By Hope Ellis-Ashburn
The first years of college are typically ones of personal growth. Young adults face the responsibilities of life on their own, managing their finances and making important adult decisions about their future. Lifelong equestrian Olivia Otto’s experiences may be characteristic of many college students, but a day in the life of this 19-year-old entrepreneur is anything but typical.
Olivia owns her own startup company, Olivia Otto Inc., whose product line is named HorseCBD. After receiving encouragement from her father, who worked in the CBD industry, she started the business in mid-2018 with her products going to market in January 2019.
An Investment Horse
Olivia’s interest in CBD traces back to 2017 when she purchased her horse Lorenzo, an 11-year-old Swedish Warmblood show jumper. Lorenzo was originally intended to be her first investment horse, and Olivia was looking forward to the amazing learning experience. However, she quickly fell in love with him and decided he wasn’t going anywhere.
“Unfortunately, Lorenzo showed signs of lameness, inflammation and stiffness almost every day,” Olivia said. She tried everything in the book, including adding extra joint supplements, liniment, expensive wraps and having her vet out almost every weekend. Her father gave her the idea to try CBD on her horse.
Olivia was thrilled to discover that after finding the perfect dosage, Lorenzo’s demeanor, attitude and overall disposition completely transformed. “Over time, it has also helped with his stiffness and inflammation,” she said. “Not only did it help in the long term, but higher doses for short-term use helps take the edge off of anything that usually makes him nervous.”
This auspicious beginning fueled Olivia’s desire to share her results with all of her horse friends and family, leading her to start a product line that she says has completely recreated the standard for which she holds horse care. Today, she produces a line of organically grown full-spectrum hemp products for horses and dogs that can also be used on other pets. “We have horse pellets, horse and dog treats, and horse and dog tinctures,” she said. Olivia credits CBD with helping her dog, a Doberman named Daisy, with many of the same issues that Lorenzo once had.
Olivia says her father, Greg Otto, has been the strongest contributing factor to her success. “He’s the one who pushes me, whether it be in the show ring, or now, with my business,” she said. Another supporter has been her horse trainer, Samantha Senft. “I’ve only been training with her for a year and half, but she has become more like an older sister to me. She has always been there for me those times that I fail, which is why I’ve come to trust her so much.”
In the Beginning
Olivia’s interest in horses began at an early age when she visited her grandparents who lived in Boca Raton, Florida. They lived on a 25-acre property in an equestrian neighborhood called Horseshoe Acres. “My grandparents had a barn at their old home and I would go there every day and spend hours setting feed for the horses, grooming them, riding them bareback and anything and everything that had to do with being around them.” She loved spending the entire day there. “I fell in love with riding the second I got on my first horse at age 3.”
A desire to ride the big jumpers in her grandparents’ barn led Olivia to skip the pony stage and go straight to horses. “Christopher Robin was the first horse to teach me everything,” she said. He was the first to take her around her initial years of showing lead line, walk-trot and crossrails, and took care of her through her earliest years of showing in Wellington. “I was overall champion after my first year of showing him, and the trophy was taller than I was!”
Her first trainer was Brooke Wright, who lived across the street from her grandparents’ house. Her next horse was Topper. “He was so naughty and would throw me off any chance he got! I was always the youngest girl at the barn, and the older girls would always have to ride him before I got on because he was crazy.”
Olivia also rode with Denise Monopoli for years, and says Denise taught her most of what she’s learned throughout her riding career. “She taught me so much and gave me so many opportunities to ride and show a few of her horses,” Olivia said.
Olivia currently competes Lorenzo in the North American League Adult Jumper classes. This year, she hopes to qualify and attend the NAL Adult Jumper Finals in Pennsylvania. “I don’t have any other horses but I’m dying to get another horse soon. I’d love to have two,” she said.
A Vision is Formed
Outside of horses and her business, Olivia enjoys snow skiing and playing tennis. She currently attends Lynn University majoring in entrepreneurship. “Entrepreneurship is a really fun major and is relevant to what is going on in my life right now. It’s amazing because I’m able to apply everything I learn in my classes to the business I’m learning to run.”
Olivia’s goals extend far beyond the classroom, too. “My ultimate mission with this company is to be able to assist every horse in being the best they can be — in the show ring, during training days and everything in between,” she said. In the future, once her company has become more established, she plans to use her business to help rescued and retired horses. “I’ve always been drawn to those horses that have a difficult past. They end up giving you so much more once they come to trust you.”
In spite of her young age, Olivia has some sage advice for others just starting out. “It’s hard not to get caught up on moments that don’t go as you expected them to,” she said, and Lorenzo is the perfect example. “But I’ve learned this lesson through riding and through these past months with my business: Everything ends up working out, sometimes even better than you first expected.”
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