Welcome to the 3rd edition of Country Bumpkin Chic Chats to blog series. In this interview, we caught up with the founder of sustainable equestrian lifestyle brand Honest Riders – Zoe Kiff.
You may remember I took part in Honest Riders #RidersOnAMission sustainability challenge last summer & thanks to Zoe championing sustainability I really do question my shopping habits so much more these days.
So please give Zoe a warm welcome to the blog, go grab a cuppa, & enjoy the interview.
1. Tell us about your career background in marketing before launching Honest Riders & the turning point in setting up a sustainable equine brand.
Believe it or not, growing up I wanted to be an eventer! Unfortunately, my parents didn’t necessarily agree so I ended up at Loughborough University studying Business Management and then started a career in advertising, in London. I spent 12 years working for advertising agencies and big brands, devising their marketing strategies, and working with creative teams to bring their key messages to life. There were bits of it I loved, but I have to confess, being in the city and working for huge brands just wasn’t ‘me’.
I’ve always had an interest in design and style and had this feeling that equestrian ‘fashion’ that existed just didn’t suit my style. In addition to that, I was going on a personal ‘sustainability’ journey as I realised the impact our purchase behaviours were having on the planet – call it a bit of the ‘David Attenborough effect’! I had ideas floating around in my head for years, but It was only after I moved to the south coast and started a marketing consultancy that I had the headspace to be able to take the leap and do something about it.
Finally, with the support of my amazing husband, I created Honest Riders back in 2017. 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!
2. Do you think people’s mindset towards sustainability will change following the recent Coronavirus pandemic?
I really hope so! There have been some incredible stories about the environment rejuvenating itself whilst we’ve all been stuck indoors. Even on our doorstep, the Solent is clearer and more pollution-free than ever.
Even before the pandemic, I think we were starting to see a real seismic shift towards buying local, paying attention to ingredients, sourcing, packaging, etc. I truly hope that continues and grows in momentum. Honest Riders will be fully behind this movement – in fact, we want to be in front! Helping riders find ways in their everyday lives to make more sustainable choices.
3. What has been one of your biggest highs with Honest Riders?
Actually, it was very recent! The reaction to our new Spring/Summer range in April was absolutely mind-blowing. We launched it just a week or so into lock-down and I was so worried whether we were doing the right thing, putting products out there when times were such a challenge.
However, I think it gave people a reason to smile and something to love wearing – even if they are just hanging out at home. I’ll never underestimate the impact that great customer feedback has – it truly lifts me and lifts our business!
4. How do you manage to juggle & get the balance with running Honest Riders & competing the lovely Trev in British Dressage?
Much more easily now I don’t work in advertising full time! 😊 I decided when I left London that I wanted a better balance in life. Riding has always been my absolute passion and working from home, on Honest Riders gives me the flexibility to do that.
Don’t get me wrong, I still work just as many, if not more hours than I ever did in a full-time job. Weekends off are totally out of the window, but I now LOVE what I do, so it doesn’t feel like work. I try and ride 6 days a week and prefer to do it first thing in the morning, so I then get the rest of the day to spend at the desk.
In fact, I guess you could count some of the time I spend with Trev as ‘work’ anyway – I’m constantly testing new horsecare products out on him and spend our hacking time coming up with new ideas for the brand.
5. Can you share any future 2020 plans for Honest Riders & will #RidersOnAMission make a return?
Yes, the Sustainability Challenge will absolutely return! We had such an amazing response to it last year, that we couldn’t not bring it back. This time it will be bigger and better, I cannot wait!
#RidersOnAMission is something we work on all the time – it encompasses the work we do with our supported equine charities, the constant evaluation to make sure our company is as sustainable as it possibly can be and the content we put out there to encourage riders to make more eco-friendly choices.
Quickfire Country Bumpkin Chic round:
1. Any handy tips to being more sustainable around our horses?
Oh gosh, so many, this definitely wouldn’t be a quick-fire answer! My biggest tip would just be to audit the products you use and buy regularly. Think about every aspect of the product being as sustainable as it can be by looking at ingredients, sourcing, packaging, quality, lifetime. We recently wrote a blog about it over on the website.
2. Favourite equestrian event to attend with Honest Riders?
We haven’t done loads of events, to be honest, but Royal Windsor was definitely a highlight and I was really looking forwards to attending Badminton this year.
3. Who inspires you the most in business and in dressage?
In business, I tend to take inspiration from brands and female founders outside of the equestrian world. I’m a total fan-girl of Holly Tucker and Jo Tutchener-Sharp.
In dressage, apart from the obvious Carl and Charlotte (who doesn’t love watching them!?) I also love drooling over Catherine Dufour & Lara Butler. Watching my own trainer Jezz Palmer is a real inspiration too – he always pushes me to be better.
4. What item could you not survive without?
My husband (could he be classified as an item!?) for sure. He encourages me every step of the way to follow my instinct, work hard to get the results I want in riding and business, and that I am good enough. He’s a good egg and I could not do it without him.
5. Favourite motivational quote?
I don’t really have one motivational quote – there are so many that resonate at different times. From an Honest Riders perspective, I’m pretty into ‘Equitation Nation’ at the moment – I think it totally represents our coming together as an equestrian community.
Where are all the places, we can find Honest Riders on social?
- Website: www.honestriders.co.uk
- Instagram: @honest.riders
- Facebook: @honest.riders
- Pinterest: @HonestRiders
- TikTok: @honest_riders
If you liked reading our interview with Zoe from Honest Riders, you might like reading the interview with Amy from Muddy Mare Clothing.