By Jan Westmark Bauer
Lauren Pileggi Friga has her mother to thank for falling in love with horses. Her mother, Stacy Pileggi, grew up with horses in her backyard, and both Stacy and Lauren’s father, John Pileggi Jr., have supported Lauren through her entire riding career—beginning with ponies before she could walk. Lauren started competing locally when she was 4 and is still part of the horse world today. Lauren, who lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, rode for Rider University and, after graduating, entered the corporate world where she became an event manager and traveled the world, while at the same time riding with Black River Farm in New Jersey and Heritage Farm in New York. Fast forward to 2019 when Lauren’s dog got sick, resulting in vet bills which she needed to pay. Let go from her corporate job because of the COVID-19 pandemic and looking for a way to pay the mounting vet bills, Lauren formed Show The Bows, specializing in handmade horse show bows that has young riders at horse shows all across the country wearing bows and smiles.
What did your early riding career look like?
I got my first horse when I was 11. He taught me how to play in each discipline: hunters, jumpers, equitation, Western and dressage, which I give credit to for my strong background and my success I’ve had in the horse world. Then I purchased an off-the-track Thoroughbred that showed me what it was like to have wings, and gave me the confidence that led me to start riding and teaching professionally. I never gave up an offer to ride and would even show four to eight horses each show to gain as much experience as I could. I went on to show up and down the East Coast from Vermont to Florida at some of the most well-known shows in the hunter-jumper world, and still do!
When did you start your company and what gave you the idea?
I actually started making bows and sewing surcingle belts when I was working at Bucks County Saddlery around the age of 16 or 17. The owner, Karla, let me sell them at the store for extra money for horse shows. In 2019, my rescue dog, Quinn, got terribly sick and her vet bills escalated to thousands. It was right after the Devon Horse Show that year that I had a close friend whose daughter was in leadline and I made her bows, her leader’s bow tie, etc. My husband said, “Hey, why don’t you put what you have left in your supplies on Facebook as a flash sale to try to make up some of the vet bill costs?” Within months I decided to create a company, and now Show The Bows has officially turned full time and even ships internationally!
What part does your company play in the horse world?
To me, my company plays one of the most sentimental parts in the horse world. Being able to wear your own artwork in a piece that can be as bright as neon and all glitter is so fun. Lighting up little equestrians’ faces when they see their artwork come to life is amazing when they attribute their lucky charm to their #LuckyShowTheBows. Our online customizer lets kids and parents interactively design their own bows and allows them to pick all layer colors and monograms, and they can even put their pony’s portrait on them!
What is the best part about being a woman entrepreneur?
Being able to bring a lifetime of knowledge and experience to something I’m so passionate about. Show The Bows started as a side business and it now has turned into a company that ships worldwide. Being the face of Show The Bows, Skyelaur LLC (an equestrian marketing company) and also a realtor with COMPASS RE, becoming a woman entrepreneur has opened doors to networks and connections that one could only dream of.
What challenges do you face?
Being a one-woman show requires me to wear a lot of hats that not everyone sees from the outside, and I take pride in all aspects of this company. As any entrepreneur knows, things happen that you can’t prepare for, so being able to pivot and maneuver change when a customer is counting on you can be challenging but it also provides the most rewarding opportunities.
What great things have happened because of your business?
My utmost proudest moment that I thank Show The Bows for is being able to rescue another dog! Harlee joined our family in 2021, a true COVID puppy. Basing this company off of rescuing Quinn, it was my dream to be able to eventually rescue another dog. I also get to support so many amazing foundations and always give back with special “Bows For A Cause” and the outreach has been amazing. It has also let me reconnect with my childhood after focusing on being an adult in the corporate world, and I’m finding myself back to being so involved in the horse world again. This year will be my third year as a chairman for The Devon Horse Show and I’m excited to see how many more shows I can get to!
What are your goals for yourself and your business?
My sole goal is to streamline the production process so that no one needs to wait long for their custom order. I also have so many ideas (who knew you could create so many fun things just based around a hairbow!) but I never have time to do it, because I can never give up responsibilities and control. I enjoy talking to each and every customer so much; that’s what makes this incredible small business so fun. Another goal is traveling to shows to see everyone and cheer them on, since that’s what makes me the happiest.
What advice would you give to other women considering entrepreneurship?
If you have a passion for something, make something of it. This would never be possible on this level without loving what I do. The enthusiasm and customer service are mirrored effortlessly when it’s something that comes easily to you. Companies thrive on wonderful customer service. For a product that’s so sentimental, customer service is key!
What’s the best thing about your life?
My life as a whole. I’m so lucky to have a close-knit family on both sides—I got married in June of 2022! Truly settling in to being an entrepreneur has allowed me to see the beauty in every part of life. But it didn’t come without a grind and missing out on a lot of social fun. My (now) husband was my biggest supporter and I can’t wait for the future and the fun that I get to have with each and every customer! Every day is a new design and something different, so it’s so much fun waking up to see what the day will bring.
Best kept secret about what you do?
It’s only me! I handle everything from the social media to the website to making and creating the actual products and packing and shipping them out. I am so lucky that I have one of my closest friends, Jessica, design and create all the pony portraits and logos/monograms. The best part—I have the greatest friends who support and come “babysit” while I’m knee deep in work on a weekend instead of out socializing!
For more information, visit showthebows.com
Photos by Shawna Whitty/SAS Equestrian