Manon Schuten runs EQ Athletica from Ter Apel in the Province of Groningen
By Redmar Bosma
Manon Schuten, now the owner of EQ Athletica, had ridden horses from a young age. Once she had relocated from Nieuw Weerdinge (near Emmen) to Canada, she saw to her surprise how expensive a pair of riding trousers are. Incensed by the price, she decided to design and market a better and more affordable version herself. Now, three years later, three factories started to produce riding clothing for Schutens brand: EQ Athletica.
“The pants are designed for normal women. So no standard fashion sizes”, says Schuten (27). “It is of very good quality, made of a high quality cotton compression fabric, it has zippers so you can store your car keys, for example, there are pockets at the back for your phone, and not unimportantly: they make your butt look good!”
Schuten, now lives in Ter Apel in Groningen, but left Nieuw Weerdinge for Canada six years ago. Her boyfriend was attending the High Agricultural School in Dronten and went to Canada for a four-month internship. “When he was graduating a year later, he was asked if he wanted to work at his old internship farmer’s new company in Canada. I was studying Business Administration at the time and wanted to do an internship abroad. We decided to go so that he could start working at the mechanization company and I could graduate from a large hotel chain”, says Schuten.
Whenever Schuten had free time, she liked to ride horses, but when she needed a new pair of riding breeches after several months, she found that they cost $ 260. “That price is especially high because of the intermediate stockists they pass through. In the Netherlands you can buy one for 80 to 100 euros. I immediately thought, ‘Manon, you can produce this cheaper’.”
“I’m a doer, so I quickly went all over the internet to find out how to design trousers. From Youtube, to Google guides, to a trial subscription of Adobe Illustrator, I immediately threw myself into it. For a year I have been fine tuning my technique behind the sewing machine. Making things a little longer, or a little shorter. I am quite a perfectionist. My friend said it is good enough anyway, now get it on the market. I started doing that and every day I am busy improving the products”, she says.
“I have been looking for a manufacturer for nine months. Ultimately, I requested samples from three producers to see who delivers the best quality. It turned out to be from India, a specialist in the manufacture of riding trousers”, says Schuten, adding that the working conditions at the factories she uses are fair.
First, EQ Athletica started selling in Canada and the US by themselves and later through retail partners, and ‘ambassadors’ who are just as fond of fashion and horses as Schuten. She has partners in Pennsylvania, Toronto, Calgary, and from May 1 also in Vancouver. “In this way we also offer them a business opportunity. They can get started with their own company. These people are, for example, a horse masseur, and use their EQ Athletica business to supplement their income to a full time income.
To draw attention to the clothing, Schuten visited riding schools, boarding stables, clinics and horse shows. “I always try to make something fun out of this. I bring a snack and tell about the products and give people a chance to try them out. In this way I also immediately receive feedback on the products. About 70 percent, she says, is sold through face-to-face meetings. 90 percent who try the breeches buy them, she says. “The first collection was for sale in 2018. In 2019 we returned to the Netherlands and during that time thousands of trousers were sold. ”
“The trousers will soon be for sale in the Netherlands too. I will take care of that myself. Customers can buy them via the site eqathleticabymanon.nl, which is still being worked on. The pants cost 150 euros, but these pants are not inferior to the luxury brands ”, says Schuten, who is expanding the range to include t-shirts, sweaters and body warmers. I hired influencers to promote the products. We now have more than 6000 followers. ”
Schuten is not surprised that she is now so busy with her own company. “I’ve always been entrepreneurial. I will get that from my father, who runs a medium-sized construction company. I just didn’t think it would go so fast. Turnover even doubled in 2019. Still, I have never found it very exciting. Probably because it all happened very gradually, ”she says.
Despite the Coronavirus preventing Schulten from personally introducing riders to her products, she is confident in expanding her market. In the meantime, she says she fully enjoys doing business. “I’m not a person of structure and planning. To a certain extent, this is necessary for EQ Athletica to run properly. But it’s mainly about creativity. Come up with ideas and enjoy what you do. That makes me happy. ”