A Chat With May’s Profile, Suzanne Vlietstra, president of Hobby Horse Clothing Co.
CS: What are some of your hobbies?
SV: Well, we live on a ranch with 50 boarded horses here. And I ride. One thing that I didn’t talk about in talking about the number of employees we have, we really are a dinky company, my husband, Mike Vlietstra. He and I together do all the production, he does all the Web site. I take every photo in the catalog, I write the copy. And he’s a graphic designer by trade, and he makes the catalog. So the two of us together do it all. It doesn’t take a team of 50 specialists to pull this stuff off. I wear lots and lots of hats. Sometimes I think us little guys feel unimportant, and we’re not. That would be my message for your readers: “Keep doing what you love and keep doing all this crazy stuff because you may never be big, but you may be happy.” I’ve had a great, great fun life with this. And those goals I set when I was eight-years-old, they’re admirable goals and I’m still kind of working on them. It’s been fun. We have one six-year-old son in the midst of all this. He came with us to photo shoots when he was a little baby. He thinks it’s normal to have a bunch of computers in the living room.
CS: What’s something that’s more secretive about you or your business that would surprise people?
SV: I think people would be surprised at how small our business really is. We’ve always cast a big shadow. When our current designer came to interview with us, she came to our little building — she’s actually from Munich, Germany and I met her on the Internet — she wanted to intern with us. I said, “We’re too small for interns.” But we struck up a communication and chatted about horses and a couple of years later she e-mailed me and said, “Hey, I graduated from design school, I’m out of design school in Munich.” She did her senior theses on Western wear, believe it or not, in Munich. She said, “I’m living in Southern California, what’s going on?” So I hired her. But when she came to interview with us she thought that she was just coming to the human resources building on our campus. Well, it’s the whole building. I think people would be very surprised to see how small our company really is. And that it, in its funky way, runs fairly efficiently. And has always been profitable. And that other little catalogers should be proud, not intimidated, by what they’re accomplishing and the world they live in.