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EPISODE #010

#11 How to Seize Opportunity and Exceeding Expectations with Becky DeRegnaucourt Veltema

President & CEO of DeRegnaucourt Ltd. Becky DeRegnaucourt Veltema shares her story of starting as a single mom and becoming a successful entrepreneur. DeRegnaucourt Ltd. provides custom equestrian apparel for the Saddlebred Morgan, and Arabian Horse breeds.

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Speaker 1:

From his first job flipping burgers at McDonald’s and delivering The Washington Post, Craig Willett counts only one and a half years of his adult life working for someone else. Welcome to The Biz Sherpa podcast with your host, Craig Willett. Founder of several multimillion-dollar businesses and trusted advisor to other business owners, he’s giving back to help business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs achieve fulfillment, enhance their lives, and create enduring wealth. The Biz Sherpa

Craig Willett:

This is Craig Willett, The Biz Sherpa. I’m grateful you’d join me today. I’m here with Becky DeRegnaucourt-Veltema who is the owner of DeRegnaucourt Limited. Becky started the business in 1994. What she does is provide custom riding apparel for the Arabian, Saddlebred, and Morgan equestrian industries. You see, to compete in those industries, you have to wear a certain attire for certain disciplines. And Becky’s become an expert at that.

 

She has 40 years experience in the equine business and she brings great talent to her business. She’s committed to providing custom riding apparel for trainers, amateurs, and youth in the show rings as I described. You’re seeing some of the pictures of what she does. She has a desire to service her clients above and beyond their expectations. She’s truly one of a kind for her industry.

 

I think you’ll enjoy her today as we talk about how she started the business, saw a need, and was able to ramp up to be able to meet that need and, secondly, how to finance it. Then, thirdly, how you market your business. How you really go about exceeding customers’ expectations. I think you’ll enjoy hearing her. Her husband, Bill, joined her in 2004 as her partner and an officer in the company and he brings some expertise as well. I think you’ll enjoy hearing Becky.

 

This is Craig Willett, The Biz Sherpa. I’m grateful you joined me today for our episode. We’re in Tulsa, Oklahoma today at the US National Championship for the Arabian horses. and I have a special guest. I’d like to introduce you to Becky DeRegnaucourt-Veltema who’s the founder and owner of DeRegnaucourt Limited. She’s the clothier to the stars here at the show and many other equestrian events. Welcome, Becky.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Thank you. I appreciate you having me.

Craig Willett:

I’m glad that you’d be here with us. I just can’t help but sit here and look at the covers of these magazines and think of knowing some of them having been a competitor to them, that they’re your clients. What is it like to see the national magazines with your clothes on?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Well, it’s interesting. It’s fun. We’ve actually gotten to a point where as all the magazines flow in, we just keep the ones that we have a cover or back cover of. The pile is huge. It’s fun. We keep an archive of them. It’s really, really interesting.

Craig Willett:

That’s got to be rewarding to you. You started this business. Did you ever think you’d be at the level you are today?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

No. It all sort of happened by accident. A lot of this—

Craig Willett:

Really? Most people have a business plan. They put it together and work really hard.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

There was actually no business plan. It was a supplemental income, really. Yeah, I actually had a background in—I went to school for sales and marketing and went to work for a logistics company. I was in third party logistics with warehousing distribution, transportation. I worked for three different companies for over 18 years. But during that time, I had a daughter, was a single mom, and was trying to supplement someone else who liked horses. I grew up with horses.

Craig Willett:

You love them, but your daughter loved them.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yes. I grew up—as a small child, my dad loved horses as a kid. He had a backyard horse. When us kids came along, he decided to get us involved in horses. It evolved into horse showing and so on. It’s just been a passion from the get-go. When Stacy was born, I toted her around and taught riding lessons and trained horses. That was my side money to—well, I went to finish school and all kinds of things.

Craig Willett:

How did the clothing business come out of that?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Well, after a few years of doing the horse training lessons, I had a fairly big group that we were taking to major state and regional horse shows. The riding apparel that we do is not something that is easy to buy off the rack. It’s just not available. There were some things originally years ago that—they were the polyester, so many gray ones, so many brown ones. It was about it.

 

There were a few custom companies, but in the search of trying to find something, I started actually buying fabrics and locally having some things made. It started from just a hand-sewn garment on a local level to researching better suppliers.

Craig Willett:

If I want to show a horse in a suit, I just can’t go to the store and buy any suit off the shelf. Why wouldn’t that work in the equestrian world?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

It’s a specific cut that we do for the riders. The pant is tailored very specific to allow for you to straddle the horse. It is the fit and the flow of the jacket. It’s a longer jacket. It’s just not something that is in the styling of what you’d see in the marketplace.

Craig Willett:

Okay. How did you develop from the initial concept of buying some fabric and doing it to now you’re at almost every major horse show in the United States and you provide the attire or you sell attire to many of the premier riders?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Well, like I said, it started as something to supplement my business. At the time I was doing a training business—the horse training, riding lessons, and so on—and my students needed to be appareled. There just wasn’t access to a lot out there. I actually started the apparel to take care of their needs. When we went to a horse show—

Craig Willett:

So it wasn’t really a big profit center or an idea that I’m going to do this. You did it out of need.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

It was more of a need. Yeah. It was out of need. We actually would outfit them, then there was a bigger number. I had outfitted my daughter showing for some time, but when it started to be the students and we went to the Youth National Horse Show and I had nine kids showing with 11 horses and we took home quite a few top tens, national championships, and people were saying, “My gosh. Your kids are the best outfitted at the horse show. Where do you get your stuff done?”

Craig Willett:

Is that why they win?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

It certainly helps. It’s not the end-all, but it makes the whole process a little more fun. It’s the whole picture. It’s what you get to hang on your wall.

Craig Willett:

When do you decide to break with the 18-year career in logistics?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Well, it took a long time actually. While I was still working, I was able to do a lot of the other stuff on the side—nights, weekends. When I think about it, I probably worked around the clock without realizing. At one point, I had an opportunity to go part-time. I was in a sales capacity. I said, “Hey, if I produce the same numbers as what the full-time people do, does it really matter how many days a week I work?” They said, “No. As long as you can produce—”

Craig Willett:

I love it. Pay me what I’m worth now—

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Pay me what I’m worth.

Craig Willett:

Not by the number of hours I punched the clock.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Correct. I negotiated to be able to take some time off personally. Those personal weeks off were at a horse show. I still always answered my phone. I was still double-dutying even from a horse show, and did very well at it. I went down from three days to then two days.

