Horse Girl: Emily Carroll of Stevie Equestrian
Meet Emily, the founder of Stevie Equestrian. Stevie is an affordable and quality pair of everyday breeches you’ll actually want to wear everyday.
How are affordable and high quality in the same sentence? How is she disrupting the space? Why? I had so many questions. Let’s get down to business.
When were you first introduced to horses?
I was living in Ithaca, New York area and I begged my parents to take lessons. I was probably six at the time.
A few years after that, we moved to Michigan and they felt terrible about moving us. They felt really bad—so me and my little sister, who is four years younger and also into horses, were able to negotiate starting to lease horses and getting our own horses.
Where did you go to school and what was your major?
I went to the University of Michigan and studied business there. I work in finance in New York so I’ve always been very quantitative and very analytical. Stevie Equestrian is the first time I’ve ever done anything creative or “brandy”.
So after Michigan to you went worked in New York?
Yea I worked in finance there, the typical million hour work week.
I dated a finance guy so I get it.
Those are very hard to make work. [laughing]
And now Stanford!
Yeah! I decided to go back to business school mostly because people who were in the type of field I was in had business degrees. At a certain point it made sense to go back and get my MBA.
When you got into Stanford did you have any idea of Stevie? When did that happen?
I’m not someone that always wanted to do something entrepreneurial, it’s just kind of something in the water in Stanford. Just being in silicon valley there are so many things that are born out of that and we also get some really awesome resources.
One of the reasons I thought Stevie would be a good idea is because when I got back into riding I was just using my old clothes from High School which, were like wool tailored sportsman. [laughing] I always had the idea there would be a better way to do riding clothes.
I think a lot of the equestrian innovations have been with the very expensive, higher end brands and they have put together stuff that is super cool. But I personally don’t see things that are high quality and affordable. Especially for something like this, your everyday equestrian wear. It’s not your show breeches where you’re ok dropping a couple hundred dollars. These are your lesson breeches, you need five of them.
When did you get back into riding?
I did ride in New York on and off and I would ride on vacation and when I went home to Michigan. So I was never fully out of it. Then when I got to Stanford, they have one of the best equestrian facilities in the countries in terms of school facilities so I got back into it like last fall. It’s on campus, I literally ride my bike there.
That’s a dream. I like the way you’ve positioned Stevie as the modern take on breeches. Not just by the fabric, but through the experience and the price point.
I’m trying to build something that feels more like brands that I buy everything else from. So if I buy everything else online from brands that feel young and fun and modern, why can’t I find an equestrian brand that does that?
Yes. Stevie Equestrian not only feels user friendly but user wanted.
I’ve done a ton of interviews of other riders and prospective customers. We did this huge survey around what people want, what people don’t have in their clothes, and what they wish they had. The whole thing has been focused on being user friendly and user focused. So, I’m really happy that comes across.
Stevie breeches were designed and engineered at Stanford?
Yes. I had a classmate at Stanford that I met, whose family owned a factory in india that we sourced the material from. So I got to know him, literally by happenstance because I was walking around in breeches one day and he was like, “oh do you ride? My family makes those.”
That was kind of what brought a lot of it together. I knew this was a need and there was a cool way to brand it but it’s also really hard to get this stuff made. And then it became a huge no brainer and like ok, making this is kind of easy as long as you have the right connections.
So he put me in touch with his family and I worked really closely with them to design and to get input from other departments from Stanford in terms of fashion design, materials, functionality. We tested a bunch of things. I tested them, the equestrian team test them. Trying to get input from different shapes and sizes of people and different riders.
When you were looking at those and testing different materials it was obviously important to you keep a good quality, but how did you keep the price so reasonable? It that something you had to negotiate?
It’s a little bit of a negotiation. And it depends on how big you think your brand can be. I think it’s a misconception that everyone that rides horses has a ton of money. I think it’s a misconception that people want to be spending this much on their clothes. If we do this right, it could be pretty big and that demand of scale helps a little bit on price. And then also, there are so many layers built into the prices that were used to seeing. If you buy a $200 pair of breeches off of Dover, I don’t know what the math is, but I’m sure they make at least $50 on that.
When you cut those things out. I don’t have a wholesaler, I don’t a retailer, I don’t have to pay the tack shop. It is actually a lot easier to offer a price that is affordable to people.
You’re right. In the equestrian world we’re so programmed to think that a $200 pair of breeches is the norm. So when you’re going lower than that you think they must not be as nice.
Yes, a lot of the feedback I have gotten is, “these are a lot nicer than I would have expected.” This is just a better answer. I think the quality we have is comparable to a Tailored Sportsman and if you can have that at $95 instead of $190 that seems pretty straight forward.
It’s very straightforward.
I’m honestly so excited about the phone pocket.
Everyone has been really excited about it. It has been funny because if you think about how traditional sport is, there has been people that are skeptical of it. Like, you shouldn’t make it easier for people to carry their phones. But also, everyone is carrying their phones anyways and so many people ride alone, their horse is really young. I definitely don’t want people to text a ride, but obviously you need a place to carry your phone it’s 2019.
What has been your biggest obstacle, either mental or branding/manufacturing?
I think sizing is the biggest thing going forward. I would hate for people to think that no knowing the right size is a barrier to purchase. We will probably do a few horse pop-ups in the fall.
I also built the website myself and I’ve never done anything like that before. So, getting it off the ground was an obstacle for sure.
What would be your biggest piece of advice for other entrepreneurs in the equestrian world? What is the most important thing that they know?
I have two. The first one is, know what skills you have and what you don’t have. And be asking for help with the things that you don’t have.
The other thing I would say is to talk to as many riders as possible. When you talk to people about riding, they would be filling out hundreds of words in the surveys I would send out and the surveys weren't short. I think it’s a place that people are pretty frustrated by the current options they have and it’s such a big piece of their identity that they are more than happy to talk to you about it. Definitely take advantage of the help that people willing to share.
When you were making these breeches you were making them for a specific type of horse girl. How did you define that modern horse girl?
When you say horse girl the immediate thing that comes to mind is like sleepovers i’d have with my friends jumping in each others basement. [laughing]
Which is part of your company right? You named it Stevie after the character in Saddle Club. So that nostalgia is there, while also acknowledging the new horse girl
Yeah I it’s something that your really passionate about and it stays with you. The company wants to support that passion and make the price point more accessible to people. We want to make it easier to fit into your life—you can carry your phone, the quality holds up and if you go to brunch afterwards you don’t look ridiculous.
You’ve created a pair of breeches that fits into the modern horse girls lifestyle as well as celebrate and acknowledge their passion for the sport.
Shop the Breeches at Stevie Equestrian (I got the Camel color and LOVE.)