Next up on the equestrian business Q&A series is a Herd of Zebras, an online apparel and accessories store but also a community to help people understand that while you are strong enough to stand alone, you don't have to! Find and run with the herd!
Is Herd of Zebras your full-time job? If not, what else do you do?
I worked in digital marketing and brand management for a global CPG company for the last 7 years after finishing graduate school from Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. I recently left my brand management job (on my 32nd birthday in October) to give Herd of Zebras a real chance. I knew I had to give it 100% to achieve the vision I had for the brand. I also own a freelance digital marketing and social media company called Mohawk Doodle, LLC where I do social media content creation, strategy, and build eCommerce websites.
Tell me about the name.... Herd of Zebras. How'd you come up with that? And what's it mean to you?
I came up with Herd of Zebras after going through a long battle with endometriosis in which I ended up having a hysterectomy at age 30. I was married at the time (since then divorced, fertility issues really can destroy a marriage). When I knew that I was going to have this surgery I was looking all over to try and find other women who were in the same situation as I was; young, (mostly) healthy, married and wanted kids but couldn’t have them. I found NO ONE who was in the same situation as myself. It was a very hard process to go through virtually on my own. I knew many women who had this surgery but they already had children, so saying they understood what I was going through was off to me. They didn’t get it and I couldn’t find anyone who did. So, I wanted to form a community of women who have been through some really tough situations in life. This is not just focusing on endometriosis but any type of hardship someone may face and showing that you can overcome awful situations and come out a stronger, better person because of it.
I chose the zebra because the analogy “a zebra among a herd of horses” really resonated with me. I was the zebra. I was different. Similar to the other horses but unique in the “stripes” that defined me.
We use the slogan “show your stripes” to encourage people to be proud of their story and when you join our “herd” you are welcomed into a group of tough people who will lift you up and support you. We are kind but also edgy and know that life deals you some pretty shitty situations at times but showing that you can overcome life altering changes, becoming a better and strong person through adversity.
How do you feel you can make a difference in the equestrian world?
I hope that sharing my story will help other people feel comfortable enough to share their own story and struggles.
I am trying to create something by helping people to feel both connected and less alone. The number of followers you have on social media doesn’t mean you really have the support in real life that all of us so greatly need.
I am trying to bring the truth out on social media. I feel like people are looking for the intimate truths of what other people go through that they can relate to themselves.
I chose to focus my brand on the people who surround me in my daily life as well as the equestrian community as it has always been my safe haven. I would love to give back to the people and community that has helped me overcome a lot of hardships in my personal life.
What's your riding background? Current horse situation - do you own or lease? How do you fit in riding with working?
I have been riding since I was 5 (currently 32). I still have my first pony, Sparky (who the zebra is named after in our logo) and have had him since I was 8. We did the large pony hunters and medal classes. I showed all through the junior hunters as well as college and graduate school where I did the high child adult jumpers.
I currently I own 4 horses:
Sparky is my large pony and love of my life (he is 28 this year. My niece is currently learning to ride on him). He's a 14.1 hand grey QH/Arab gelding
Rudolf (Banderas) is my jumper. He's a 1.6.2 black Belgian WB gelding. I showed him all through college and grad school on the A circuit (purchased when he was a 10-year-old – retired currently 24).
Cupcake (Vendetta) is an 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse I imported in March of last year. She is currently recovering from breaking her withers while in transport from Ireland to the US. Cupcake was also diagnosed with chronic lymes disease this summer and nearly died. We are working on getting her back in shape and I hope to show her this summer. She is very green so we will be doing the smaller jumper classes.
Bindi (Vindicating), is a 2-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare I purchased when she was 4 months old from Ireland. 'Bindi' means little girl. I chose to name her this because I purchased her after losing my own baby. I will be starting her under saddle this spring and have big hopes for her to be my 1.30 horse in the future.
Both Cupcake and Bindi were bred by my dear friend, Terri Bergwanger of Ireland out of the KWPN stallion Vancouver.
Bling (Bling-Bling) was my high JR/AO mare who I lost in January 2018 weeks after my divorce was finalized. She was my heart horse and I still really struggle with having to have put her down and miss her so much. She was 19-years-old (at death) and a beautiful 16.1 grey Holsteiner mare.
I only showed her once as then she had emergency colic surgery which lead to other lameness. Several surgeries to try and correct it. We decided to rehome her as she was no longer rideable.
We were able to get her back two years later as she was being ridden and jumped again under a different show name… long awful story but I did everything I could to get her back.
I had her for another 5 years before I had to put her down due to melanoma. I never thought I would be able to ride her again as when I got her back she had a broken ankle and couldn’t walk. But lots of rehab, rest, great vet and farrier work and she became sound enough for me to ride the last two years of her life.
Bling was a big inspiration to me. She was tough and strong but kind. I often wish I had half the self confidence in myself as that horse had in me.
I currently drive 45 minutes (each way) to the farm my horses are boarded. I have to be incredibly organized in order to ensure my horses are fit and well cared for. Those around me know that my horses are my main priority and that if something comes up with them as far as their health that will always come first. I am lucky that the farm my horses are boarded, North Star Equestrian at Greenfield Farm, takes excellent care of all the horses.
Currently I ride with North Star located in Green Bay, Wisconsin and owned by Bethany Parins, who is also the head trainer.
I previously rode at Wild Wood Equestrian Center in Hartland, WI outside of Milwaukee) with owner/ trainer Kristin Jungbluth. Once I moved back to the Fox Cities, I brought my horses to Bethany as she is much closer to me than Kristin. I currently still work with Kristin as well as Bethany.
Tell me about the clothing and designs available.
My sister in law, Elizabeth Franzoi, has been my partner in bringing Herd of Zebras to life. She takes ideas I bring to her about what clothing I would like to have and brings them to life. Our goal is to make comfortable clothing that you can wear on the street or to the barn. We offer a range of t-shirts, sweatshirts, accessories (mugs, water bottles, stickers, key chains) and equestrian products (such as pads and bonnets).
It is our goal to only sell items that are created either in Wisconsin or are owned by women who are also entrepreneurs.
Check out some of the products below!
Run with Herd of Zebras