 

Ultimately, once I got to the two days a week and clearly my passion and my focus was in doing that, that’s when I just said to them, “I don’t feel it’s fair at that point to continue to do that.” I felt I’d weaned myself away from the salary and went to more of a commission base and then supplying my own vehicle because I used to have a company car and benefits and buying my own benefits.

Craig Willett:

Wow. That’s a big transition to be a business owner and have to cover all these things.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

I was able to slowly do that as I peeled away from full-time to part-time. Those are big things. When you look at not just your base pay, but when you look at a company vehicle, you look at your health benefits—

Craig Willett:

Well, you’ve got a big company vehicle now.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yes. Exactly. Having my own laptop, having my own cell phone—all those little bills that somebody else was paying for before, I was able to feel like a little more independent to be able to say, “I can handle all of this on my own.” Now, it’s just that paycheck.

Craig Willett:

Did that affect how you viewed and how you priced your product then? Instead of just supplying it as a supplemental benefit to your clients.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

To some degree, it was initially. When it initially started out, it was. We probably placed ourselves in an entry-level market. However, I’ll never forget the day, actually. I came home, and I opened up one of the trade magazines. I saw an advertisement for a competitor. They were advertising a price. I remember I said to my husband, Bill—who works with me—I said, “You have to see this.” I said, “We cannot even produce it for that.”

Craig Willett:

Wow. That’s pretty scary.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

I said, “What are we going to do?” You’re at that point where you’re like, “Where do we go forward from here,” because we were almost double that price with the production we had,  because we reached out to do the best. I said, “If we’re just a starter in the market, it’s going to take something for people to know the quality of what they’re getting.” I said, “If they don’t have the opportunity to know that, what are we going to do?”

 

We were at a kind of crossroads of Can we compete in this business? I just took the approach from my previous business life. I had an excellent seminar years ago. They said, “You have to be two things. You can’t be everything to everybody.” The speaker that day said, “If you’re going to be a low-cost provider, then, you need to do a lot of volume and you need to truly keep your suppliers suppressed because there’s no room of margin for you to eat additional costs that you can’t handle.”

Craig Willett:

Right. You have to have a real tight rein on your supplier.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yeah. For example, the Walmart, Sam’s Club—there is a very small margin in that, but they have to make it up in volume. We knew that we could never be that type of business, and I’ve always had a passion for things that are quality and that do provide service and all those things.

 

That was a little bit my background in logistics as well, was they said, “If you supply something in a service or a quality of a product that isn’t comparable to something else, then, you set your price.”

Craig Willett:

Right. Then, you have an advantage because there’s no competitor—

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Nobody that can do that or supply exactly that. I said, “We’re going to be the top service provider that is going to be at a dollar—” that it’s not out there just to—you have to know your costs. I was very fortunate that I worked for some very good people that taught me financial reports and taught me how to do cost of business and to know what your cost of goods are and what those supplemental costs are that go on top of that. For example, our mobile store. It’s not free, but it isn’t part of the cost of good.

Craig Willett:

The cost of each. Yeah. It’s not the cost of each outfit that you produce.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Exactly. When you produce that garment, there’s cloth involved. There’s transportation involved. There’s production involved. That’s your cost of goods there, but ultimately, when we go to a show, we have fees that we pay as a vendor. We have the cost of getting to and from the show. There’s all kinds of—cell phones, employees, computers—all of that stuff. So many people, I think, that can be what causes people to fail, is that you think, “Well, I have this product. It costs me X to make it. So, I’ll sell it and make a little money.” They don’t realize—

Craig Willett:

Right. They think, “Hey, I’m making $100 on this,” but it cost them 200 dollars to make the 100 dollars.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yes. All of a sudden, they don’t know where another $100 ended up in there. They lose track of those numbers.

Craig Willett:

Right. Real easy to do.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yes, it is.

Craig Willett:

Your record keeping—who’s the record keeper? You or Bill?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

I’ve always been very tight. Like I said, starting this business came out of a necessity of need, a need of desire of wanting something. I wanted to do the horses. I had a daughter who wanted to do the horses, and I wanted to supply that for her. I’ve always been very tight with money. I wouldn’t say that. I tend to get what I want. I wouldn’t say I’m frugal. I’m not frugal, but I had a boss that I worked for one time and I had said something about purchasing a home.

 

He said, “You’re very good with your money.” I said, “Oh, I don’t really think so,” because I might say, “Well, we’re going to eat pancakes this week because we want new clothes or something.” It’s a matter of your priorities, but you always have to know that two and two has to make four, and if you’re going to spend five and only take in four, you’re going to be in trouble. That’s just something that has always been there for me. You don’t overspend your means. That’s very important.

Craig Willett:

How did you make that transition though? You were doing it providing it close to cost. It is not a profit center, but now, I’m looking at, I’m weaning myself away from my stable employment and stable paycheck. Now, I’m going out on my own for good. Now that I’m on my own, what was the big distinguishing factor that you chose to—I know you said you’d be the upper end, and I bet the best service, but how did you communicate that to others? How do people understand and resonate because it’s easy to pick up an ad and say, “Hey, they’re doing that for $1000. I come over here and it’s $1900.” How can that be?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

That’s an interesting question. One of the things that we did is we put a lot of work into the display of our product. Initially, before we had the mobile store concept, we would set it up at an expo and a lot of the established companies had went back and rested on what they did in their reputation. They might have had one coat sitting out, if anything. We put out probably six clothed mannequins. It was the colors, and the combination of fabrics, and the eye for design and whatnot.

Craig Willett:

I’m assuming you brought that eye for design with—

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yes. I would say that was my contribution, but my husband, Bill, went into business with me, left a business that he had so that we could travel together. He’s my builder background. When it came to setting up a major expo booth, he was a very integral part of that. Our display—we said we have to have something that when people walk by, they look and say, “We need to walk in there.” Like any store that you go through in the mall, does it smell good in there? Does it look nice? Does it look expensive?” You have to have all those attributes that appeal to someone’s senses.

Craig Willett:

Yeah. I’m a sucker for that. I walk through a store, and if I see it on the mannequin, I go, “That looks really nice.” I’m not necessarily digging through rows and rows of jackets to find one. I saw the one in the window and that’s why I’m there.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

It’s got to be something that brings you in.

Craig Willett:

That brought them in, but then, you have to have a service that’s consistent with your pricing and the image, right? How do you accomplish that?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Well, I had a customer that came in early on. Again, we were trying to jump over this hurdle of being a top service highest quality provider at a high price. In order to do that, you can’t get scared. A few times, there were times where I thought, “Oh, they’re going to walk away. They’re not going to buy.”

Craig Willett:

It’s too high.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

It’s too high.

