By Britney Grover
Being in the driver’s seat with the ability to change anything that’s not working is one of the things Wendy Latham of Calabasas, California, loves most about running her company Halter Ego. But she’s not out to sugarcoat life as an entrepreneur. “Being an entrepreneur is the utmost ‘rubber meets the road’ test,” she said. “It’s a mindset that requires creativity and strategy, and that forces you to put aside fear and to open the door to what could be.”
“People always think when you have your own business that you have money, freedom and flexibility. The reality is that every single cent goes back into the business for a very long time. There is flexibility in terms of integrating life with work, but days are long, and the customer always comes first,” she continued. “I always say if it were easy, everyone would do it. But the extra commitment we put in as we continue to build is so worth it.”
Wendy’s first encounter with a horse was at a pony ride at a farmer’s market in Santa Monica when she was 3, but when her family moved to England when Wendy was 6, horses became indispensable. “I was a total tomboy and, according to my mum, had enough energy for 10 kids. Nothing kept my attention for long, which worried her sick until I got bit by the horse bug! She loves to tell everyone how the second I found horses, she knew I’d be OK—so long as nothing got between me and the barn!”
After growing up spending every free minute in the barn, Wendy earned a business degree and worked at the London Institute of Fashion & Design. She worked in retail for fashion brands in Paris, then as an analyst at an investment bank where she focused on research within the fashion and construction sectors. “…because those two go hand-in-hand?” she questioned jokingly.
Wendy’s original goal to build a platform to champion up-and-coming equestrian brands that were relatively unknown in the U.S. pivoted because there weren’t enough brands, let alone enough that could produce adequate inventory to sell wholesale to other retailers. “But I saw an opportunity to combine a lifelong dream of designing fashion with my passion for horses and business,” Wendy said. “I had long felt that there was a lack of variety when it came to equestrian apparel and tack, and, given how much money I spent on riding gear, I wanted better, different and more unique options—more style, better quality and more bang for my buck!”
In 2016, Wendy created Halter Ego. “I believe we all have ‘alter egos’—who we are at work, at home, with friends, with family—different situations bring out different aspects of who we are. Riding requires courage, grit and an openness to changing approaches and managing our own emotions to suit the ride. It’s not for the faint of heart and many of us are terrified but still mount up—so we started to dig into that concept a bit more and asked, ‘What kind of person is brave enough to overcome fears and anxieties in the pursuit of a dangerous sport because they love horses and riding, and want to challenge themselves?’ and ‘Who does each of us want to be in the saddle?’” Wendy explained. “Personally, I want to be my bravest, boldest, best self, and to wear clothing that supports my body functionally and that makes me feel and look good.”
Wendy has two horses, is schooling Third Level dressage with Kim Kulesa at Spirit Equestrian and looking forward to competing in 2023—all while running her successful business. Since its creation, Halter Ego has continued to grow and evolve with a passionate, dedicated team of women, seeking to allow customers to showcase their individual style no matter their body type. Halter Ego’s designs often incorporate customers’ and sponsored riders’ suggestions, and some customers have even become close friends.
“We have real connections with our customers—they share their hopes, dreams and fears with us, and we’re invested in supporting them and their horses whatever their journey is,” Wendy said, adding that Asia Biheller joined her at Halter Ego over 3 years ago and has been a game changer helping with the business. “There’s nothing better than when customers email us to let us know how happy they are with the products they’ve bought from us. We love going to a show and seeing people and horses decked out in our products. Knowing how committed people are to our success is something I pinch myself about every day.”
In the future, Wendy hopes to continue making products that are meaningful and impactful for Halter Ego’s customers and their horses—including sustainable products like their recently released eco-friendly shirts made from recycled plastic water bottles, and products with therapeutic properties for both rider and horse now in development. They also hope to establish a scholarship or grant program for riders or equestrian entrepreneurs—and in the meantime, Wendy shares her advice for those considering entrepreneurship.
“There’s no time like the present—act now! Don’t be afraid of failure. It’s not easy; there are sacrifices. Being an entrepreneur or business owner sounds fun—and it is—but when things go wrong, and they do and will, you are the one fixing it and putting out fires. It is 24/7 and not for the faint of heart. Make sure you are truly passionate about your business,” she said. “Be honest with yourself, do your research, accept that you will probably work harder than you ever have before. Make sure you find out more about the not-so-great days, and if those stories don’t scare you off, then go for it. It’s worth it!”
For more information, visit shophalterego.com
Photos by Lauren Ashley Photo & Film