On the surface, Horsethief Supply Co. is handcrafted soaps and candles with to-die-for scents and attention grabbing West-themed names. Recently, a burgeoning apparel line featuring cute prints and catchy slogans is perfectly rounding out the brands holistic approach to the western lifestyle. Yet, there’s a whole lot of sweat, soul and inspiration behind the company that proudly proclaims “Live. Love. Get Dirty. Wash. Repeat.” Western Twist Media spoke with founder, Natalie Martin, about the lessons she’s learned as an entrepreneur and how her passion for team roping has seamlessly intertwined with her brand.
Featuring the "Immovable" Tee in Mint from Horsethief Supply Co. Photo Credit: Sarah Mckenzie
Founder of Horsethief Supply Co., Natalie Martin, grew up in the central valley of California and after High School, a degree in Agricultural Economics landed her a job for a large bank. Her husband is a cattle rancher, and they still reside in California with their two boys. “By the time I left the bank I was a Vice President and managing the financial analyst team for the special assets division, which is kind of where bad loans go to die,” Martin says with a laugh. “I loved it, it was an incredible career and I worked with some really phenomenal people.” However, as her two sons were growing bigger, Martin decided to make a large shift and left her corporate position to home school the boys. “I loved being home and not having work responsibility, for the first time in my whole life everything had slowed down a little bit.” Yet, Martin says it’s in her nature to be ambitious and push the envelope, she was growing restless with the slower pace. Soap began as an innocent hobby. “It was just something I wanted to try that looked like a lot of fun. I had always had a love for a more natural lifestyle and more natural products, so making soap was something I always wanted to try. It looked like it was going to be fun to make, I had wanted to try it for years but it was kind of scary. You have to use lye, it’s a very careful process to make sure you don’t hurt yourself or anything like that, and I finally had enough free moments that I gave it a shot.” Martin soon began to explore the creative side of soap, coming up with unique possibilities and combinations. “My husband said to me, ‘hey, you are having fun, why don’t you just turn this hobby into a business.’” Martin, never one to do anything half-way, says she hit the ground running.
The impetus for Horsethief Supply Co. was handcrafted soap for the western lifestyle. Photo Credit: Sarah Mckenzie
Horsethief Supply Co. was born. Each handcrafted soap and wood wick candle is given a name that reflect Martin’s love of the western lifestyle, names like “The Man In Black”, “My Darlin’ Clementine” and “One Trick Pony”. “I think the best marketing comes from something that you know and that is personal to you. I’m married to a cattle rancher, a big part of our life as a family is helping dad at the ranch, working cows when we have too, that western lifestyle is what we are made up of. The names are speaking to the life I know. I am realizing along the way that I haven’t found another product that really speaks to our western life like ours do.” Martin’s personal favourite soap, thus far, has been the Wild Child soap, “It has geranium, lavender, hibiscus, rose clay and calendula, it’s an all natural bar which are always my favourite. Geranium is just a smell I love, it was the most exciting bar because I loved everything that came out of it.” The wood wick candles were a natural progression for the company. “I kept having customers come back to me after they purchased our soaps and tell me that they weren’t using them because they love how much they smell. I kept telling people that they really should use the soap because it smells good, but it feels good too. I connected the dots, and the candles followed suite.” The candles also fit with Horsethief’s message of natural products and sustainability. “Soy wax is popular because it’s clean burning, renewable and domestically grown. The agricultural part of me loves that it’s sustainable, it’s a product that we produce a ton of in the United States. I loved that I could use organic wood wicks that are produced here. It’s good for you and it’s good for your home.” The candles were a hit, and Martin says they opened up a market that she hadn’t tapped into before. “People who maybe weren’t as excited about a bar of soap, all of a sudden wanted to try the candles. It was a smart business decision but certainly not one I had considered doing originally, another surprise!”
Founder of Horsethief Supply Co., Natalie Martin, has recently discovered a deep passion for roping that inspired her new apparel line.
The trifecta that balances out Horsethief Supply Co. is the new apparel line that they launched late last year. So much more than hats and t-shirts, Martin says that the apparel line is where a lot of her passion in her personal life got to mix in with the business and the customer base that she had been building. “I learned to team rope just over a year ago and that’s significant to the story because I would have told you a year and a half ago that, that was something I couldn’t do. Roping wasn’t even something I would have considered trying because I was sure I did not possess the coordination or horsemanship to be good in a sport that requires so many different talents.” On the hunt for a smaller saddle for ranch work, Martin told her husband and father-in-law that she planned to purchase a barrel saddle, both stared back at her with the same response, “you can’t rope in a barrel saddle!” Their incredulous response sparked something in Martin who had been taking her boys to a trainer to learn to ride and rope. “She’s an incredible roper and an incredible woman at the same time, she’s that person you want on your team and she never takes no for an answer. When I told her I was thinking about maybe learning to rope she said, ‘I think you can absolutely do it and I think you need to do it’ and from that moment on she never let me look back - I was going to learn to rope. Her and her family have been an incredible blessing.”