Craig Willett:

You can’t apologize either. Not only get scared, but you can’t apologize for your price because you know what your costs are.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Correct because if I couldn’t sell at that price, then, I couldn’t be in the business because you cannot take a loss or you’re going to end up in trouble. I had someone and literally we were in an expo hall. They were comparing literally across the aisle. I’ll never forget, he came back. He said, “Well so-and-so gave me this price or whatever.” I said, “Listen.” I said, “I respect that.” And I said, “I don’t know what it costs for them to run their business. I don’t know their production costs, and quite frankly, that can’t concern me.”

Craig Willett:

Or even the quality of the material they propose.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Correct. I said, “What I can tell you—” And I said, “And I’m not going to play that game,” because when I go into a store, to some degree, I take my business philosophy from major companies that I patronize. If I go into a clothing store or jewelry store or whatnot, when I go in, if there’s something that I want and it works for me, it fits it, whatever the criteria might be, I’m going to decide based on that price, “Okay. Number one, can I or can I not afford it?” Number two, “If I can afford it, do I think it’s worth that,” because it’s relative value.

Craig Willett:

Right. It’s your perception of the value.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Correct. If the customer perceives that that’s something that they can afford, it’s a matter of do they want to afford that. Do they want to spend that? I said, “I will not get in a discount bidding war with the guy next door just to get your business.” I have to sell my product because I don’t want to then not give you the service and the quality in order to try to compete. This is what we have. Actually, he came back, and he bought from us.

Craig Willett:

Really?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

It was a very turning time. It brought us around the corner of, yes, we can do this. Ultimately, we delivered, and they were happy and were a customer for a very long time.

Craig Willett:

Yeah. I think that’s the next thing I want to talk to you about. Really, I think it’s one thing to have a display and it’s to have a nice product, but pricing sometimes leads people to shop and compare. But at some point, you segregate yourself from that. You had this long-term relationship with this client who bought even though he could have maybe bought it cheaper, maybe not the same quality, but maybe bought a similar product. How do you go about getting people to come back time and time again?

 

At some point, you have to go beyond the mannequin sitting there. That’s not the only way to get people in because you don’t do the mannequin in there anymore. What’s the secret to getting people to come back?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Well, I would say three-fold. Back in my background of logistics, anybody can take a skid, a freight and move it from A to B. The pricing might be, let’s just say, it costs you an extra 10 bucks here versus whatnot.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

If you’re comparing dollar to dollar, so let’s say you decide to purchase, the point is if I call, do you know where my freight is? If you send your invoice, do you send it timely? Is the invoice accurate? Are you having to deal with a lot of issues? There’s a lot of process—

Craig Willett:

Frustration, or questions.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yeah. That’s not the core product. You take your core product. That’s just one element of things. Ultimately, when we started in our clothing business, I applied the same thing in what my experience was in purchasing items for myself, again whether it be clothing or jewelry or hair products or whatever: Does the store make it pleasant for me to be there?

 

When I place my order, do I wait and wait and wait, or I can’t get a hold of somebody. One of the things that was important to me was that the customer be serviced. And I think that came from my sales background, that I was always the one taking care of my clients and servicing my clients so that they had a great experience in the logistics. To me, it’s just a matter of applying that into the clothing business.

Craig Willett:

Right. As a customer, you don’t want to sit there and call someone and then wait a week? Maybe, they’re busy, but then, it doesn’t matter if they’re busy. You start to think that they don’t care about you.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Correct. Exactly.

Craig Willett:

You’re prompt in getting back to them, it means you care about them.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

It’s a couple of things. When they actually place their order, number one, I think it’s very important—our product is a big investment for someone. I don’t take lightly regardless of what that person’s income ability is, is irrelevant to me. If they come in, those purchasing decisions have to be their choice. One of the things we do not do is I won’t allow a hard pressure sale like, “Oh, you have to buy it today, or you got to make that choice now.”

 

Sometimes, fabrics come and go, and I will caution someone, “Hey, if you make a selection, don’t—”

Craig Willett:

Limited supply. You may not be able to get it, right.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

But for the most part, I want them to make a good choice and be comfortable with their decision. From that point forward, our staff, for example, when it comes to correspondence like with email, I make it a standard that our staff—when there’s an inquiry about an order or an inquiry about placing a new order that we have to respond within the day.

 

Even if it’s super busy, I expect that there’s an email that goes back to that customer that says, “Hey, I’ll get into this for you tomorrow, but I just wanted to let you know I got your information.” I think that that’s a really important thing, that the customer has to know that you truly care. And I’m blessed to have a phenomenal staff that they’re that kind of people.

Craig Willett:

I think it took some training there too, right?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

It did. I was able to train the processes, but it’s instilled in them. That’s the kind of people that they are.

Craig Willett:

How do you find them? That’s one of the questions a lot of business owners have. Well, how do I hire my first one and how do I get them to perform at a level as if they were me?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Right. That’s a good question because a lot of times with the customer, it’s me one-on-one with them. That is something that is a big thing for us. Our business is very one-on-one in sales. We don’t change up people. They’re not getting someone different every time they turn around.

Craig Willett:

Right. But you could almost relate yourself to being a clothing designer. I’ve bought from you, and I’ve had children and my wife buy from you, and I’ve watched you turn reverse fabrics and say, “Look at it this way.” You really have an eye to get people to see things.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yeah.

Craig Willett:

Because they’re in a class for four to seven minutes being judged for national or worlds championships. It has to look right.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yes, it does. I always say that we have to first sell somebody something that they want and that they need and that our product be the best product, but we have competitors out there that also make a great product. To me, it’s the management of the information. It’s the processes that we have in place that make our business what it is. It’s that service and the fact that that phone call get followed up and that that email be followed up, that our invoicing is accurate.

Craig Willett:

That’s what brings people back time and time again.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

I would say good basic business practices.

Craig Willett:

Yes. Competition is always good. How do you feel when you may lose to a competitor, a client or a deal?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Ultimately, it doesn’t bother me. To some degree, I always say if it’s something where we’ve lost it and we know we’ve lost it to price, you could never hold that against somebody. Ultimately, if they went somewhere because they could get it cheaper, then, that’s up to them. Ultimately, I always say that they have to also need and want the service that we provide because if they don’t, if that’s not a value to them, then they’re overpaying.

Craig Willett:

Right. Then, they won’t be back. Do you ever sit there and say, “Hey, they will be back,” because you know where they’re going.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

We’ve had several do that as well. Yes.

Craig Willett:

How does that make you feel when they do come back?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

It’s good, but ultimately, I never want somebody to go and have a bad experience ever. I wouldn’t want them to go somewhere else thinking that it would be better or cheaper or whatnot and not have a good experience. That’s just not my nature. I want people to find value in what we have. If it isn’t of a value to them, then that’s okay because it’s a great value to the people who do want that.

