By Jenna Young
Horses have their own way of wiggling into equestrian’s hearts. For Emily Factor, horses became a part of her life as soon as she could spell the word “horse.” From elementary school through high school, Emily competed in the hunter-jumper world before going to college, where she wasn’t able to show horses. After college and at the start of her professional career, Emily felt detached from horses and yearned to have some connection with them again. She was able to reconnect to her roots in riding and training horses at Far West Farms in Calabasas, California. This renewed connection led to the equestrian brand Emily created, Sixteen Cypress (16C), designed to make products for equestrians and their equine companies to showcase the harmony between the two. Since starting in March 2020, 16C has grown immensely. Being a woman entrepreneur can be tough. However, in Emily’s case, it can be extremely rewarding as well.
How did you become part of the horse world?
I believe something carried over from a past life. I had no exposure to horses as a child, no family or friends in the horse world. I remember being 5, learning to spell “H O R S E” and it was the ’80s so I was able to find it in the Yellow Pages. Dialing the most legible phone number I could read, I handed the phone to my mother. “Hello? Oh, OK I guess my daughter would like to ride a horse!” That was my start. I soon began lessons at Pebble Beach Equestrian Center on beloved school horses Timmy and Larry.
Group lessons, camps, pony clubs and eventually moving to Cypress Stables in Monterey, California, with trainer Julie Cotton and family, I competed in Large Pony Hunters on the Central Californian Coast. Later, I competed in Children’s Hunters, Jumpers and Equitation. Junior year of high school, I transferred to Stoneleigh-Burnham School in Greenfield, Massachusetts. It was amazing to have a school with riding all combined in one place. Our team travelled the New England show circuit and I rode Junior Jumpers, Eq and Medal Classes, including New England Equitation Championships.
As I entered college and career, competition life ended for me but training and caring for horses endured. Today, living in Texas, I currently own and ride Willow, a Quarter Horse mare I trained to jump during the pandemic. I also enjoy working with trainer Diane Hanrahan at Crossgate Equestrian and riding their beautiful cross-country course in Bandera.
When did you start your company and what gave you the idea?
In 2008 I relocated to Los Angeles from the UK, where I earned my BA in fashion and textile print at Central St Martins. I began running my own womenswear line, manufacturing in downtown L.A., and working with luxury boutiques across the country. Simultaneously, I was designing textiles for other apparel brands and working on collaborative projects across different industries.
After a few years, I started feeling an emptiness and loss of connection to horses. I reached out to Far West Farms in Calabasas and got back into a training program with Lisa Winn (my now very good friend), the Karazissis Family and Leslie McNiff. I eventually leased Joker, a Selle Français retired show jumper who loved to buck every time I sat on him. He was awesome.
Being back in the saddle again, I became excited about a new idea of bringing together my background in textile development and design with equestrian goods. While buying and using all the regular riding goods again, I was envisioning creating products I could not find. My intention became to create classic equine essentials, inspired by tradition and brought up to date with modern function, construction and materials.
The name Sixteen Cypress (16C) encapsulates all the inspiration infused into my brand. I was raised on a quaint 16th Avenue lined with old Cypress trees and finding my way into the horse world through that grounding left me with visceral memories of that time and place. I watched Grand Prix and hunter derbies during the ’80s and ’90s in Pebble Beach, drenched in dense fog and surrounded by dark green forest and wildlife. There was a beautiful tack store in town, Hudson & Company, which also left a forever impression. And, of course, my fond memories of growing up at Cypress Stables. I wanted 16C to be a channel of all these sentiments combined.
How has your company grown?
In early March of 2020, I officially launched 16C as a direct-to-consumer brand, with a gathering of friends at Tancredi & Morgen
in Carmel, California. In August of 2022, I revealed a wholesale range with AETA (American Equestrian Tradeshow Association) at the Dallas Market Center. In just a few months, 16C has made its way to tack stores across the U.S., as well as Canada and the UK, quickly becoming a globally recognized equestrian brand.
In mid-February 2023, I transitioned SixteenCypress.com from a purely direct-to-consumer store to include the 16C Retail Collection as well. The intention is to ensure the collections are available to everyone while the 16C Retail Partners grow—an enviable challenge to have when you find the desire for your products is experiencing high growth.
What is the best part about being a woman entrepreneur?
The connection and support I have with other women in business. As 16C grows and unfolds with experiences like AETA, horse shows and connections through the digital world, I have found a growing support system with other women entrepreneurs in the equestrian world and beyond. Connecting and sharing experiences is powerful. It’s a reminder that we are all going through a similar process, even in the moments where it feels like we’re the only one in the world dealing with challenges—especially during the pandemic years which brought increased isolation.
What great things have happened because of your business?
The reception of 16C into the world has been amazing. The feedback and comments I receive daily are incredibly motivating and what keeps me going. Seeing the result and a happy customer and horse sporting 16C is the ultimate reward. In August 2022, one of the great highlights was winning the “Best Booth Award” at my first AETA. My significant other, who normally builds out vintage Airstreams and travel trailers, created the ultimate tack room display with torched wood panels and saddle pad racks. We couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming experience!
What are your goals for yourself and your business?
I have a great customer following in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. I am working on connecting with retailers and expanding into those markets throughout 2023. I’d love for 16C to keep expanding and growing where I have the opportunity to create new, innovative and sustainable materials from raw form. I’d love to work with fiber and textile manufacturers and explore new ideas that can keep transforming the 16C products and end result to support horses and riders. Product-wise, I’d like to collaborate with other brands who hold similar visions around their products and services. Long term, my dream is to have an equestrian property where I can operate 16C and provide a safe haven for rescue horses and other animals.
What advice would you give to other women considering entrepreneurship?
Whatever you do, first understand who you are creating for—the market, what their needs are—and work backwards to develop your roadmap. Find people you really trust and who have your best interest in mind—and nothing else. Unsolicited advice from others can be dangerous, distracting and set you off track from your vision. I am naturally a “yes” person, but it’s important to have discernment. I am continuing to learn when and how to exercise this muscle.
What’s the best thing about your life?
The friends, family and animals that surround me. They’re what inspires me through each and every day.
Best-kept secret about what you do?
The number 16. Besides 16th Ave. where I was raised, it has been a constant symbol appearing throughout my life and with close family members—both here with me now and those who have passed on. I feel it is a guiding number, and when it shows up, it validates that I’m on the right path—in small and large circumstances. It’s also said that 16 encompasses the properties of independence, leadership and a guide for positive change and transformation. So, I keep it very close.
For more information, visit sixteencypress.com
Photos by Anne Sherwood, unless noted otherwise