Honest Riders started life in 2017 by founder Zoe Kiff. With her experienced marketing background, Zoe designed and created a range for real riders with the ethos that equestrian style should not just look good but actually do good too! All of their slogans raise money for equine charities and their products are fair wear certified, organic cotton and sweatshop free.
Samantha Hobden from Haynet recently caught up with Zoe in its Chatting A Bit series to find out more about the story behind this ethical equestrian brand:
Your passion for horses is incredibly strong! Were you brought up in this environment as a child?
I was indeed! My Mum rode as a child and then was able to pass that passion on to me and my sister. We were lucky enough to grow up riding some fantastic ponies and I competed in pretty much every discipline I could, from Mounted Games to eventing, to polo! I was horse-obsessed (still am, to be honest). Eventually, university and a career in London took over and I focused in on dressage, which remains my passion today.
What was your childhood ambition? Was it to always work in the equestrian world?
I wanted to be an eventer! We used to visit Burghley Horse Trials every year and I’ll never forget watching Mary King on King William flying around and thinking that it was the best thing ever.
Unfortunately, my parents didn’t necessarily agree so I ended up at University studying Business Management and then started a career in advertising, in London. I never thought I’d be able to get to the point of making a living from horses, but slowly that dream is coming back to me, albeit in a different form!
Your career background is in marketing but in the last couple of years, you have diversified into the clothing side of the equestrian industry. What made you step into this area of the business?
I’ve always had an interest in design and fashion and had this feeling that the equestrian ‘fashion’ that existed just didn’t suit my style. I had ideas floating around in my head for years, but It was only after I moved to the South Coast and started marketing consultancy that I had the headspace to be able to take the leap and do something about it.
Tell us about Honest Riders and its vision. What are you particularly proud of with your company?
Honest Riders was started because I felt there was a genuine gap in the market for a brand that had good solid ethical values at its heart. Our ethos is that equestrian style shouldn’t just look good, it should do good as well.
As an animal and nature lover, I found myself feeling frustrated about the impact we’re having and have had on our planet (I confess, I’m the one that sits on the sofa crying at David Attenborough’s ‘Our Planet’) When we first set up, I spent time thinking about and investigating how we could be more sustainable in everything we do.
We’ve now created a campaign called #RidersOnAMission which is all about the impact we have, as an equestrian community, on the environment around us and how we can club together to make changes for the better.
We really want to represent an uprising in the equestrian world; We’ve pledged to source our garments from factories that subscribe to the ‘Fair Wear Foundation’ and use fabrics that are environmentally friendly. We’re endeavouring to reduce plastic consumption and use sustainable materials in everything we do – from the packaging, your order arrives in, right back to the methods used in manufacturing our goods.
I think I’m most proud of the charity donations we’re able to make through the sale of our clothing range. A portion of our profits goes to 3 nominated charities: World Horse Welfare, Retraining Of Racehorses and Pablos Horse Sanctuary. I went and visited one of the WHW Centres, Glenda Spooner Farm and saw first-hand the positive impact our donations make to the lives of horses and ponies and need. It makes me choke up just thinking about it!
What has been the up and downs of working within the clothing side of the equestrian industry?
So many highs and so many lows – it’s a real rollercoaster. The highs have to be meeting customers and getting their feedback on our range – when someone messages me without prompt to say how much they love our clothing, oh gosh, it makes it all worthwhile!
There are lots of challenges in running a clothing company, but the lowest lows are usually linked to suppliers letting us down. Managing the relationships with them has to be the hardest part of my job!
What would be your key advice for a school leaver that wanted to work in the equestrian industry?
Be prepared to work your butt off for what you love. Big life lesson for me, no one will hand you anything on a plate, you have to be prepared to put in the hours, take risks and go the extra mile. No one can argue with hard work and determination.
What are your future plans for Honest Riders?
Sustainability will very much stay at the heart of everything we do in the future and I think that has lots of ‘legs’ in terms of the direction we could take it in. I feel really strongly about breaking industry norms and doing things other equestrian brands have not yet done. Watch this space!
On a day off, where would we find you?
Day off! What is that? 😉 Any spare time I have is usually dedicated to riding, but If I manage to, I love going abroad to spend time with my husband who sails race yachts in exotic locations for a living!
Where do you hope to be in ten years’ time?
In New Zealand with a farm full of horses and dogs! I’d love to grow Honest Riders and expand internationally, so maybe this dream could work quite nicely?
Against the Clock
Beer or Champagne: Champers darling!
Sunshine or Snow: Sunshine, I’m solar-powered.
Home Counties or Far Away Shores: Far away shores. I’m married to a New Zealander and we have grand plans to move there one day…
Spend or Save: Spend! Let’s just say my saving abilities are a ‘work in progress’…
Home Cooked or Eating Out: Eating out. Mostly because I have no interest in cooking!
Music or Film: Music. I always have some on in the background.
Wellies or Heels: Wellies. My feet can’t take the pain these days!
Please visit: https://www.honestriders.co.uk/
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