Monday, June 8, 2009

The Making of a Company

First off, it's good to be back here at Equestrian Ink. Life has gotten very busy for me and I had to kind of take a look at where I needed to scale back. Blogging was one of the items included in the scaling back list. But I am back with Eq Ink because any chance I get to write about horses, the world of horses, or how to incorporate horses into writing--well, I want to be writing about that!

For readers and followers who don't know, I have another job other than my writing, which I think is typical of most writers. I work for my family's business--Professional's Choice Sports Medicine Inc. My dad started Prof Choice thirty-four-years ago. And he started the company because of a horse. The company is about horses so that shouldn't be a surprise. However, initially Prof. Choice didn't have anything to do with horses.

When I was six-years-old (a long time ago) my dad bought a horse named Ivan. Ivan was huge. He was a half draft and half Quarter horse. He had the mind of a saint for the most part and over the years this gentle giant taught many people how to ride. My dad worked in the car business at the time. It was summer time and I can remember begging my dad to come home early from work so that I could ride Ivan. One evening he did just that. Dad got home and although it was already getting late (around Ivan's dinner time) he went ahead and and got him ready for me to ride. Looking back, I am sure my dad wonders if he had lost all common sense at the time, and I was only six--so common sense wasn't something I even understood the concept of. Anyway, we only had a bareback pad and because it was the horse's dinner time, Dad let me know that this was going to be a short ride. We set out on the trail behind our house. Dad had this dirt bike--not one of the loud vroom-vroom types, but more of a put-put type. He got on his bike and stayed a distance behind me. When we got to the end of the trail we turned around and Dad said, "Now it's Ivan's dinner time. I want you to just walk him. No trotting because he might decide he wants to get back to the barn faster than we'd like him to." Okay, so common sense might not have been something I had, but I could be a little precocious so when I heard don't trot him, my litte ears must not have heard or else my little mind did not obey. I got a little ahead with Ivan and sure enough had him in a trot, and sure enough the big guy wanted to get back to the barn and have his dinner--and sure enough it was a lot faster than that trot.

As Ivan and I crested the hill behind our house at a full gallop, Dad lost sight of us. Now, it was about this time I came off of Ivan behind a neighbor's house. I was fine--landed in some soft sand and Ivan went ahead and made it home. Dad didn't fare so well. Not seeing us, he panicked and he pushed that put-put of a motorcycle to go at top speed, and he hit a rock and spun out and when he came off the bike, it didn't take long for him to realize that he couldn't get up. He'd broken his leg in several places.

Fast forward to a month later--Dad in a cast, hot summer day and we had a pool. So, my dad thinks how nice it would be if he could just get into that pool, but the cast couldn't get wet. A trash bag wasn't going to work. My dad set out to invent something that could go over the cast to keep it from getting wet. At the time there was a small company making dive suits out of a garage not too far from where we lived (Body Glove). My dad came up with a design and with the sewer's help at Body Glove they put together his first invention-A Drycast Sleeve. Dad wound up swimming all summer in that Drycast. Now he poured a lot of faith and money into that invention, worked many extra hours as my mom did to get it off the ground. Suffice to say The Drycast didn't take off the way they'd hoped. But my dad kept on creating.

A couple of years later, (by this time we had three more horses) Dad is looking at the horses' legs a lot and he's thinking, "Those little legs underneath those big bodies need some preventive care and protection to keep them sound." So, he started talking to trainers, vets, anyone with any kind of real expertise dealing with horses. He came up with the initial sports medicine boot. It was that product that took off for him and moved a company my parents started out of a back room in our house into a small office building with a sewing machine. Today, Professional's Choice is the number one equine sports medicine company in preventative leg care. My dad's philosophy has always been that he wants to improve the comfort and life of the horse. He is a true horseman who really loves the animals.

I tell this story for a couple of reasons. The first is that if you are a writer this is the type of story that hopefully helps you in the journey. Companies aren't built in a day and neither are writers' careers. My parents instilled discipline and tenacity in me and even when I want to give up on my writing, they help push me through. I think of the determination and some of the sacrifices they went through to provide what they believe and know are products that really do help horses and riders.

I also tell this story to honor my parents who had faith in what they were doing. I also wanted to honor a great horse who lived to be 31 years old, and is buried on my parents' property. Without Ivan and that fateful day thirty-four-years ago, I have to wonder if there'd even be a Professional's Choice, or if I'd even be a writer. Who knows what kind of twists and turns life would have taken. But I have to say that I am happy I had no common sense at six, and was just a tad precocious.

Happy to be back!


P.S. Check out my new book trailer for the YA I'm working on. It's kind of International Velvet meets Gossip Girls with a little paranormal thrown in.


Laura Crum said...

Michele--I have splint boots made by your family's company in my barn and trailer. What an inspiring story!

Leslie said...

My husband also has a back brace from Professional's Choice. Much better than the ones he has purchased through other retail outlets. Interesting story about your family's business. Thanks for sharing.

Jami Davenport said...

Welcome back, Michele. We're glad you're here!!!

Ponyice said...

Great story! I am a huge Prof Choice fan, all my boots and girths are only PC now. Have my boots from 1995 that are still in great shape (on a new horse now) and have held up really well. Living in South Texas breaking your leg and not being able to swim would be awful, to bad about the drycast not working :)