My Horse For Sale
Personal Tragedy Inspires Online Business Startup
After losing a longtime friend and horse enthusiast to cancer, Jan Erhardt found herself embarking on an entrepreneurial challenge.
In 2002, Erhardt lost her friend of 17 years and fellow horse enthusiast, Sarah Standfier. It was a friendship that began and ended with horses. At Standfier’s death, Erhardt promised to sell and find homes for Standifier’s horses. Four years later, Erhardt’s kindness turned into her own business, MyHorseForSale.com.
Erhardt met Standfier through mutual friends while searching for a lesson horse for her daughter. Through the years, Standfier, who worked at a racing facility, would contact Erhardt when injured race horses were being sold at bargain prices. Erhardt would rehabilitate the horses until good owners could be found.
Erhardt also found Standfier to be an invaluable resource when friends or family were looking for particular horses. “She had a huge heart and softness for horses,” Erhardt said. “She was just really a very gifted person … kind of like Dr. Dolittle, talking to the horses. She could really communicate with and work with a horse to find out if it was a good match for the person.”
After losing her friend, Erhardt went through a tedious process of advertising the horses. She ran print ads, placed fliers in feed stores, posted on all the popular classified websites and developed numerous videos of the horses to mail to prospective buyers. After spending almost $3,000 in advertising, videos and postage, Erhardt figured there had to be an easier and cheaper way.
She started discussing with a friend in web development the possibility of making video available to prospective buyers online, and she wrote a business plan for an online classified site that offered video and picture ads.
She discovered the technology needed for her business wasn’t affordable at the time, and her friend in web development couldn’t offer all the services she needed. Her business idea was delayed, but not dead.
In December 2005, the home health company where Erhardt had worked as a region sales manager reorganized, and she decided to put her 20 years of sales and marketing experience to work for herself. “It was a great opportunity for me to say, ‘OK, what do I want to do with the rest of my life?’” she said.
So, Erhardt dusted off and updated her business plan for MyHorseForSale.com and searched for a design company that could get her business running. Her search led her to Back40Design in Edmond, which eventually provided logo design, web design, hosting, administration systems, print design, graphic design, marketing services and even prepared the layout for the logo painted on Erhardt’s company truck.
“We wanted it all in one place, taken care of by one person, and something that was simple for us to use,” Erhardt said. “Nobody else really had that to offer.”
Combining the marketing experience Erhardt possessed, with the flexibility of Back40Design, resulted in a website Erhardt uses as the cornerstone for her company.
“I knew that this was the crux of the business, and it’s not like we’re developing a brochure site for a boutique,” said Dave Miller, president of Back40Design. “This is a mission critical for them.”
Erhardt said she has been pleased with the outcome.
“What I was most impressed with is the look and the feel of the site,” she said. “I wanted it crisp, clean, nice and user-friendly. They took what I said so seriously, and I was just blown away with the product that they sent me.”
Erhardt plans for MyHorseForSale.com to be the premier website for selling equine, but already sees the site developing a niche for high-quality show horses. “The business plan we had five years ago is different than the one we have now, and I think that it’s going to eventually evolve into something even totally different,” she said.
Erhardt said MyHorseForSale.com’s traffic to the site has far exceeded expectations, and they are adding new horses daily with several horses already sold using our unqiue video ads. Two horses went to buyers in Ohio and Florida, showing the value of the site to long-distance buyers.
“As far as we know, there’s not another site that provides the same service we offer,” Erhardt said. “No one provides the slideshow, and as far as I know, there’s not another site that does the type of marketing we do. We’re not just sitting there waiting for people to find the site. We’re out actively marketing it every day.”
The difference is Erhardt now markets herself, her idea and her service every day instead of an employer’s product or service. “I think there are circumstances where you have to work for someone else at some point and time, but running your own company is always the best,” she said.
Erhardt isn’t the only one in charge of her destiny. Last year, 9.8 million people in the United States were self-employed, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics.