a bit of an intro.

10% of all sales for the month of June will be donated to the 
True Prospect Farm Fire Recovery Fund
To aid three day event rider Boyd Martin and his connections
after the loss of six horses in a barn fire. 

Three thousand fans and counting! Okay so Smartpak has over 386,000 but hey it's better than none right? With so many new fans I thought it was a good time to introduce, or re-introduce as the case may be, Five Star Tack. We really aren't like anyone else and while comparisons will always be made it's important to know how we differ from many of our competitors.

To start, we are not the Walmart of tack stores carrying every brand at "low, low prices". Five Star Tack is more like that little boutique on a quiet street that has a small but great selection. Not too well known but well known by those in the know. Our products are not purchased from a distributor. They are designed right here in the US by yours truly. We don't order hundreds of each bridle nor do we make endless variations of the same type bridle. It's more like 30 to 50 of each bridle style and we make only a few styles on purpose so that as customer requests come in we can add or adjust the line as needed. When you call or email with a question you are talking to the actual designer of the product you are interested in. Can you name even one company where you get that kind of service and product knowledge?

Unlike most tack stores that carry the same strap good styles year in and year out (in other words boring), we follow apparel retailing and change styles yearly. What you see on our website may be here today but it may be carried in a new version in six months so if you like something now, it's best not to wait!

So really, what makes Five Star Tack different? Well, when you think of those little tiny companies where the owner is working out of their garage trying to fill orders, that's pretty close. We are a great example of when one door opens making another one open and of not being afraid to fail. Five Star Tack was going to originally be a place where you could buy the best brands of bridles and strap goods hence the name Five Star but not having an ongoing business as a tack store no one would let me open an account and this was pre-recession! So with encouragement from my partner I decided if I couldn't join them then I would do my own thing. Ah, that can-do American spirit! Little did I know what I was getting into.

Anyone who thinks that manufacturing and retailing is easy knows nothing about manufacturing and retailing. What goes into our price? For one thing our bridles are not mass produced. The english Sedgwick leather used for our strapgoods takes fourteen weeks to produce from start to finish. That is before it reaches the bridle maker. Then when it reaches our bridle maker, it takes six to eight weeks to make just a small order of 300 pieces as the majority of each product is made by hand. Then add two weeks for shipping and customs clearance and that's if there are no customs issues.

Correct bridle making is an art and there is no way to rush a top quality product to market. Our philosophy has always been to put quality before quantity and while it has meant that we don't have a continuous supply of products,  nor a big product line, I strongly believe in only letting the best products reach the customer and I will never compromise on this point. If I had my choice of having thirty exceptional bridles and one hundred quickly produced bridles I will always choose the former. In the rare instance where there has been a defect of some sort we have rectified it without question since humans are not machines. There are plenty of companies that can quickly produce hundreds of bridles that look the same as every other brand out there. It may not make the best business sense to make a few at a time, and I've lost lots of sleep worrying about it, but it is the way we operate and I like to think in the end it will work out for the best!

To be able to create a line of top quality bridles and strap goods has always been the goal but at the same time it had to serve as a vehicle to do something bigger. My late father took great pride in giving a portion of his income to charity. That is where the bridles with benefits program came into play. As a cancer survivor (not a badge I want to wear) I have always felt the obligation to give back as I received tremendous amounts of support at an extremely difficult time. Anyone who has stared down their own mortality or had their life turned upside down knows what I am talking about. So to pay it forward I wanted part of the bridle sales to go towards something besides earnings for me. We have donated a percentage of profits from day one to various charities engaged in cancer research and also to help horses in need. This has been before any profit has been actually earned which for a small company I think is pretty good!

We have gone from being a tiny internet company to selling to high end tack stores. I wish it could be one of those fairy tales where one goes from tiny business to being "discovered" and becoming THE brand everyone wants to carry but as much as people want to try something new they want to stay in their comfort zone. To be able to live outside of one's comfort zone is one of the most liberating things a person can experience and I have cancer to thank for that. Unfortunately I don't find too many people who have had the same experience. For them it's about how they have done things in the past no matter whether it was the right way to do business. Five Star Tack is about customers who are not afraid to try something new, who don't want to look like everyone else, and who don't want to maintain the status quo. In today's retail environment maintaining the status quo is a business model that is going to fail and when I speak to tack stores who are afraid try something new because their strap goods aren't selling I scratch my head in disbelief. If you are only going to sell the same products as everyone else how do you expect to sell anything when you know that customers are going to buy from whoever has the lowest price?

So where does this rambling post end? It ends with you the customer for without you Five Star Tack will not survive. We do our best to help each customer purchase the best fitting, best quality bridle for their horse. As a long time horse owner and competitive rider I know the importance of having tack that not only performs but lasts. Good tack should have longevity. You shouldn't buy a bridle and be happy that it hasn't broken in a few years or worse yet have one that falls apart after a few years. Good bridles are good investments.

To tie things up, Five Star Tack is about beautiful, high performing bridles and strap goods that no one else designs and who gives back to the community through donating to cancer organizations and thoroughbred rehoming organizations. I hope you will stick with us and help us grow to be more than a tiny company and to thank you for reading this far I offer you forty percent off of your next purchase between May 30th and June 5th! Simply enter the code forty at checkout.

I truly appreciate each and every one of you for becoming a fan, a customer and sending pictures of your   horse in their Five Star bridle and I hope you will continue to join us on our journey! I am truly fortunate to be given this opportunity and while I'm not sure where it will end up, since I don't have that proverbial crystal ball, I promise it won't be boring!