Cindy is an old friend of mine from my Germany days. She made the jump into business ownership a few years before I did and I’ve always been inspired by her incredible ability to take an idea and put all her energy into making it happen.
Cindy has two businesses. She works with horses addressing behavioural issues and she is also freelance sports photographer concentrating mainly on equestrian sports.
Tell us what you were doing before you went out on your own?
My last job was organizing recruiting events for a consultancy company. I also worked in the media before that, for radio and television.
What made you think about starting your own business?
I was always a very independent person. I don’t like to be limited. It was always on my mind that I should work for myself.
I had already tried running a business before with a partner in Portugal. Unfortunately it was the year the tourism crisis hit and costs were too high to keep going until the next season. We ended up breaking even and I came back to Germany and got a job again.
Even though my role was very varied in that job, and I was working with incredible people, I just got bored. It wasn’t enough. I wanted more freedom, to use my creativity and have more varied days.
How did you decide on what business idea to go with?
I always had contact with horses even from a very young age. My family didn’t have enough money for riding lessons for me but I spent a lot of time at the stables observing the horses and learning about them by being with them.
As an adult I then worked as a classical show jumping trainer for horses in California. I had to learn to communicate with the horses with no saddle or reins. I later used these techniques to test with horses that had behavioural problems to help them improve. My idea was that it is much easier to work with a horse if it follows you willingly. For two years I tried different approaches and I worked out my own way of communicating with the horses and resolving behavioural issues. All the while I also had an interest in photography.
I was told I had a special connection and feeling for working with horses and I kept hearing I should do something with it. For a long time I dismissed this and thought, no, no, it’s nothing special. But I kept hearing this more and more so I decided to do it professionally, and offer my services to help horse owners in need.
As I love photography too and I have experience in the media so I just decided to do both. I know about horses and equestrian sports so I just had to learn the technical side of photography to complete the picture.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
There were huge challenges. I spent a lot of money on education and equipment so I didn’t have much financial back up.
It’s a whole new world when you are 100% responsible for yourself, but it’s in my nature to just take the first step. Then the next steps just fall into place. I believe strongly that if you put enough positive energy into something things will come around, and they always did.
What have been your highlights as a business owner?
I was nominated for the Silver Camera Award for the best equestrian photograph worldwide. I won bronze. Just being nominated was so incredible. To come third was more than I could ever believe would be possible. I actually couldn’t believe it for over a week. Normally only professional photographers with many years experience are nominated for that award. So this was a huge, huge highlight for me.
My first photography client was a big highlight too as it was Horse and Hound, the UK magazine, which is the oldest equestrian magazine in the world.
I have also been able to travel a lot with my work and meet interesting people from all over the world. I love that part of my work.
What would you say to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Business isn’t for everyone but listen to yourself and follow your heart. If you believe it’s for you don’t let anyone hold you back.
If it’s really what you want to do you will be on the right path
Key take aways from Cindy’s experience
From the outside it could feel quite obvious where Cindy’s talents lie but even she didn’t believe it was anything special until she got a lot of feedback. If people tell you you’re good at something, pay attention. Maybe this is a skill that you could turn into a business.
Don’t assume certain achievements are out of your league. You can play with the big shots if you put in the work!
Now I’d like to hear from you…
Do you have some unusual skills or talents that you have been thinking of building a business around?
Have you perhaps won any awards or accolades in your business? If so, share them with us…
Let us know in the comments below…