Equestrian website galloping towards success

CLAIRE ROGERS
Last updated 05:00 27/06/2011
HORSE POWER: Kate Hinton set up a website selling horse-related products and has now opened a shop.
ROSS GIBLIN/The Dominion Post
HORSE POWER: Kate Hinton set up a website selling horse-related products and has now opened a shop.

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Struggling to sell a surplus of horses four years ago, Wellington woman Kate Hinton decided to launch an online equestrian business.

Today that start-up company, That Horse, sells more than 2500 horse-related products to customers, and plans to be the biggest online retailer of its kind in Australasia.

Ms Hinton, a registered nurse, trained in equine science and acupuncture and set up a horse rehabilitation centre.

"I ended up with all these horses that I needed to sell. At the time selling horses was hard and I was mowing the lawns one day and thought, `I know what I'll do, I'll build a website'."

The site began selling horses and then began to let businesses sell their products, Trade Me style.

But that made for an inconsistent experience for customers, Ms Hinton says, and the site relaunched this month selling direct on behalf of distributors for a retail margin.

The company, about to graduate from Wellington business incubator Creative HQ, currently sells for 30 distributors.

It plans to sign on European and American companies that want to enter the Australasian market, and sell Australasian products into Europe and the United States.

"We want to have a range online that nobody else has. We want to be, and are heading towards being, the largest online [equine] retailer in Australasia."

Ms Hinton expected the site to have at least 5000 products online by the end of the year.

More than 5000 people in Australia and New Zealand subscribe to its emails advertising daily specials, she says.

That Horse set up a store in Wellington this year at the request of major distributors, which were under pressure from other traditional bricks and mortar retailers not to sell to online-only companies.

"There were lots of feed supply stores in the Wellington region but no true saddleries. The distributors asked us to take the plunge and it was a good move. We're thrilled with how well it's been supported."

The store adds an extra dimension to the business, letting staff develop deeper relationships with customers face to face.

Ms Hinton says her nursing career, which included spells working in cardiac care and surgery, set her up well for the business.

"The thing that nurses do is they help people with their decision making by supplying them with information that they can understand. My passion is helping people care for their horses and make better decisions based on knowledge."

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To that end the site has a "knowledge centre" where people can read informative articles and the company has a Facebook page so customers can discuss their horses and seek advice from Ms Hinton and her team. Those services differentiate the company from other general online retailers such as Trade Me, she says.

Creative HQ helped streamline and strengthen her business model, and the advice from its partners, including law firm Morrison Kent, has been invaluable.

Ms Hinton, who breeds horses, has been an equine enthusiast "since the day I was born". "It's as addictive as heroin and probably almost as expensive as well."

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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