Craig Willett:

How do you price that in though? I think that’s one of the questions a lot of businesses either don’t spend a lot of time on that I think they should spend a lot of time on. It’s not always a function of just costs. You talked about it. You have to understand your cost, but you also have to look at the value that it’s providing because it allows you to go above and beyond to meet the expectations. How do you factor that value in when you price? I’m not asking you to give up your formula because I’m hoping a lot of your customers watch this, but still—

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Ultimately, basically, you start with your cost of goods. It’s a pretty basic formula, and I would hope that most places have their own formula because we want good competition. We’ve said that before. If everyone in our industry decided to close up, we couldn’t handle it all. We aren’t for everybody. Like you said, we suit the stars to some degree on that board. Ultimately, our goal is to be accessible to that clientele, not that we don’t want all of them because we treat everybody the same regardless that comes in here.

 

You can schedule an appointment, buy from us. You don’t have to buy the most expensive thing. It just all depends how unique of an item you’re looking for, but when it comes to those extra services, that’s just something that we just won’t sacrifice. It’s important to me because I will never feel badly that someone has left, but I don’t want them to say they weren’t treated fairly or they weren’t given a value that was something that they felt was important.

Craig Willett:

I can remember one time needing a hat, and you had one I could borrow or buy. I also remember a time just having something cleaned or the trainer dropped it in the back of the trunk of a car and it sat there for a month. I showed up at a show and the pants were all wrinkled, and you bailed me out, right?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yeah.

Craig Willett:

Just small simple things like that—

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

It is.

Craig Willett:

—I think to me that endeared me to want to come back.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

That’s that number that I think a lot of people have a hard time with, but I watch it very closely. For example, when you start looking at your cost of goods, then you start looking at your fixed cost as far as your administration costs and that type of thing. But then, there’s also that what you put in for margin.

 

Our margin has to be bigger than most because I can take my staff salaries and so on, but it is those little things that you can’t—if somebody is unhappy with something or we’ve made a mistake, needs to be taken care of. You cannot have yourself so tight that you can’t make the decision to say, “Don’t worry about it. We’re going to remake it and take care of this, and we’re going to do it fast. We’re going to make it right.” That costs money.

Craig Willett:

Think of Nordstrom with shoes. You walk in, you buy a pair of shoes. After a week, they just aren’t right. They’ll take them back.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Right. Exactly. That’s why you go back again because there is a piece of that that’s in that pricing for you, but if that’s in across the board, you can take care of that customer when those things arise. We had a situation last year. The pair of pants were gone. They’re custom pants. They were showing that weekend. I said, “I’ll do what I can.” I contacted the production shop and I said, “Hey, can this be done?”

 

I expected all means to be told no. They said, “I think we can make it happen.” I said, “Well, it’s a good customer. This would be really important.” We did. And between producing it in a day, shipping it Next Day Air.

Craig Willett:

Yeah. Next Day Air, and that’s not cheap.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

This person was in the ring on Saturday with it, with a pair of pants that was missing on Thursday. What’s probably as important is that when it comes to selecting our suppliers—whether it’s our production, our fabric—that to me is our support group. To know that they have the same business philosophies that we do because if my production shop is telling me, “Go fly a kite,” that’s not a partner that I want to work with.

Craig Willett:

No. That’s like hiring the right employees, same thing.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Correct.

Craig Willett:

They’ve got to be a team player.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

They’re an extension of us. The whole thing is from start to finish. Whether—

Craig Willett:

There has to be integrity all the way down the line.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Correct. Exactly.

Craig Willett:

Based on your business philosophy.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Right. For example, if we get a new fabric that’s released and we sell it to a customer and the fabric for some reason doesn’t perform. I’m seeing a pulling in a seam or whatnot. And I’m going to look at that and think “I’m not going to keep trying to patch that over.” I need to be able to contact my—number one, if I need to absorb it, then I have to absorb it because I’m not going to expect a customer to be satisfied with that.

 

But for my purposes, I want to be able to go back to my supplier and say, “Hey, this fabric is the problem.” Whether it’s a mill problem or whatnot, or whether there was something in production. Either way, you have to be able to identify the piece in the supply chain where something happened. But the ultimate thing is the customer doesn’t need to worry about that.

Craig Willett:

Right. 

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

They just need to be told it will be taken care of.

Craig Willett:

That’s great. I can think of a hundred experiences where I’ve had where I’ve heard all the reasons why what I thought I was getting isn’t what I got. I’m sitting there going, “I don’t really care. Can’t you just take care of this for me?” I hear all the work that they’re going to have to do, but that’s not what I’m here for.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

That’s not my problem.

Craig Willett:

Yeah. That’s your problem. I had a business partner one time. He told me something. He said, “I don’t like situations where people make their problem my problem.” As much as I’ve complicated my own life many times, I’ve always come back to subscribe to his philosophy. I need to align myself with people who don’t try to make their problems mine because it complicates my life.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

That’s what I—

Craig Willett:

That’s a great business philosophy there.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Well, and it’s what I instill in my staff. I said, “The customer doesn’t need to know that you had a bad day or didn’t feel well yesterday, or that you were off grabbing lunch when they called.” No. There’s no excuse, or for me to say, “Hey, UPS dropped the ball.” It happens, but ultimately, it’s our responsibility as a company to deliver to that customer. They may ask, “Well, what happened?”

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

I might say, “Well, this, this and this.” But—

Craig Willett:

But here’s what I’ve done about it too.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

—they don’t need the excuses. They don’t want to hear it.

Craig Willett:

No. We hear too many of those. Talk about excuses. We’ve had some difficult times in our economy in the last 15 years. First, the financial crisis back in 2007, 2008. I imagine it impacts the equestrian business as much as it impacts any other business, and that is when people’s incomes or their liquidity freezes up because of stock market crashes, or the pandemic when businesses shut down.

 

Sometimes, you’re faced as a business owner having a business plan for the year—at least some goals and objectives. All of a sudden, there’s no horse shows or the people that are coming don’t feel like they can spend the money they used to. How do you react to that, and what have been some of your secrets to make it through those times?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

It’s interesting that you pointed out the 2007, 2008 because that was a big one. I’ll never forget we were in Oklahoma City at a Morgan Grand National when that all happened in October. We were headed from there to here. It’s literally just over how many years ago almost to the date. When we were on our way from Oklahoma City over here, we said, “This is just not going to be a good show.” The stock market was below 10. We were looking at the Dow below 10,000. It was crazy. People were in utter panic.

