We had an extraordinary week in Florida, hearing from #bossbabes at the Equestrian Businesswomen Summit and from the top professionals at the USEF Member Convention. Proceeding our outing to the Sunshine State, we had the opportunity to chat with another #bossbabe, Lynn Mueller, owner and founder of Oh + August. You may remember her company as Bibimbap Skincare, a highly regarded skincare line, especially in the equestrian industry. Well, Bibimbap has a new name! They recently rebranded to Oh + August, but remain still a fabulous skincare line.
Lynn now competes in the Low Adult Jumpers aboard her two horses, "Classy" and "Oliver James". Impressively, Lynn has been riding for 24 years now and even worked as a working student at age 9 to work off lessons. She's had a long history with her riding career since! "I took a break from riding during college and also when I moved overseas to Korea for two years, starting back up when I returned to the US. When I came back, I leased two fox-hunters but wasn’t able to buy my first horse until I was in my mid-twenties." After her first horse, Lynn eventually met her current mare, Classy, through a friend.
"Classy had failed horribly at racing because quite frankly, she would rather be sleeping in bed and trotting in the back by herself. Though she had only just turned 3 when I found her, her very chill personality was what gave me the confidence to get back in the saddle without a literal fear that we would end up in the hospital. We evented up to Novice for a few years, but I had a lot of mental baggage from a rotational fall on cross-country from my previous horse, so in both of our best interest, I decided to switch to jumpers. She LOVES her job and improves with every show - as do I, now that we are in a more structured program. We started in the puddle jumpers about a year and a half ago, and we now do the low adult jumpers. I would love to move up to the low amateurs eventually - we’ll see what happens."
Lynn considers her first horse, an OTTB named Lo Me, to be her most influential horse. She said, "He was NOT a fit for me looking back, as I’m 5’2” and bought this gigantic 18hand gelding, but his personality was hilarious. I went in totally unprepared as he was straight off the track (I literally took a trailer to Hawthorne Racecourse and picked him up), so I had a lot of by-the-seat-of-your-pants learning experiences retraining him. We evented through Novice, and along the way, he had a myriad of health issues - EPM, uveitis, anxiety, PSSM, among other things. It took a ton of work to compete him, but he loved going to work each day as his work ethic was classic Thoroughbred. He also took care of me - I was super smart and moved him up (as we were trainer-less for a while) and once we got out on course went uh-oh, and he took care of both of us like a packer. He was incredibly loyal - there won’t be another like him! Truly my “heart horse.” He did eventually mentally lose it after uveitis surgery and became a liability, so I had to make a very difficult decision to euthanize him at the age of 7. However, he taught me a ton of lessons that translated into my next horse - though I did get a little smarter and a) did a PPE when I got Classy, and b) bought the opposite of him -- a tiny, tiny little mare! Meanwhile, size-wise, my trainer’s pony at 12something hands is a perfect fit."
Switching gears back to her business, we asked Lynn about her decision to rebrand to Oh + August. A lot of thought went into the decision and included conversations with other professionals in the industry. She said, "I had a few great meetings and chats with both a buyer at CVS and also the founder of a very successful Japanese skincare line. Though the company is now a year old (still super young!) and I only just opened the online store for business in late February 2018, it’s now at a funny position where being self-funded and scaling to meet demand is growing difficult. Most skincare brands that started small actually had hundreds of thousands of dollars of investment from friends, relatives, you name it, which helped to get them the large production runs and luxe packaging quickly. Being self-funded, I’ve had to be very careful with production runs and meeting demand, though still maintaining the quality of the product. With both people, in order to start scaling and building the business, it was suggested not to restrict myself to one laboratory for different products in order to produce what I need, as well as rebranding to a sleeker, modern image with a name that still tells a brand story and tells a bit about myself, yet is easier to pronounce for the mainstream market. Appealing to the mainstream beauty market is more difficult to penetrate than the equestrian market that I’m currently in, but that would be one of the keys to making sure this business succeeds in the long-term. In addition, they did suggest seeking investors, which I’m currently researching as I am definitely not as familiar with that territory as I should be."
It surely takes a special kind of person to be able to manage a growing company like Oh + August while meanwhile juggling riding on her own time. Lynn told us that finding balance is all about time management. "Time is ALWAYS of the essence. I still have a full-time job in the insurance industry, which helps to fund both my equestrian activities and the Oh + August business. Ideally, I would love to only focus on Oh + August, but at the point where the company is now, that wouldn’t pay the bills! That being said, even before the business came to be, I’ve had to press on to obtain several risk management and other industry designations, so time always was short. I’ve now been at a full-service barn for about a year, and it is well worth the expense to know that my horses are in the best of care, and I don’t have to worry so much about scheduling appointments, managing medications, etc. It’s also much easier to run out to the barn for an hour, squeeze in a couple of rides, and then get back to working - rather than trying to squish in what normally would take 3 hours at night every night and running myself to the ground - been there, done that."
When we asked Lynn what her advice is to other equestrians looking to start their own businesses, she said the following: "This is definitely not the fun part, but make sure you get your paperwork (articles of organization, etc.) tax information, and liability insurance squared away before you do ANYTHING touching the Internet or spreading the word about the business. Commercial general liability often isn’t enough protection - make sure you investigate excess policies, or even product liability if you are planning to sell products. In addition, protect yourself with a disclaimer and proper terms and conditions clearly posted on your website. These days, all it takes is for one negative comment on Instagram and your entire business could go down in flames if a claim goes wrong. Also, I highly recommend making sure that you are focusing on riding effectively! Sometimes, we can get sucked into finding a great picture to post online, but meanwhile, we spent 30 minutes doing that and all we did was hack - when there actually is a show coming up and really you needed to be working your butt off. Don’t lose sight of the goal!"
Everything is a gradual process. Even in business, you can’t get a good skincare formula out to your customers without going through all the proper steps first, including paperwork, insuring everything, testing, testing, and testing.
Along these same lines, she reminds us that patience is really important in for her business' success and in her life as well. Patience is the biggest life lesson that horses have taught her. Just like myself, Lynn describes herself as a very "Type A personality," so she has a difficult time with patience. "It is difficult for me to start the process moving with anything without saying, “Where’s my result?” immediately. Everything is a gradual process. Even in business, you can’t get a good skincare formula out to your customers without going through all the proper steps first, including paperwork, insuring everything, testing, testing, and testing. The same goes with horses. A great horse wasn’t made overnight. That being said, sometimes there is a time and a place for a big change (such as moving barns or switching disciplines), but it may take some time to reap the rewards of that change."
To top off our short interview with Lynn, she attributes much of her success to her "village," which includes her sponsored riders, family and her trainer. "I actually don’t have any sponsors myself, though I wouldn’t be opposed to any as it gets more difficult to allocate showing funds versus the business! I do sponsor two amazing riders, Lainey Ashker and Carolina Villanueva Suarez, who both embody both the company brand and are incredible #bossladies with brilliant personalities. Sponsorships aside, my parents have been incredibly supportive by continuing to visit my horses, attend horse shows when they can, and lend a third party ear when tough decisions have to be made. I’m in my thirties, and they still come to shows and hang out with all the other parents and talk about “mom and dad stuff”! My trainer Steve additionally has been fantastic at finding the best way to teach me how to actually ride halfway decently, by finding a good way to push me along and focus. (I have ADHD and anxiety, so focusing at a show with a ton of activity happening all at once is incredibly difficult...not to mention memorizing courses, haha). Trainers fill so many roles at once: I like to say that they’re coaches, mentors, and therapists!"
Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat, Lynn! If you haven't already, check out Oh + August.
All photos by Andrew Ryback Photography.