I was recently approached by Sherie from Equi-Spa about a post on Equus Education. She was kind enough to answer some questions about her horse business/career.
What is it exactly that you do?
We create and manufacture premium, spa quality, non toxic, botanical, horse care and grooming products. I, Sherie Vermeer, founded Equi-Spa, LLC in 2008. I was the Iowa state entrepreneur of the year and I won a grant from the government to help me setup and market this business.
In this field of work, is it possible to be a full time professional and earning a liveable income?
Yes, we have been doing this for 15 years and the business has grown slowly through word of mouth. Lately we have upgraded the website and are working hard to focus our marketing through social media and various forms of digital marketing.
What are the general steps taken to be employed in such a role?
In 2003 I had 2 pregnant mares. At the same time West Nile Virus was migrating from east to west leaving dead horses, dogs and people it its wake. Desperate to protect my family, I bought strong DEET products and sprayed them on everyone including myself. Especially sprayed my mares so kind of a double dose for me as I had sprayed myself then sprayed them well. I got DEET poisoning from this. I became very ill and also a bit panicky as I realized that I had sprayed a dangerous chemical on my pregnant mares!!!
I had been certified in Aromatherapy by Aveda Corp over 10 years prior. So I started looking for chem-free products to protect my family and horses. I searched and searched the Internet and could find nothing but citronella. That was not good enough. So I decided to make a non-toxic spray based in Aromatherapy. There were a lot of rejects but I finally settled on a formula. Peppermint was key because Bugs HATE it, Catnip for mosquitoes, and other essential oils to address as many hot weather pests as possible.
My Flagship product Peppermint Summer Protection was born! I then tried it on my horses; they were calmer, they were fly free. I decided to start a website… at that time they were pretty simple and primitive. Within days I got my first order! My husband brought me flowers to celebrate! I decided to make all my own products and settled on the name Equi-Spa as it completely defined what I was doing. Over the years I have added product to fill a void or create a solution, from tangled manes to addressing a disease called sweet itch. I looked for other places to market my products and found a couple of mail order companies were eager to try them. I also went to horse shows and horse fairs, set up a booth and people came. They were drawn by the amazing aromas of the products. It became a very busy life.
I was gone every weekend. Since I was doing all the blending, filling and packaging myself I was exhausted. I finally decided a couple of years ago to just focus on an online presence. I upgraded my website several times and found people who are much better at that and marketing than I so I can concentrate on making Equi-Spa products.
Favourite horse memory?
Gosh so many! One of my most recent favorite memories was adopting Missy, a retired racehorse and former broodmare. You can read Missy’s story. She has been awesome and brave. She came injured from the trailer ride from California, but is progressing along with her recovery. In the process we have formed a strong bond. A close second is the day my dressage horse Francesca and I competed in her first show and won the class with a 71.25%.
We would like to grow and expand Equi-Spa. Become a global brand and also become an ambassador for adopting the many Off The Track Thoroughbreds who find themselves needing a new home at the end of their career. They still have so much to give and are amazing horses.
Best thing about your sport/profession?
The best thing about my profession is the ability to provide a means of helping people with their horses. People are drawn to Equi-Spa because of the amazing aromatherapy benefits, or because they want a chemical free life for themselves and their animals. Also we have been able to bring relief to many horses with our products. We help people find solutions to many common horse related care and health issues.