 

The good thing is we were not a huge business. At the same time, you don’t have quite the overhead that you have. At that time, we had always been inside an expo hall. Sometimes, out of adversity comes good things. We made the decision in 2008—at this horse show we’re sitting here talking at—that I said, “Let’s utilize what really was a fifth-wheel trailer that hauled our stuff that we stayed in,” and we had never used it for that purpose at a big national show because it’s just size wise—I said listen—

Craig Willett:

But it was storage for you.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yes.

Craig Willett:

It allows you to transport your displays, your product.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

I said, “We just need to figure that this isn’t going to be great.” Where they had put us in the expo hall was terrible, and so, location, location, location. I said, “Even if we go through all this work, unload this, we’re in a terrible spot, there may be nobody who even shops. Let’s make the least amount of work out of it.” We ended up utilizing the mobile store at the time which was significantly smaller than this one, but I said, “Let’s make the least amount of work for us as far as loading, unloading, and so on.”

 

So we did. At the time, it’s where Bill and I are a very good team because I was laying in bed that night, and I’m thinking, “How are we going to have some kind of exposure if everything’s inside of this trailer?”

Craig Willett:

That’s a big transition from being in front of everybody or what you thought was in front of everybody.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

With this big expo display. Yeah. I said to Bill because I start to think and things are always on my mind in the night. I woke up that morning and I drew a picture and I said, “I want you to do this on the back of the trailer to create this platform and whatnot. We’re going to have tables back there and the mannequins are going to go out there, whatever.” He looked at me like I was crazy.

Craig Willett:

And I’m going to do that tomorrow?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yeah. Bill, in his very quiet way, he said, “I’m going to Lowe’s.” He left. He wasn’t very happy with me, but ultimately, he came back. He created this back deck entrance with the mannequin. It was fantastic. We never looked back. We never went back into an expo booth again. It created the concept of our mobile store at every show. We literally go into an expo on two occasions throughout the year only. We do almost 24 horse shows.

 

The two that we do are because of the venue, they are able to push traffic in a very good way for us, but it’s also such a large venue that if we were off by ourselves in the mobile store, it just wouldn’t work.

Craig Willett:

No one would find you. That’s the Scottsdale Arabian horse show, one of them. I know because I see you there.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yes, exactly. Exactly. Of course, then, this year with the pandemic, it was difficult because for everyone, in every industry shut down. But, yes, we were in a somewhat of a panic though actually my biggest panic was not so much financially, but that we had stuff that people had placed orders on in January, February, that would have been delivering in March, April, and literally production had to be shut down. All of the cut pieces to garments had to be bagged and covered and stored while these shops shut down. The biggest thing was it was eating me up with the idea of I can’t deliver.

Craig Willett:

Right. You’re not going to be able to deliver.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yes. I thought, “Not that they’ve got anywhere to go, but you have a deposit on something.” I said, “What happens if people say—”

Craig Willett:

Or they might start thinking, “Hey, she’s not going to be able to—”

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

“—I need my money back. I could possibly never get my product.” We never had that happen, thank goodness. Our clientele was so good and so supportive of us. The thing that we were able to do, again, you try to make lemonade out of lemons. In the meantime, our staff was coming to work each day. We were not an essential business. We had to make ourselves an essential business. We started making all the face masks.

Craig Willett:

Oh wow.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Our production facilities were making them. Our staff was working on it. We literally created an online system where people could order and pay and everything, right, without going through a person.

Craig Willett:

And they were hard to find for a while.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Correct. Yes. We were shipping facemasks left and right. Now, clearly, we cannot support our business with—

Craig Willett:

Facemasks.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

No. Correct. But it was a little bit of supplement. It was a way for us to stay in contact with our customers. It was a way to keep our social media going and an awareness of our company that we’re out there, and we’re doing well and whatnot.

Craig Willett:

Right. Then, you care what’s going on in the world too.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Correct. Exactly. At some point, if things didn’t change and things didn’t open up—we were looking at a situation of maybe there will be never be another horse show again.

Craig Willett:

Wow. That’s a scary thought.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

And there was talk that, “Do we go back to just small outdoor county-level shows where we tie the horses to the trailer and show them outside?” I thought if we do that, there’s no need for high-end clothing.

Craig Willett:

Correct, because it would get ruined in theoutdoor environment.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

No. It’s going to be much more practical. It’s just not something that we can do. And you do, at some point, we thought, “What are we going to do?”

Craig Willett:

Well, obviously, you’re here so that didn’t happen.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

No. Thank goodness. Yeah. Thank goodness things started to open up. We did. That was the blessing of our mobile store too. We just started going. As soon as people started having shows—Tennessee, the state of Tennessee started to open up, the state of Alabama started to open up.

Craig Willett:

You could go where—

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

We had some very forward-thinking people in the equestrian industry that started saying, “We need to have horse shows,” and said, “If you don’t feel comfortable coming, if you don’t feel it’s safe, then please don’t. Do what you need to do.” But it was very crucial for the people who needed to that if they did feel safe and did go out that— and you knew the risks involved that we did. It was wonderful.

Craig Willett:

Right. You didn’t have to be in an indoor place where they couldn’t figure out what to do because they hadn’t figured out the distancing, what would work.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

What was fabulous too again that I was thankful we had our mobile store, we weren’t in an expo hall like it normally was because that was a very difficult setting. For us, we had structured our company all along to do private appointments with people because they’re shopping at a very high-end product. To have that one-on-one time for them, they don’t need everybody strolling in and out in their business and what they’re buying. 

 

We had established that type of a way to do business. It really didn’t change a lot for us. It really helps solidify the schedule and appointment. It’s your one-on-one time, max of so many people. We could clean, sanitize. We have a restroom in the back, so hand washing and so on.

 

Really, it was something that just kind of—our business was able to just continue to go on. We were very fortunate that we had the opportunity that we were structured that way.

Craig Willett:

That’s cool. I’d like to go back to 2007 time again.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Sure.

Craig Willett:

I just think it’s interesting that you went from one way of doing business that most people did. I think I’ve seen some mobile stores of other types, but was that done at a convenience for you or did you do it for your customer? What’s the most surprising thing that happened from going to the mobile store that you maybe weren’t anticipating, either positive or negative, from that decision?

 

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Right. It was. It was a decision probably made more for us in the sense that I said, “Let’s keep our costs down. We need to figure out how to push traffic.” But if there is no traffic, we do the least amount of work. We were very fortunate. I will say we’re blessed. A lot of people say, “Oh, everything you touch just turns to gold.” I said—

Craig Willett:

No, but you live a good life and you work hard.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

It’s a blessing. Really, it is. When we did that, it really was probably more for us, but we also started to realize that people liked that environment. They liked the privacy of things. We really felt that we could cater to them in that way. At the point that what basically happened is we outgrew that mobile store. We ended up in this.

