Barrel racers and rodeo enthusiasts are no stranger to the name Western Dove. The beautiful pieces of tack are easy to recognize in and out of the arena, they feature colorful stones and whipstitching. Western Dove is the business of Katie Weaver, a California-based barrel racer who lives an active rodeo lifestyle with her family.
As always I love to learn about the driving force behind a business and how things all got started. Katie was nice enough to sit down and answer some questions about Western Dove. Scroll down for stunning photos of Western Dove in action and get to know more about the woman behind the brand.
Q. Tell us how it all started, did you have the intention of creating a business just like Western Dove or did you start making tack as just a hobby
Western Dove started with the intention of being a rodeo cowgirl, barrel racing, cool chick “all in one” stop for tack, clothing, accessories, and horse supplies. With financial limitations for up and coming inventory, Western Dove needed to streamline the business plan. I loved high-end clothing but it’s a hard sell and the investment is high. The search for unique quality tack to carry was a bust too so the idea evolved after merging jewelry design and a love for turquoise with the creation of a whole new concept in horse tack. Prior to the first set made for resale, I had taken a headstall to a jeweler to see about having turquoise set on the browband. The vision was there, but the execution was poor. So I decided to try it myself.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your career background before starting Western Dove.
Before Western Dove I worked in the IT department at Fox Racing for 5 years. I still help my sister with her catering company if needed, I was a waitress, a restaurant staff manager, a bartender, a Bed and Breakfast Inn keeper, a hotel front desk clerk, I worked at the credit department of a major food retailer, a receptionist, and retail sales starting with a camping store down to a cooking supply store. Every job I have ever had revolved around customer service and I believe my eclectic work background is a big part of my success with my own business. I want to be a trusted friend for my customers and treat everyone with great respect and appreciation for their support. I also went to 5 different colleges throughout California where I started out as a Crop Science Major and didn’t quite finish as a Marketing Major… I wish I did graduate but I think I always knew I was pursuing the wrong degree for my soul. If I could do it all over I would have studied Art, Fashion, and Design.
Q. Try to describe a typical day of work (if such thing exists) or your routine at Western Dove.
A typical work day starts about 6:15am where I check email, Facebook, and Instagram for messages. I go out and feed and clean stalls, wake up my daughter for school, and go back and forth between getting her ready and online correspondence. Sometimes I bring pieces in the house and work at my kitchen table throughout the day because I keep my laptop inside. I’m out in the studio by 9:30 either picking up on something I stopped the night before, or I am laying out new designs to be started. 99% of my business is custom orders so I have to incorporate what the client requests and what I know will look best. I have a part-time employee that does the actual application of stones while I do all the creating, brainstorming, ordering of components, the lay outs, client approvals, the marking and drilling, the final details, the photos, the invoicing, the shipping, and the marketing. I wear every hat of a business 24 hours a day!
Somewhere in my work day I duck out and ride. I try to get to a few barrel races and rodeos a month. Horses are my first love and I always make time for them. Besides work and horses, I have two kids and a husband so it’s all a juggling act.
Q. If you could design a tack set for any barrel racer or rodeo icon (living or dead), who would it be?
Hands down Charmayne James of course! How amazing to be on the most iconic barrel horse of all time with the grittiest style, biggest heart, and genuine love for his job and rider. AND my headstall would never break!!!
Q. On average, how many hours does it take to make a tack set from start to finish?
Every tack set is 100% unique… Depending on the complexity of the design, I may take a week to commit to the overall look and layout. Once that is done, the first step is whipstitching and fringe if needed, stone application, conchos, buckles, and backing. A tack set start to finish, takes about 20 to 25 hours of actual hands on labor. But I have had clients that allowed me months to create something and trusted my judgment and design aesthetic for a brand new concept.
Q. Running a business can be one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs, if you could go back five years and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
The biggest piece of advice for myself five years ago would be to hire an office manager. I don’t keep accurate records, I don’t do the math at what something costs vs. my mark up, I always forget my passwords, I try to throw receipts in a box, I rarely print out anything, I don’t have a single excel spreadsheet, and my orders are handwritten on computer paper in scribble only I understand. But being an artist, these are not things that interest me or seem important. People that are business smart cringe at my lack of records, but true artists completely understand my madness… it doesn’t stress me out at all :O)
Q. You design tack, belts, and jewelry. Is there anything you are not making right now that you would like to add to your line?
I would love to learn how to sew and make bad ass leather jackets! I love bomber, biker, blazer, whatever…. And I know I could come up with sick patterns and trick them out in only a way that Western Dove could do.
Q. And just for fun, what is your favorite brand of cowboy boots?
Favorite brand of boot is a toughy ~ I grew up wearing Justins but I own everything from Anderson Bean, Luccesse, Ariat, Corral, Stetson, Ferrini’s, Johnny Ringos, and even a pair of Rocketbusters a friend found me in a consignment store. I am not loyal to a brand, I base my decision on style.
Photos provide c/o Western Dove