A Chat With May’s Profile, Suzanne Vlietstra, president of Hobby Horse Clothing Co.
CS: What’s done to keep a fun and light environment at Hobby Horse?
SV: Lots of pizza. I think a business is kind of like a pirate ship. Hopefully you have continuity in your captain, but your pirates change. Your crewman change. And sometimes you have this magical time where everybody is just totally in sync, and great, wonderful and magical things happen. Sometimes you have mutiny. And sometimes you’re becalmed, without much wind in your sails. You can never just keep on a total course with your merry band of pirates. But in general we have a good crew. A lot of them over the years have had an interest in horses, which makes it kind of a fun job for them.
And one thing that we’ve done that makes our company fairly unique is we have an incredible benefits program. We’ve always tended to have a lot of single moms working for us. And we offer complete medical, dental and vision at no cost to our employees. And their families at no cost. And we have a 401k with this tiny little group. And those are programs that Dick Naulty instituted, because in his opinion, and mine, there’s always some kind of implied partnership between a company and its employees. You need to take care of people. And I think that’s something that’s sadly missing in big business, obviously, and we’ve been able for a tiny company to do well by our employees. And I think they’re happy about it and we’ve tended to have good employees because of it.
CS: What career path would you have chosen if you hadn’t gotten involved in the catalog/multichannel business?
SV: A couple things in hindsight. I was a paramedic and I probably would’ve done something medically and/or gone to law school. I also do a lot of freelance journalism, which is lots of fun. I write for a lot of the horse magazines.