Craig Willett:

But there’s a bit of mystique to it too, right?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yes.

Craig Willett:

You have fierce competitors walking around the same exhibition hall. If they see one of their competitors with you, they’re like, “I wonder what he or she’s looking at,” peek over the shoulder, but if they’re in a private setting, they don’t have to worry about letting the secret out before they wear their next outfit.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Right. I think too for me, I might want to buy something at a Saks Fifth avenue, but it doesn’t mean that I’m never going to shop at Neiman Marcus. I love the loyalty of my customers. I think that that’s wonderful and I value that with them. But certainly, I wouldn’t not want to service or be upset with a customer because they found something that they needed, wanted, whatnot at another supplier. 

 

I don’t like the pressure that it puts on the customer where you’re in an area where it causes them to probably not shop with anyone. For us, we want to give them that privacy mostly for the customer.

Craig Willett:

They have time to make up their mind.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

They should never feel uncomfortable. Exactly. Yeah.

Craig Willett:

That’s interesting. That’s an interesting philosophy. That’s a surprise through it all that you didn’t realize the customers would feel that. How did you drive the traffic to the mobile because I’m sure people were walking through the expo, “Where is she?” Did your phone start ringing? How did people find you?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

It’s interesting because it’s important that—

Craig Willett:

Because you said location, location, location. Once you move, I know what it is being in real estate. Once you move locations, you’ve got to plan way ahead and tell people where you’re going to be.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

One of the things we do, we do a lot of footwork early with our business. I always say, “I’m not too proud as a business owner that we don’t do the very hard work ourselves,” but we would print flyers. Bill and I were walking around dropping them at every stall and every restaurant handing them out.

 

The wonderful part about that is that sometimes just that time in the morning to say hello to somebody, they just see your face. That’s a really nice thing, which the pandemic thing is making that a little tough. But as far as putting out or running specials, something to get them in the door and something that shows them where you are. We really tried to do some actual on-the-ground marketing.

Craig Willett:

I like that on-the-ground marketing. My father-in-law shared with me something when I started my CPA firm. He used to work for the IRS and used to do some tax work on the side before he became president of a bank. He told me, he said, “Craig, if you’re going to start your own firm, take Wednesday afternoons and just leave the office, leave the work behind, and just go out and say hi to your clients.”

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yeah. It’s important.

Craig Willett:

You know what? From that, I can’t think of how many times I picked up business opportunities, investment opportunities, and more business for me, but that wasn’t the intention. It was just to keep that relationship alive.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

I do. I think that that’s probably one of the things, that you have to be honest. Honesty is the most important. Don’t try to slide something past a customer. To me, the lack of respect for their intelligence thinking that you’re going to slide a fabric past them that wasn’t what they ordered, or to think that you didn’t care enough to say hello and give them a smile. If you’re having a bad day, that’s not their problem, you need to be that friendly face that they enjoy seeing.

 

To be honest, it’s something that I feel blessed that it’s easy for me. I truly enjoy being with my customers. Many of them, like you, have become friends. I really value those relationships. We have people who were customers that, they aren’t even in the horse business anymore and I still see them and get to visit with them. They’ve become lifelong friends.

Craig Willett:

That’s great. I think that’s an underlying thing because everybody wants to do business with people who care. Everybody wants to create a relationship. I think that’s one of the struggles for the pandemic. I’m going to take a wild guess here, maybe, correct me if I’m wrong, but I fed you a few questions ahead of time to think about. One of them’s financing your business, but from what you’ve told me today, I think you—and if I’m wrong, tell me.

 

A lot of people start to grow their business and realize, “I don’t have enough financial resources. I need to take on a partner, or I need to go get a bank loan.” How did you grow? Maybe, I won’t take a wild guess. How did you grow to the level you are today? Did you do it just from plowing in your profits, or did you have to go out and find some other means to get you leaving the corporate world to getting to being solely dependent on this?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

The decision to drop from the full-time down to part-time, we actually sold our house and moved to a very small little, almost starter house. We gutted out the kitchen and did some work ourselves and made this little—actually, what we did is, it was kind of a creative thing. We needed to sell an expensive house. The people who bought it were a couple that, he had a condo, she had a house she had been in for 35 years. We said, “Why don’t we buy your house,” because they needed to sell one to buy ours. I said, “Why don’t we buy yours? You buy ours,” because the net turnaround was a couple hundred thousand dollars.

Craig Willett:

For you, right?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yes. We needed that out of that overhead. We needed to not have a big house payment. We needed not to have car payments. We had to really, really skinny down our lives. It was a sacrifice, but it was very worth it. I remember back when I first started out just on my own, when you’re 18, you’re out of the house and you’re on your own, I was blessed with parents who were always there for me, but they didn’t financially provide for me. 

 

Craig Willett:

They didn’t bail you out, right? 

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Never ever. I don’t think I’ve ever borrowed 10 bucks from my dad. He’d always say, “I’m here whenever you need me, but don’t come asking for money.” I remember early on when I got my first apartment and I figured all my expenses, and I had $25 left over at the end of a month. That’s it, outside of food, rent, your bills.

Craig Willett:

What’d you do with the 25 bucks?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

I don’t know. I probably maybe held on to 15 of it and spent the 10. That was my luxury, but that’s always carried over. Making that move to going to the business full-time, I couldn’t have done it trying to still live the same lifestyle I had. You have to know that—because you’re running a risk, and I’m not going to expect the bank or anyone else to eat my risk if I don’t make it—

Craig Willett:

Right. To pay your personal expenses for you while you’re growing your business. I love that because I’ve just finished a series on starting a business. That’s one of the things, you can go to friends and family or you can figure out what your resources are and try to figure out how you can make it. I did the same thing when I started mine. You just have to just—

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yeah, you do. I was able to take that part-time income and adjust our lifestyle to me having a part-time income versus a full-time income. At the point that I built the business up enough that I was able to be without that. It just took that. As we went forward, I moved a few times. In the time when real estate was good, my design tactics actually were very helpful. I built a few houses and so built houses, had them offered—

Craig Willett:

To live in? Or just—

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Well, they were to live in, but a horse comes along, and this comes along and that you have to have happen. Actually, one of the houses I built, I got moved in and I was there probably three weeks. The yard wasn’t in. We had no landscaping. There was a front entryway light that was waiting. The fireplace doors hadn’t come yet, and my daughter wanted a horse.

 

I literally propped a “for sale” sign up in front of the house. I asked the price of the horse more than what I paid for the house that was sold in a week. We got a horse.