Featuring the "Hippie" tee & the "Get Dirty" hat from Horsethief Supply Co. Photo Credit: Sarah Mckenzie
Martin says that she felt that she was in the right place and on the right track with her roping, but she admits, “I still felt like I spent that first 6-7 months trying and making progress but not ever really believing that I could do it. It was this weird time in my roping where I was going through the motions, trying, and putting everything into it but you spend the first long time not being any good at it.” Frustrated and discouraged, Martin had a light-bulb moment last summer that stopped her in her tracks. “I said to myself, ‘well, how the hell are you ever going to get any good if you don’t believe you will ever get any good? What is the point of doing this if you are talking yourself out of this every single time?’” As many competitors face, Martin’s inner-voice was getting in the way of her success. “I would have a great practice and I would leave the arena convincing myself that was probably just luck and it wouldn’t happen again. When I had a bad practice I would say, ‘yep, see, I suck!’ It’s this horrible mental game we put ourselves through when you are trying to get better at something and it's hard and you keep telling yourself you can’t do it.” It was during that hot summer in the roping pen that the idea to create an apparel line was sitting right on top of Martin’s head. “I had sweat through every single baseball hat I had out there practicing all summer long, and I figured I should make some to represent my own company and it could have my slogan on it - ‘Live. Love. Get Dirty. Wash. Repeat.’” Martin said that the slogan first came to her as a cute and clever response to the soap side of her business, but as she struggled through learning to rope, it became so much more. “I suddenly realized how profound it was in my life that something I was sure I could never do, I was doing. Then it occurred to me that's what “Get Dirty” meant to me. It meant that if we are really going to live this life and take in all the things we are meant to take in, you can’t live that on the surface. You have to get dirty and put the work in to expect the great things out of this life. The hard physical and mental work of showing myself I could do something that I was sure I couldn’t do, that really meant something and that's where my slogan evolved. Between the convergence of my already established business and something that had been so important in my personal life. I know i’m not the only person that needs to be reminded that it’s okay to dig in and be bad at something and work hard at it to get better. That's when I realized I wanted to see the two sides of my life come together and create the apparel line to represent that.” Each t-shirt now features a bible verse for inspiration, “we put the verses there because it’s a reminder of where and how we get our strength. That’s how the apparel line came about and it’s probably the most excited I have been about business because it's so personal and i’ve developed a line of products that expresses that and it’s pretty dang cool to me!”
Horsethief Supply Co.'s apparel line is bold and daring, and was made for in and out of the arena. Photo Credit: Sarah Mckenzie.
As her company embarks on a new chapter, Martin says her personal goals in the roping arena are evolving as well. “This year my goal is to win something, and then I want to win something else!” she says with a laugh. “I want to keep that momentum going forward, but I think the underlying goal there is to get where I’m a confident competitor. I feel confident in the practice pen and I love the challenge of practice, but we have to get where we can be confident competitors with a confident mindset when we go to events.” Growing as a roper, and growing as an entrepreneur has had a myriad of parallels for Martin. “I’ve been able to coach myself through some of the mental challenges of roping better than I could have when I was younger. As a kid, I rode when I could, where I could and that was the extent. I didn't know the right way to do anything. When we're young, we make up for our lack of skill by being fearless. Now as an adult i've had to work harder, but it's just made me better all the way around.”
From soap, to candles, and now apparel, Horsethief Supply Co. is so much more than the products they sell, it's about the lifestyle.
Photo Credit: Sarah Mckenzie. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Western Twist Media (WTM) is the creative outlet of professional writer and influencer, Louisa Murch-White. Murch-White is a published journalist, with work appearing in Western Horse Review, Quarter Horse News and features in Cowgirl Magazine and Cutting Horse Central. Personally, she is an avid and enthusiastic member of the performance horse world, and loves nothing more than showing cutting horses. WTM is driven by a passion for the performance horse industry. WTM specializes in assisting brands and companies tell their own stories through impactful marketing and advertising, social media management and freelance writing services. Our popular site also features unique and collaborative advertising opportunities. We'd love to help you share your story: WesternTwistMedia@gmail.com