A Chat With May’s Profile, Suzanne Vlietstra, president of Hobby Horse Clothing Co.
CS: Would your Web site, where you offer sidebars and information to the consumer more than just the product offerings, be an example of a forum where you like to write?
SV: It’s what I call “vegeducation,” the education of vegetables. Which means, “If you water things, they will grow.” So if you give people information, you empower them to make a purchasing decision. You empower them to make a buying decision. And whether or not it’s your product, you help educate them in a category and it makes them better customers for the entire business. So the more information that we can pitch out there the better. Plus I like to do it. It’s fun. I get hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of e-mails, and I answer every single one. Because I learn as much from them as I’m able to kind of guide them. And I type pretty fast.
CS: Is there a mistake that you made during your career that stands out to you?
SV: Not understanding the value of the right kind of consultants, the right kind of guidance at the time. And I wish I had perfect vision at the time. In hindsight I let so many opportunities go by because I was too cautious. At the time, probably overly cautious. I think our biggest missed opportunity probably in terms of product and stuff is we should have had a lot bigger catalog. More comprehensive products for the horse as well as the rider. We probably should have done that a long time ago. But I was just afraid to commit to the money and the infrastructure that that would take. But we’ve kept our catalog very “nichey” and probably shouldn’t have.
CS: Considering you only mail your catalog once a year, is it a really thick book with a lot of pages?
SV: No, it’s 40 pages. We don’t have any kind of economies of scale. I guess you could title this story, “We Do Everything Wrong.”