Back in 2000 after I realized I was hooked and wanted this to be a business, not just a hobby, I had a written plan for Wesco Farms as well as the horses I owned and what I wanted in any additional herd members. Did I follow that, sadly no, well sometimes, but I got myself in way over my head and did things half-ass backwards. I tease a couple of friends about my 'horse experience' being in the trenches, versus the ivy league school learning. What has come from all of that is I do know what I do and do not want to be!
Another issue I've had being a 'business' is, unfortunately when your 'business' isn't your sole income, I don't treat it as seriously as if I was going to work and being paid a wage. That has to change. Mentally more than anything. I use to hold the bar a bit higher than it has been the past few years. Time for a change!!!
Life does get in the way too. A nasty auto accident, family issues and now a pending divorce (amicable but still stressful), along with our lovely economy have all contributed to my sliding off the path and letting my goals fall by the wayside.
Righting this or doing something about it, is what I spent December thinking about.
What is it I want to do with my Minis?
I know I still want to have Minis, but definitely need to tighten-up the numbers. My original plan was a maximum of 20-25 total. Ha Ha on that happening in the past ...years. So, I need to focus on:
- The core group I want to breed
- A FEW pets/retirees (key word being few)
- Find retirement/pet homes for a couple
- Leave room to infuse a couple of bloodlines that I really like and wanted to add
Time to dust off that business plan and see how far I've come and where I'm going in that department. Also time to get very serious about finding homes for Minis. After the bad experience (repo's) this last year, I know I'm going to put prospective new homes through the wringer and it still may not be perfect, but I do try and guarantee my horses the best home possible.
Can I make this a going concern financially, after slacking the past few years?
I've always doubted having the Minis be a 'full support' job, but the past few years it's definitely been more out going than income! So, I'm crunching numbers based on what we 'normally' spend versus what I can anticipate spending in 2011 against what I can expect to make considering our current market.
Again back to my original goals and time to make some adjustments. Having eleven years worth of records, I can see what the 'average' is and guesstimate expenses based on that. Income again can be hard to judge in this economy, but the average number of horses I sell doesn't vary alot. My efforts=horses sold.
Is my breeding heading in the right direction for the current market?
Looking at the quality of horses we've been producing, I do honestly feel it's significantly improved over the years, but there is still room for improvement. I have a head/butt issue with some, fortunately not on the same individual - lol. Overall conformation is fine, movement (I like decent to fantastic), spicy personality that can also be sweet, smart, easy keepers, high fertility, easy foaling, no inherit issues (dwarfism, stifles, thyroid, etc) with pretty heads/big eyes (this I will overlook if the rest is there as long as it's not completely fugly!).
I'm most definitely not barn-blind! In fact I think I nit-pick my horses to death - love them - but I see the faults/flaws at times in a magnified way. One area I need to adjust is my color. I love black horses, but not everyone does, so they can be a hard sell. I love roans too - again a bit limiting!
Bloodlines are fine, but there are a couple I'm stalking and want to add over the next couple years.
What are the current trends in the Mini world (color, size, abilities, bloodlines)?
Current trends. I'm still researching that - I know the lines I want to add, but need to see what is out there actually achieving what I want to achieve. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool, Mini lover. I respect the roots of Minis in Shetlands and other pony breeds, but I want MINIATURE HORSES. If I wanted Shetlands I'd breed them. Don't get me wrong, the look, movement is fantastic, but I'm not breeding Arabs, or Morgans or Frisians either - and I love all those breeds. So respectfully to the double registered Mini/Shetlands, I won't be adding that into the mix. I have enough close lines to Shetlands, I'm not willing to bring more in. It's a choice I'm making and it may shoot me in the foot, but I want Minis to be a breed! (Why I capitalize it - Minis not minis!) and honestly don't feel adding more Shetland won't help us ever set a 'type' on Minis. It would be like modern day Thoroughbreds adding more Arab blood to make Thoroughbreds more Thoroughbred-y.
How to tackle the re-occuring issue of bad photos/videos and how this affects my bottomline?
Bad photos. That is my worst, worst, worst problem. So, 2011 - we're going back to video, lots of photos and helpers <Jenn and Holly take this as a warning for June!! : ) > to take photos. Will I still post lots of fugly pics, I'm sure. Let me loose with a camera and I can make any horse look horrid! Maybe a photography class is in order. I've taken one, but need a photo animals class. Maybe using a tripod all the time might help.
I'd love to have the $$ for a professional shoot, but that is so far down the list as it won't be happening any time soon, sadly.
What is the best bang-for-the-buck in marketing? Online? Print? Showing? A combination?
Best marketing is definitely a mix. But I have major budgetary concerns this year, so definitely have to look at free/cheap!
I've always been big into online marketing, but again derailed and haven't completely got back on track yet. My website use to be 300 pages and unwieldy to say the least and a major headache to update. The one we have up now is an embarrassment and I hate it. So, that is #1 for January to get our site up again. It won't be huge, but at least better looking I hope!
I think that combined with the online sales places, forums, FB, Twitter and the other growing social media sites will be the way to go - for all of us!
Print, I do like but it's so expensive, and I'm truly on a limited budget there. I was sad that Betty Teale had to close the Miniature Showcase mag, as I really liked it and she did a first class job with that one. I'm hoping the AMHR one improves (the website finally has - yeah!), AMHA has always put out a coffee table pretty magazine. I do wish there was a great third neutral option.
Showing, I hate to say this, but I don't enjoy it. I don't mind prepping a horse to show, but being in the ring I can pass. I just don't have that love that so many people do nor has it really interested me a ton, ever. I like to go and watch and see what is winning, etc., but showing just doesn't float my boat! Besides where my life is right now, it would be near impossible to do other than a local day show. Just not feasible. So that won't happen this year or next, that I can see. I do see that it's needed. Don't get me wrong, so as not to fall in the 'my horse is wonderful' trap and I'm mentally wrapping my mind around showing in a few years. Not enthusiastic about it, but needed.
What improvements do I still need to make here to make our work schedule easier?
Improvements here. Working on those! We've been moving fencing around, adding new shelters, planting trees, planning water lines, relocating foaling facilities, getting things a bit more streamlined overall Hopefully will have much of It completed - the major stuff - by Spring. There will always be fence repairs, and changes needed, but it's getting better.
So that in a nut-shell or a long-winded novella are my Miniature Horse plans for 2011. What are yours?