Craig Willett:

Wow. That’s amazing.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

We lived in an apartment. It’s funny. Actually, my mother actually asked me. She said, “You did not.” But I asked my, at the time, eight-year-old daughter. I said, “This is the deal. If we’re going to get this horse, then, we have to move from here. We’ll build another house, but we’re going to live in an apartment.” For an eight-year-old in the third grade, maybe that was more important to her, to live in that neighborhood with her friends and whatever lifestyle an eight-year-old has become accustomed to and start over with nothing.

 

I said, “That’s a decision I felt wasn’t a fair one for me to make for her.” She said, “No, mom. I want the horse.” And I said, “Okay.” We were in an apartment for 6 months.

Craig Willett:

A true equestrian, man. Right.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yeah. Six months in an apartment, built another house. Then, we went. But—

Craig Willett:

That sacrifice is really important, I think, though because so often we think I’m going to get in, it’s just going to start making money right away. It takes a long time to build up.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

It does.

Craig Willett:

You have to be able to cinch that belt and be able to live on very little so that you can allow the business to grow.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Well, it was like that with the pandemic too. When everything was closing down and boom, income is stopped. But you’ve got employees to pay, you’ve got payments to make. You have all that. One thing that I felt very fortunate that we had positioned ourselves well, I probably didn’t realize that at the time what a good choice I made. I do in hindsight now.

 

But when the government came out with payroll protection, I’d also been given very good advice at one point. They said, “Do what you do best.” We make clothing. I’m not a lawyer. I’m not an accountant. I’m not a banker. Those are the three things that to me is very important to arm yourself with your own business, make sure that you have a good banker. It was important to me to find a bank that was big enough that they’re not the little mom and pop, but at the same time, I could have a personal relationship with my banker.

 

It was very important a few times. On top of it, I had an excellent CPA. They do it. They take care of our payroll. They do all that. Well, what was great is all I had to do was call them. They had all the reports I needed. And as we’ve been through this as far as the payback of the PPP loans, they keep all the records. They took care of all that for me. The CPA along with the payroll service, they work together in the same building. And basically, I’ve not had to do any of it.

 

I’ve told people it’s a great structure. I had heard terrible stories from people that were waiting in line and didn’t get that PPP stuff, but they were dealing with huge banks that they just were lost in the shuffle. That was so sad.

Craig Willett:

That’s what I like. There’s a certain regional or community bank level that’s meant for business owners, small business owners.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yeah. If you’re not that big, you’ve got to find—it was kind of  like when we were looking for our production supply. I needed a company that our—I think our previous production was not big enough. We were outgrowing them. I needed to move into something bigger, but I didn’t want something that was so big that we would be unimportant. We needed to be a priority. Your supply chain has to mirror the type of business that you have so that you have good resources.

Craig Willett:

So do your outside consultants have to be the same thing. You don’t need somebody that’s over qualified for you that knows and understands your thing. When did you start this relationship and how did the relationship start with the banker? It certainly wasn’t just all of a sudden that the PPP ran in.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

No.

Craig Willett:

How did you cultivate that? I’m really curious because I think this is really critical for most businesses to succeed because you never know when you’re going to need them, but, you don’t always want them, but you want to keep the relationship.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

I had started out with a local bank—and a little plug for them—we do business with Fifth Third Bank, but it’s a regional, almost a national company, but they do business. We have a business banker that—actually the branch manager who I dealt with—whether it was buying a home, working with someone in the mortgage department, refinancing, that was something. We refinanced some homes in order to free up funds to be able to—

Craig Willett:

Make it through the difficult times.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yeah, or to purchase things that we needed to for the business. When the time came, we had that relationship and an email and again my philosophy with my customers, you answer that day. Well, when you’re sitting there and you’re going, “We’ve got to get this PPP thing.” I needed the accountant, the payroll service, and the banker had to be honest. They were. They were right there for us. At one point, I couldn’t get one of the forms downloaded. She said, “I’m just going to fill it out for you. Just e-sign it when you get it and I’ll take care of it.” Literally, it was done. We were very fortunate.

Craig Willett:

Cool. You stole the thunder to one of the questions I was going to ask you the answer to. That is, What do you do to set aside money independent of the business so that as you need it for the business, or someday when it comes to retirement, you have an income stream and some assets that aren’t just the business because sometimes businesses like these are fairly unique. You could sell. Maybe, you can’t. It’s hard to replicate.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Actually, we talked about that. We actually had a business plan. I think it was good and served its purpose, but we’ve turned and went at it a little different direction over the last maybe four or five years. That was the plan. I had a very good financial planner who said, “Listen. At some point, you need to make that business be valuable aside from you personally. It can’t just be you or it’s not worth anything.”

 

We started to, one, establishing our staff and creating a system that could exist and service the customer that our customers could continue to do business with us and feel comfortable without me present. That was important. We did an excellent job of that. We found at some point, it had gone far enough that we got a little overstaffed and a little too much overhead.

 

Then, we had to scale that back. It’s that balance of things. I felt that we were doing some services that they weren’t valuable enough to the customer and were too costly for us. We re-did some things, but I said, “Either I can do that, be bigger, and sell at the end, or we can dial back some expenses and net that.”

Basically, over the course of a plan that, hey, if we sell in the end, that’s a bonus, but we will have made what we might have sold it for along the way. It’s a little different way to structure—

Craig Willett:

Right, and you set that aside so that we have it or we can access it when we need to.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

For example, our mobile store is very unique, the salability, but for what that amount would be, who knows? Our objective is—we’re very close to owning it. It’s really a neat feeling, but when we needed to buy it, our bank was right there. Actually, we switched banks over the purchase of this mobile store.

 

One was just dragging their feet. The business banker was a little aloof about me. No, they didn’t understand it. The guy wasn’t returning my phone calls because they dumped us—we had gotten big enough they dumped us over to business banking, but we weren’t big enough—

Craig Willett:

Right. Weren’t important enough. 

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

No. He just dismissed us. I made a call in to our bank that we deal with now. They were on it. Processed our loan in two days for a significant amount of money, but we had very good credit. We’ve always made sure pf that personally because we’ve gotten to a point where we can purchase things through the business with enough credit that we don’t have to personally insure all of them, but that’s a nice feeling to get to that point. It is.

Craig Willett:

Well, you’ve been very successful, and I don’t mean to end this on a low note, but there is a question somebody always has to answer on the Biz Sherpa Podcast. That is what is your greatest failure and what did you learn from?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Actually, you gave me this question in advance, and I had to think about it, but I couldn’t really think of one. We’ve been very fortunate, very blessed. It was probably not having the courage to do it sooner.

