Love of the Horse Inspired Unique Leather Care Products
From an interview by Karen Pickering
How and why did you get started in business?
The story of Sterling Essentials starts with horses in the Pacific Northwest. Our horses and our love for them was the inspiration behind our company and product line. When CEO and co-founder Teal Shoop’s horse was injured one winter, we found ourselves worrying that the saddle and other leather tack would become moldy in our wet winter. We looked around for a leather care product that would do the trick, but everything we found contained irritating chemicals. All of our horses, both past and current, had sensitive skin. One of our past horses would actually break out in hives along his girth line and on his face from contact with other harsh leather care products. Additionally, our horses were inquisitive and chewed on anything they could reach, including their leather reins. We didn’t want to worry about our horses ingesting any harmful products, so again we searched, to no avail, for a leather care product on the market that didn’t contain potentially hazardous ingredients.
Frustrated with our inability to find gentle, non-toxic, natural leather care products, we decided to make our own! We believed that effective, high-quality leather care could be achieved without harsh and irritating chemicals or unsafe ingredients. We knew that other equestrians care just as deeply about their horses as we do about ours, so we thought there would be an interest in the horse community for a more natural and holistic leather care solution.
After months of experimentation we came up with products that use simple, natural ingredients, such as high-grade beeswax, food grade natural oils, and top-of-the-line therapeutic essential oils. Our friends, colleagues, and family graciously tested our products, providing rave reviews and much encouragement, and the birth of our products was complete!
What is your history with horses?
Our CEO, Teal Shoop, had the horse bug from as early as she can remember. Although she began riding at a young age in Central Washington, it wasn’t until later in life that she was able to make horses and riding a significant part of her life. As an engineer and professional project manager for a decade, Teal has always worked to fit riding into her schedule. Since relocating to Oregon over six years ago, Teal has more seriously pursued her passion for horses and riding. She currently owns a beautiful Canadian Sport Horse and enjoys working with him in hunter and equitation disciplines.
Have you won any special awards or received recognition?
We had the privilege to have our products specially requested by several prestigious horse shows for use as prizes. Last year we were contacted by both Dressage at Devon and Fair Hill International with specific requests for our products at their shows because the show organizers liked our products so much. We were incredibly flattered and excited by this development, and then we were even further over the moon when the winner of the Fair Hill International CCI***, elite Canadian eventer Selena O’Hanlon, was awarded our products.
Additionally, the equestrian magazine, Noelle Floyd Style, reviewed our products and listed us as one of the top three best scented leather cleaners in 2016! Receiving positive press from an international publication was a great credit to our company, and we appreciated the compliment.
Describe what sets your products apart from the competition?
Our products are a unique addition to the marketplace because they check all of the boxes that equestrians are looking for in a high-quality leather care product. Our products provide natural, gentle, effective leather care while still delivering other impressive benefits, including being animal friendly, formulated to match the pH of leather, and powered by essential oils to prevent mold/mildew. Although the essential oils serve an important practical purpose, they also provide our products with wonderful fragrances that are so much more pleasant than typical leather care products. Our products are available in a number of enjoyable fragrances, so there is something to appeal to everyone, including the horses!
What can clients expect to gain from your product?
We use our products on our own tack, so we’ve designed products that make tack cleaning a little bit less of a chore. You will find that our liquid spray cleaner makes cleaning a breeze with an easy spray-on and wipe-off application that is particularly helpful at quickly getting all of the grime out of tooled leather and braided reins. With our products tack care won’t take but a few short minutes, and the barn will then smell fantastic in the process thanks to the essential oils. There is nothing quite like enjoying an aromatherapy-like experience for you and your horse while doing tack chores!
Owner/Publisher Karen’s lifelong love of horses began at a very early age when she wore out a couple of rocking horses before convincing her parents to get her the real thing. That ill-tempered bay gelding, Brandy, was a challenge for the young horsewoman, but it drove her ambition to become a horse trainer. After attending Canyonview Equestrian College’s Horsemanship Program, Karen realized she needed work that was a little more lucrative than training, so she took a job with Customs Brokerage to pay the bills. There, she discovered an affinity for computers and a talent for creating informative, entertaining newsletters. The Northwest Horse Source began as such a letter in December 1995, with a distribution of 1000 copies for its 12 black and white pages. Now 25 years later, it’s an online magazine and website with a reach of over 10,000 per month and growing! Not bad for the results of one woman’s dream to work with horses!
Today, Karen remains involved with every aspect of the magazine and treasures the community of thousands who share a common passion. Somewhere in the wee hours of the early mornings and late evenings, she still finds time to care for April, her gorgeous and sweet-tempered Quarter Horse.