Equestrian Fashion Outfitters is an equestrian tack and apparel store located in Sharon, Ontario. The tack store has established themselves as a go-to spot for quality equestrian clothing and on-trend fashions for dressage, eventing and hunter/jumper riding disciplines. Established in 2012, the company is celebrating its ten-year anniversary in August of this year. To honour this anniversary, we decided to showcase Helen Curtin, the owner, and CEO of Equestrian Fashion Outfitters. Read our interview with Helen to learn how she has been able to lead her team through ten years of successful business ownership.
In 2010, I retired from my accounting practice after 25 years. I took some time away from working to go to Wellington, FL with my horse for the winter. During the two years off, I was able to prioritize my family, take a moment to relax and think about my future. In 2012, I was presented with the opportunity to purchase a company at the time called Equestrian Factory Outlet. I had shopped with Equestrian Factory Outlet for many years and loved the products which they had. Being an equestrian myself and with two daughters active in the equestrian industry, helped push me to seriously consider this new opportunity. After a family discussion, I purchased Equestrian Factory Outlet. We knew it would be a whirlwind trying to learn a whole new business, but I’ve never looked back. A few years later, I renamed Equestrian Factory Outlet to Equestrian Fashion Outfitters to better align with the direction of the business.
If I had to choose just one word, I would say – surreal. I am truly blessed to have such an amazing support system from my family, and I couldn’t have stayed in business these past ten years without their help. When I first purchased EFO, both of my lovely and capable daughters helped to establish key aspects of the business. My husband has continued to be the transport driver that gets our trailers from show to show, across Quebec and Ontario. The three of them have all been pillars of support, helping to build and grow Equestrian Fashion Outfitters at different times, each of them in their own way.
When I purchased the business, I did not envision that my daughters would remain involved with the business. Both were pursuing different career paths which did not align with them working fulltime for EFO. Gradually, Sarah (my youngest daughter) became more and more involved with the business and decided to change her career path by joining EFO on a full-time basis. It is an absolute pleasure to work with Sarah, day-in and day-out in the office, at the store or on-site at the shows. She has grown to play a demanding role for the business, running almost all the operations: from running the store, managing the warehouse and purchasing the clothes our customers love! She brings such a positive passion and enthusiasm to everything she does which our customers experience in the interactions with our great team and customers.
Working with family, makes working a joy!
The past two years have been challenging and often frustrating for all small family-run businesses. We were very lucky that we had begun to re-vamp our online presence the year before COVID-19 struck. By doing so, we were one step ahead when all in-person shopping was restricted for long periods of time. With our stores closed and shows suspended this left online shopping as our only platform to reach our customers. I was amazed at the power of the internet and the strength of our brand that enabled us to reach so many customers across Canada. The pandemic also made the decision to permanently close our Langley, BC location easier. Overall, despite closing a store and having (what seemed like endless) restrictions in place, our business has thrived through this trying time and for that I am grateful.
Listen to your customers. What you like, might not be what your customers like, and that’s okay!
I have also learned the power of having a great team around me. I could never run this business without our strong team of hardworking women. I am proud of them.
Being able to offer something different to the industry with top quality products at great prices. I am proud of our team and how they provide an unparalleled customer service experience to all of our customers who shop with us.
For everyone in Alberta we also have a franchise in Red Deer, run by Cobie Van Den Bosch, who has been a part of EFO for over 8 years! She represents EFO with as much passion and enthusiasm as I do!
At the end of the day, none of this would be possible without our amazing customers. They are the driving force for myself, as well as my team, to continue to provide them with on-trend equestrian tack and apparel.