The best events don’t always start with a business plan. Often, they start with a spark. Someone has a passion they want to share, and a great idea about how to share it. They’re moved to bring people together around a vision, so they make it happen — even with no event planning experience. Here’s an interview with two creators whose events arose from a passion they shared.

Stephanie Holdenried and Judith Forrest never set out to be “event creators.” They simply wanted to share their combined passion for horses with the local community. Inspired by the conversations they shared while riding together, they decided to collaborate.

For the last few years, they’ve run three programs that empower girls and women with “equine guidance” (using horses to build trust, communication skills, and confidence):

  • GUTS: Girls Utilizing Their Skills is a group of 10-12-year-old girls meeting weekly to set intentions, enforce healthy boundaries, and feel more empowered.
  • Tapping Into Your Inner Cowgirl is an equine-guided discovery class for women that teaches skills like living with intention and listening to the inner voice.
  • Women’s Networking at the Barn: Out of the office and into the pasture – an event that brings women together in meaningful conversations and sharing of information and resources.

Holdenried and Forrest may not have intended to become event creators, but along the way, they’ve gotten pretty darn good at running events.

Read on to discover how these two cowgirls transformed their passion for horses into a sustainable business — and how to apply their inspiration to your own events.

What first sparked the idea for your event?

Forrest: Over twenty years ago I went to a private retreat in Texas to study how horses can help humans learn. Horses are masters of providing humans with direct and non-judgmental feedback. But clearly, the idea of doing something with my knowledge took some time to incubate.

Holdenried: My passion has always been horses and what they have to teach us. I did an apprenticeship working with teenage boys in recovery. It was astounding to see them go through equine treatment and grow, even in a single session. As that wrapped up, I thought, I want to do this with girls, too.

When did you know your event would be a success?

Forrest: As soon as people showed up! With those magnificent creatures as partners, we always know that something interesting will take place. Not knowing how the interactions will go is part of the joy of experiential learning.

Holdenried: In college, my chem teacher said, “You know you’ve got an experiment right when you get a warm, tingly feeling inside.” It’s really true. You’re onto something when your gut tells you: this is of value. It gives you the courage to put it out there.

When was the moment you had to take a leap and go all in?

Holdenried: Every day! I’m always re-upping my commitment.

But originally, it was three years ago. When I started my equine therapy apprenticeship, the whole “horse thing” hit me. I didn’t know where it was going to lead. But I knew that at the very least, it would make me a better horsewoman — and that was enough at the time. Whether it would pay the bills eventually? That wasn’t clear until a year and a half ago when I quit my day job.

Forrest: I had to get over concerns that my business clients would negatively judge the equine work because it wasn’t something they had encountered before. I chose to trust in the value of sharing the power of learning with horses. But it’s taken courage!

How have you learned from failure in your event business?

Holdenried: There were events that didn’t sell a single ticket. If you think about revenue, that’s failure. But if you think about the opportunity to learn something about your business, it’s a success. After you fail once or twice, you realize it’s not a big deal. You just pick back up and keep going.

How are you growing your business?

Forrest: We’re working on expanding our event offerings so we can build a broader community of people who feel connected to the horses and the local land. We partner with several groups to enable this growth.

Stephanie and I are both a part of Ocean Riders of Marin, a non-profit that runs our horse barn. There, we offer pro bono Equine Facilitated Learning programs to under-resourced youth and adults who lack the opportunity to visit nature, let alone connect with a horse.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself at the start of your event career?

Holdenried: Start before you’re ready, just dive in. And surround yourself with positive people who will support you and have your back. No one can do this in a vacuum. A part of my success has simply been about being surrounded by supportive people.

Forrest: My answer is much the same: Don’t be so tentative. And partner up with someone. Talk about your ideas and share your stories with anyone who will listen. Just get it out there!

If you, too, have a spark of passion to share…

Perhaps you, too, have an incredible idea for bringing people together around your passion — but no idea how to get started. Don’t let your idea die in the realm of imagination! There may not be an instruction manual for turning your passion and vision into an events business, but there are plenty of inspiring examples you can emulate.

Ready to take the leap? Set up your event on Eventbrite in minutes.

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