A Chat With May’s Profile, Suzanne Vlietstra, president of Hobby Horse Clothing Co.
CS: What’s the primary merchandise offered in the catalog?
SV: It’s show apparel for women who compete in Western-style shows. So it’s kind of like glorified cowgirl apparel. The style these days is very dressy and fancy. It’s kind of performance apparel, or almost like costumes, because the people are judged on their appearance. So we tend to dress them somewhat theatrically, with lots of rhinestones on the garments and bright colors.
Which also ties into another little project of my mother. When I was a kid she also, in her spare time besides teaching, started a theatrical costume rental company. And you always laugh and say you’re never going to do what your parents do, but I’m kind of in the costume business now.
CS: Besides your catalog, what other channels are your products available in?
SV: We’ve actually had a Web site, believe it or not, since 1994. I believe we were the very first in what we call the “tack ‘n togs” industry, the “horsey” stuff. We have an annual directory for the industry and the very first year, 1994, I put my Web address in my advertisement. An editor or proofer called and said, “You have a big typo in your ad.” I said, “Oh, what’s that?” He replied, “You have this gobbly-goop that says www.” I said, “That’s a Web address.” They had never seen one before.
We didn’t have a great one, and it still is far from perfect. But it’s been very, very important to us. And because we had it so early, at this point we haven’t bought keywords or anything and we tend to come up real high on the searching. We’ve done a lot of consumer advertising over the years. So we kind of got in a little early on that. That’s been helpful for us. Another happy accident.