I get asked a lot about my time working at SmartPak, but it’s been a long time since I worked there and I’m not really the best person to ask. However, that doesn’t mean that I want to leave y’all high and dry! Jessica is someone I met while working there, and she is one of the most professional, smart and driven people I’ve ever met in the work place – equestrian jobs or not. Of course she was a no brainer when I thought of my “people to interview” list, and I was so happy to get her answers for this series.
Who are you and what do you do? 🙂
My name is Jessica Normand and my title at SmartPak is Senior Director of SmartSupplements. Basically, I oversee the product development and marketing of our private label brand of equine supplements, but I’m also highly involved in the extensive horse owner education initiatives at SmartPak, as well as with training our Customer Care team, and helping with our ColiCare program.
So for us not working in the industry, SmartPak seems like one of those unicorn and rainbow jobs. What’s your favorite thing about working there?
I hate to rub it in, but it truly is a unicorn and rainbow job… 🙂 I am grateful every day to work at such a cool place, getting to help horses, and that my coworkers are amazing people who have become my closest friends. Sometimes I have to stop and pinch myself that the little company I started working for over ten years ago has become such an amazingly successful business, and I got to be a part of that.
Does working with horses day in and day out make going to the barn seem like you are still on the clock?
Because I work in an office (granted, it’s a very atypical office with horse stalls for cubicles and about 40 dogs mixed in with the humans) I really get to enjoy my time in the barn. There’s nothing like fresh air, exercise and pony time after a long, intense day of sitting at a computer and rushing between meetings. And make no mistake – despite the unicorns and rainbows mentioned above, SmartPak IS intense. I think we get more done in one day than many companies get done in an entire quarter!
What’s the coolest ‘perk’ you’ve experienced from working in an equestrian company?
Dogs in the office and the opportunity to test out new products for our customers! And as someone who bought a new horse in the past year, I can say that the generous employee discount is pretty darn awesome when you need a lot of new gear…
Favorite music playlist to review catalog layouts – go!
Badass country chicks like Pistol Annies! Played really loud with a strong cup of coffee!
Before you worked at SmartPak, were you big into supplements?
Interesting question… Since I started working at SmartPak as an intern back in 2002, supplements weren’t nearly as common a part of day-to-day horsemanship as they are now. But, that being said I did have an interest in them! In fact, I wrote a paper on oral joint supplements for horses during college, and was quoted in an interview my sophomore year as wanting to work for an equine supplement company (I was already stalking SmartPak at the time, of course).
True or False: We could save lots of money and just share our horse’s supplements… right? I mean my nails are pretty brittle…
False. It’s best to stick with human supplements… 🙂
Outside of the office, you have an adorable little horse that I’m kind of obsessed with. Can you tell us a bit about Sawyer and why you chose his breed?
Aww, thanks for asking about Sawyer! It’s kind of a long story, but here goes… When I was a kid learning to ride in Vermont I rode several “old type” Morgan horses. But when I transitioned to the hunter/jumper world as a teenager, I thought my Morgan days were behind me. Then I ended up attending UMass Amherst and the Morgan breed came back into my life again. And even though the government line Morgans at UMass were wonderful, I still didn’t think I was a “Morgan person”, and didn’t give the breed any additional thought after graduating.
For my first 9 years at SmartPak I wasn’t able to have a horse of my own, though I did still ride other horses when I could. Finally I was able to free lease a young Thoroughbred from a family member. This mare was gorgeous, smart and athletic… But after a year of working with her, I realized she was a bit too athletic, if you know what I mean. She was really a professional’s ride, and I was finding myself too nervous to get on her without my trainer there to help. Eventually I got really honest with myself and realized that with my demanding work schedule and definite “adult amateur” level of bravery/athleticism, she wasn’t the right horse for me. Luckily she was able to go back to my family member’s farm, and I took several months off from horses.
During that time I had did a lot of thinking, researching breeds and rescues, and realizing that my needs as a horse person had changed a lot from when I was a kid who wanted a big, fancy show jumper… I gained the clarity that I now have the following three priorities when it comes to horses 1) I want to have fun. And to have fun, I need to feel safe and confident with my horse. 2) Given my schedule, I need a horse that is steady, reliable and doesn’t need to be worked every day in order to stay ride-able. 3) I want a versatile horse – one that can do anything from trail rides, to dressage shows, some Western riding, and even driving (long gone are my hunter/jumper show days, as you can tell!). One of those weekends I ended up taking care of a friend’s horse while she was out of town. I spent 3 days playing with her young Morgan gelding, and as I tucked
him in that Sunday night, it hit me… I wanted a MORGAN.
I literally laughed out loud that this breed had come back into my life yet again. From there I threw myself into researching the breed and realized that what I wanted was a Lippitt Morgan – the true “old type”, with the most bloodlines tracing back to Justin Morgan, not the newer show type that has been crossed with Saddlebred lines. From there I started following The Lippitt Club on Facebook, and found Sawyer’s sale posting! He was bred in Wisconsin, and I flew out there to meet him on January 2, 2013! He was an un-started 4-year old with the bloodlines, personality and “type” I was looking for. He arrived in Massachusetts in late March, and my trainer and I had him started under saddle within a couple of months! He’s been a dream of a young horse, and wewere even able to attend the Lippitt Country Show in Tunbridge, Vermont, where he was Grand Champion Gelding in hand, and we won the Adult Walk/Trot high point at his very first show. This winter he’s having some time off, but I can’t wait to get back in the saddle after the holidays. My goals are to do some competing in dressage, to enjoy hunter paces and lots of trail riding, and to teach him to drive!
I can’t say enough about how wonderful Lippitt Morgans are… If you’re looking for your next horse and what I said above resonates with you, I encourage you to check them out!
Every job, regardless of content, has its rough times. What helps get you going through the late night deadlines and makes it all seem worth it?
This is easy – I work with awesome people, and we all truly believe in SmartPak’s mission to help horses live healthier, happier lives. Even when we’re up against hectic schedules and demanding deadlines, working toward this cause makes it all worthwhile. On top of that, it is thrilling and rewarding to be part of growing such a successful business! The entrepreneurial spirit at SmartPak is just so exciting, I can’t get enough of it. Lastly, our culture is awesome… For example, we have an annual bowling competition, and there’s always beer in the fridge for Friday afternoons. 🙂
What advice do you have to a college student or working professional who wants to work at an equine focused company like SmartPak one day?
I get this question often from college students… My best advice is do what you love and always follow your heart. If you are passionate about your work, it will never feel like work, and you’d be amazed by how the right pieces will fall into place. I can’t give a specific answer about how to get in with an equine company that’s as successful as SmartPak, because there aren’t very many of them out there! If you’re interested in horse health, consider studying equine nutrition, as this field is evolving. But also read business books and consider business school, because the horse world needs more savvy business people who also love and know horses.
If you’re interested in working at SmartPak, keep an eye on our jobs page:
Thank you for the interview Jessica! Keep enjoying your unicorn rainbow job 🙂