By Forest Franzoi
We can’t believe it’s been four years since our first ever blog post in The Plaid Horse! The Herd has come a long way since then, and we’re excited to fill you all in on our journey and welcome new members to the herd.
Herd of Zebras (HofZ) is an equestrian lifestyle brand for the zebra in you, sporting stripes of every color, shape, and size. Emerging from the fray, we’re here to help you stand out, not hide. We embrace your individuality, drawing you towards a herd that understands. We are that Herd.
I founded Herd of Zebras in 2018 with my sister-in-law, Liz. Without her help getting this off the ground HofZ would have remained a dream that I would regret not chasing. Liz has since left the brand as she is very busy with raising her three kids, their standard poodles, working and pursuing other passions. I will always be grateful for her help getting Herd off the ground. Since the brand’s inception so much has changed with HofZ but our mission to be an inclusive equestrian brand has remained constant.
Our long-time admin, Allie Carlson, helped me gain the confidence I needed to dive in big time in 2019. Even though I’m am extroverted by nature, I am also very shy and introvert when I am around many people I do not know. With Allie’s constant reassurance, we signed up to be a vendors at some large horse shows and expos to help bring the Herd and our message to even more people. I loved meeting new friends and getting to know many of you better as you shared your own journeys with me.
Of course, 2020 turned out to be a challenging year in the industry, as the COVID pandemic shut down horse show vendor rows and expos for much of the year. We also lost Sparky, the face of the brand and the large pony who remains one of the greatest loves of my life. Life without him has been very hard but I will always keep his memory alive, especially through HofZ. Although 2020 was a very dark year one very magical thing did happen. In October with only eleven in attendance, I was able to marry the human love of my life, Dan O’Connell. Dan’s support not just with Herd of Zebras but with all my passions means more to me than I think he realizes. He really has made all the struggles I have faced over the last 5+ years worth it because it led me right where I was supposed to be.
But part of being in the Herd is having resilience, so we partnered with some other small businesses and held a virtual equestrian trade show. We were shocked and amazed that more than 125 businesses participated, and the site got so much traffic that it almost overwhelmed us. It was a fun way to ensure we all got to participate in a vendor event and reach new audiences.
We also welcomed some new brand ambassadors and bloggers to the herd, including Payton Flatch, Sarah Pavone, Abriana Johnson, Michelle Rosemond, and more. Allie and I talked about our journeys with endometriosis, and we all shared our pre-election anxieties.
This year has brought some challenges too, but we embrace change no matter how hard it is. We’re (trying) to embrace adversity, because showing your stripes is what we’re all about and with challenges there is opportunity to look at things a little differently and grow.
Our beloved Allie lost her heart horse this year, and the whole herd mourned with her. This prompted us to start the Heart Horse blog series, which has brought in many beautiful contributions from herd members. We observed endometriosis awareness month, celebrated pride month, and welcomed many new herd members.
One shake up we’ve embraced has been working with our new designer who happens to be my longtime best friend, Laura Scheyer. Laura has been a breath of fresh air to the brand which her one of a kind, hand drawn designs and her out of the box thinking. She constantly amazes me with her talent and creativity. She has been studying print and design since long before social media became the norm and wanted to get back to spreading her creativity through printmaking.
Not only has Laura stepped up to the plate and created all of the new designs you have seen in 2020, I am also proud to officially announce that Laura is now part owner in Herd of Zebras! There is no one else I would rather share this journey with than her. I look forward to all the Herd of Zebras family to get to know more about Laura. I know you all will love her just as much as I do.
Being able to connect and work on design ideas together has been a balm for the scrapes and bruises this year has caused. We’ve refocused our efforts on creating unique, joy-driven designs inspired by our community. We know the impact from this time will be felt for many years to come, and we hope it has helped us to grow and understand one another on a deeper, more empathetic level. Our vision for the Herd–to be an inclusive, kindness-centered community–has proven to be needed and appreciated. We hope you’ll come join our Herd.