I work with so many amazing business people and it’s always fun to get to know them better and find out what led to them starting their own business. Every single story is a little bit different and I love hearing about the challenges and successes that they encountered along the way. This month I’ve chatted to FoxyEquestrian’s Sophie Sacco. To go behind her brand and find how she ended up designing and selling her iconic pompom hat silks. As well as an incredible array of bespoke cross-country colours, tweed headbands, cosy riding hat ear warmers and much, much more!
How did you end up running a clothing business for equestrians?
FoxyEquestrian really is an amalgamation of everything I’ve done in my life to date! I’ve been horse-mad since childhood. But took a break from horses for a few years and worked in the fashion industry as a womenswear buyer for a group of independent fashion outlets. The lure of the countryside pulled me back and I worked as a hunt groom for a while. Something that really helped me to get under the skin of what people who spend a lot time in the saddle for work and pleasure are after.
Where did the inspiration for the iconic FoxyEquestrian pompom hat silk come from?
When I was working as a hunt groom, I started a little business making and selling tweed ear warmers. I would walk around at the meet with a basket of them and did pretty well! Someone sent me an image of a beanie hat with a fur pompom on it (they were very new and cutting-edge back then!), and I wondered what that would look like on a riding hat. I tried it out with an old fur coat, creating my own pompom and attaching it to a riding hat of mine, and I’ve honestly never looked back.
Tell us something we might not know about your products?
Every single pompom on my hats are made from 100% faux fur. I can’t abide animal cruelty of any kind so once I knew the design worked and that I was onto a great business idea, I set about sourcing the best possible quality faux fur that I could. As a product, really good faux fur is in high demand. So I keep my supplier a secret – I’ll only tell you that they are based in Europe! I hand-make the pompoms myself as well as printing all the decorations and sewing the designs together. If things get exceptionally busy, I can turn to two outworkers for help with the sewing, but they have been very carefully chosen for their handiwork as the quality of my products really is one of the true differentiators for my business.
What have the main challenges been along the way?
I suppose on reflection they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but a lot of my designs have been copied by other businesses and that can be upsetting. Copies of my pompom hat silks, the matching base layers and my riding hat ear warmers have all popped up here and there. But they are not even close to the same quality as my work. I know my customers appreciate the effort I go to and the quality of the materials that FoxyEquestrian products are made out of. And I know they last a lot longer than cheaper knock-offs so it’s only a minor irritation… but I do find it odd as I love being creative and coming up with new products!
What’s next for FoxyEquestrian? What products will you be rocking at Badminton 2019 and beyond?
I have a busy December with a few more events to take the brand to before Christmas. Then I’ll have a break with my husband, 5-year-old son and horse. Before spending the winter dreaming up the next big FoxyEquestrian idea! I love to solve problems with my products. The riding hat ear warmers were a direct result of having to take off my snuggly tweed headband to put my riding hat on. Therefore having uncomfortably chilly ears! Sadly, due to those aforementioned copycats I can’t share anything too specific with you right now – you’ll have to keep an eye on my social media.
Any funny tales from the back office to tell us?
I hate to speak ill of the opposite sex, but some men are hopeless at buying gifts for their partners! I get requests for some really rather strange cross-country colour combinations (especially at this time of year as Christmas shopping gets under way). But luckily I check any ‘unusual’ designs before I start to make them – they often have no idea at all!
And finally, for fun…
- Champagne or Gin? Prosecco (I’m not awkward, I promise!)
- Cob or TB? TB!
- Heels or wellies? Definitely wellies all the way
- Clean house or clean stable? Clean stable – sorry family!
- Summer or winter? I simply cannot choose, I love all the seasons and the incredible English countryside at any time of year.