Craig Willett:

Really, that’s interesting.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

I don’t think I would change it though, however. That would be probably the only thing is that I was fearful enough. I was comfortable enough that taking that step to cut off that very dependable. I actually was at a point where I thought, “You think that paycheck just keeps showing up.” But that business owner has all those same issues.

Craig Willett:

Exactly.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

They may not be able to pay you one day.

Craig Willett:

Right. Then, you’re gone. Then, you have no income other than unemployment maybe.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

That’s a little bit of a blind foolish faith. Ultimately, when we did that, it all worked out, but, yeah, I probably could have done it sooner, but at the same time, the way that it all evolved, we were financially set. We scaled some things back, slimmed down our own personal—

Craig Willett:

Right. Sell the house, buy the smaller house. I think that’s important because sometimes people have great business ideas and then, the enthusiasm to get them started. Sometimes, it may not be the right timing. Maybe, they’re not willing at that point to make the sacrifice. They’re enthusiastic about it, but they want someone else to make the commitment, but I think it takes you being all in in business.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

You do. You have to be all in. You have to have the risk of fail. If you can’t expect for anyone else—it’s like the bank. You go to the bank. They say, “This is fine, but you sign here. It’s your house. It’s your car.” It’s all of it.

Craig Willett:

Right. And anything else you could ever get.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

If you aren’t willing to do that, then why would they be willing to think you’re good for it? It’s a perfectly understandable statement.

Craig Willett:

Sometimes, it takes getting to that point, of either being comfortable that the business is slowly being built to that, that you don’t go 100% in, but you have it and you continue to build it, but there comes a point in time where you have to make that commitment. I really like that.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

It’s interesting. We have three children and all of which I’m very proud of, put themselves for school whether we could have afforded it or not. My parents did that with us. You’re going to pay your way and whatnot. I had that philosophy with things that it’s more important to you and I think you work a little harder when your dollar is on the line.

Craig Willett:

Well, you certainly look a lot more closely than if it’s somebody else’s.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Or you decide, “Do I really need this? “ Or, “This has to work.” I need to make this work. Whereas, when it’s somebody else’s pocketbook— I always say it’s fun to go shopping  with someone else’s money..

Craig Willett:

Yeah, exactly, but we all like that.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

That’s exactly right.

Craig Willett:

I couldn’t help, but every time you mentioned overhead today, think of something my dad always told me when I started my business. He said, “Craig, just be careful on the overhead.” It’s real easy. As you said one time, you tried to grow so they could be independent of you which is an admirable thing, but you also recognize, hey, there are times where we just have to be in control of this. If it’s too much, it’s really hard to cut back.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

It is. It is. We were very fortunate that we didn’t have to make an intentional cutback. We actually had an employee who ended up having a significant other relocating to the West Coast. She moved. I said, “My decision is not replacing her,” because I knew that we were staff heavy. It happened a couple of times through natural attrition. And I’ll tell you there were a lot of sleepless nights because I knew that something had to give. When those things happened, it was like—

Craig Willett:

It was a relief. Yeah.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

It was a big relief.

Craig Willett:

It’s hard to go to someone and say—

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

I’ve never had to do it and I don’t know that I could, but I would suck up a lot, I’ll tell you. We did. There was times through a lot of payroll periods and we didn’t take a check. I have to be willing to be the first one that doesn’t take the check.

Craig Willett:

Exactly. So many business owners—and I think that’s a great principle because someone taught me a long time ago when you have profit, that’s yours because you’re the one taking the risk, but until you have profit, you really can’t count on, and you can’t be just draining cash out of the business because you hinder the business. 

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

There’s always that perspective of, “Oh well, the business owner has this or that.” I have a good friend that, to some degree, they feel a need to hide their success. I’m very open with my employees. I tell other people. I said, “I’m not going to cry a sad song to anyone.” I feel like we live very comfortably. We live very well. It wasn’t always that easy, but at the same time, it’s not extravagant. I pay my suppliers top dollar. I even offer more to them actually.

Craig Willett:

Oh really? How do I  become a supplier?

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

I do. The employees. I don’t want to be where they’re saying, “Oh, I’m looking to take another job because I can make more per hour.” Again, it’s that value. If I feel that person is worth that and the company can afford it, it’s almost like a little bit of a form of a profit sharing, but I like to share that with them. It makes them be better employees because they’re more motivated. That’s very important.

Craig Willett:

Right. They feel you value them. I think that’s important.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yes. Absolutely.

Craig Willett:

In fact, I think that summarizes who you are. You value every customer the same.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

I do.

Craig Willett:

You value their business that you’ll do anything to earn it and to keep it. I think that’s a great lesson.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yes, it is.

Craig Willett:

I’m so glad I knew you would just be a great guest.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

It’s a personal life lesson too. You know that too, Craig. It’s something where everybody said, “Well, it does. It takes hard work.” It takes a lot of faith too.

Craig Willett:

Yeah. You have a good heart, and I think it comes out. And I think that’s what’s great. And I think that’s really what our interactions with everybody, our customers, our clients, however you want to look at it as a business owner. That relationship has to be first and foremost and they have to know that you care and especially in the small business. I think it’s even more important because it’s not just done by clicking on the internet and ordering something on Amazon. You don’t get an outfit like that unless it’s used. Even then, I think that’s probably eBay.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

For us, we travel. Some people are surprised, but a good probably seven months of a year is us on the road. Our people at home, they have to be self-motivated. They run the show. They’re in charge. It’s funny, people will call me and they’ll say, “Oh.” I’m like, “I got to check with them.” They think I don’t have a boss, but I do. I have four of them back at the office.

Craig Willett:

They keep you in line.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

They keep me in line.

Craig Willett:

That’s great. And Bill too.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

They make sure things are on time. Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. He tries to get fired once in a while, but, yeah. Exactly.

Craig Willett:

Oh, that’s great. Well, I knew you’d be a real special interview. I’m grateful that you’d take the time. I know it’s a busy show, and you took time out for us. That means a lot to me. I know that our listeners are really going to benefit from what you had to say. Your principles that you’ve lived and experienced—you’ve painted a great picture for business philosophies that I have and engender, and I think that’s probably why we’re such good friends. We can relate.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Yeah, exactly.

Craig Willett:

Anyway, this is Craig Willett, The Biz Sherpa. Thanks for joining us for this episode today. My gratitude to Becky Veltema for allowing us to come in and invade her mobile store today in the middle of a big national championship horse show.

Becky Deregnaucourt-Veltema:

Thanks, Craig. I appreciate it.

Craig Willett:

Thank you.

Speaker 1:

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