What happens when a ten-year-old, pony-loving girl becomes your business partner? Just ask Shannon Klepper, co-founder of Annie’s Equestrienne Apparel. “The simple philosophy behind our brand is fun, functional, durable and affordable riding apparel,” she says of the line, which was created in January 2014 after fruitlessly searching for riding clothes that would fashionably appeal to children and financially appeal to adults.
A SWEET START
With the roots of the riding world steeped in solid, classical traditions, it comes as no surprise to any rider to see an equally solid and mostly neutral palette of colors available for equestrian apparel. When Annie was just eight years old, she posed a simple yet thoughtful question to her mother: “Why do all the breeches have to be so boring?”
As an aspiring dressage rider living on a sprawling farm with her family in Ohio, Annie grew up spending countless hours in the barn, with riding clothes being her daily uniform. When it became clear that the fun and colorful apparel of her dreams, combined with Shannon’s desire for sturdy, quality fabrics, was yet to be created, Annie took to her sketchbook and laid out the groundwork for what was to become Annie’s Equestrienne Apparel.
The entire collection was originally inspired by Annie’s four loves: horses, fashion, dolls, and candy. Initially, it launched as a children’s brand, with the “Sticky Buns” breeches coming in Yellow, Razberry, and Tiff-Annie Blue, a vibrant azure hue that quickly became the iconic cornerstone of the line. A fleece pullover and three schooling shirts, complete with matching doll-sized options, rounded out the first release.
The clothing was received with overwhelming approval. “I was quite satisfied with Annie’s being solely a kids’ brand, but we just couldn’t ignore all of the requests to make our schooling breeches and tops into adult sizes,” Shannon said. “Our little brand had to grow up quickly!”
IT’S A FAMILY AFFAIR
Altough they have been thrilled with the continuous demand for the brand, the Kleppers take pride in maintaining a boutique size and feel to the line. Shannon’s husband helps set up the vendor tents at horse shows, while Annie’s teenage brothers assist in the distribution and shipping of the products. Her grandmother has even jumped on board, managing inventory and administrative tasks.
Annie and Shannon share the title of designer. “Annie is responsible for selecting the new colors for breeches. Sometimes I’ll rein her in a bit, but for the most part, she’s spot on. She doesn’t overthink it…she just picks what she feels is fresh and speaks to her!”
“There is definitely a need for fashion-forward equestrian athletic wear, but that doesn’t mean it has to be drab,” she continues. “Our infusion of color into the equestrian world in no way disrespects its classic foundation. We’re simply offering equestrians a fun alternative by adding a bit of flair to their schooling wardrobe.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF CUSTOMER SERVICE
Plans for 2016 include further outreach into competition apparel. The brand offers beige and white breeches for the show ring, and due to high demand, Shannon and Annie have been working on a design for their first competition jacket.
While their goal is to remain true to their roots with fun and fashion-forward schooling attire, they understand the importance of recognizing and honoring consumer requests. “If you’re not willing to evolve and truly listen to your customers…your business will inevitably fail. It is crucial we take amazing care of our customers. We are a happy, lighthearted brand and we love it when our customers are extremely pleased with our products and service.”
DESIGNING THE PERFECT FUTURE
A business partnership with a ten-year-old may not be for everyone, but Shannon sees it as a twofold opportunity: to not only continue growing Annie’s Equestrienne Apparel through the sparkling innovation of her daughter’s creativity, but most importantly, to make the most of their entrepreneurial exploration together.
“Working together by spending time doing what we love is such a blessing. I love that we’ve taken a young child’s idea and turned it into our family business and a recognizable name in the equestrian world. We’re truly living the American dream!”