Please explain a little bit about your brand.
I should probably have an elevator speech, but I consider Life Between the Ears more of a global community, rather than a brand, per se. I started sharing my photos from the back of my own horse on my personal Facebook page when I started riding again as an adult in 2008. From there, friends started sharing their photos with me, so I decided to create a dedicated Facebook Page to add theirs to the mix.
A few years later, I dipped my toes into Instagram and I realized I’d found my people! A platform that was dedicated to visual artists. There, I started seeing other riders’ fabulous photos from around the world. I started reaching out to them—curious about where they live, or what type of architecture is in their particular village, basically what’s of note in their area. It’s what I find interesting so I figured other people might also find the bite-sized pieces of information interesting too.
Life Between the Ears owner, Kristine Dahms, and her horse Wyn come upon Mount Rainier in Washington.
When did you realize there was a need for your business?
While I do love this “project,” it does take up a significant amount of time and bandwidth so it seemed like a win/win if I could get the photographers to have a bit more exposure than simply in the ephemeral digital world. Since I’m a graphic (and web) designer, a line of notecards seemed like it might strike a chord with others. My goal is to expand the line to include a photo from every country in the world and for people to want to collect them.
What was the idea behind Life Between the Ears?
In addition to the photo notecards, I experimented with t-shirts because I keep coming up with goofy horse sayings and my friends wanted them, so I figured, why not?
What has been the overall impact of the brand on equestrians?
That would probably be best answered by one of my followers, but I’d like to think that I help spread a little more happiness and connect riders across multiple disciplines, including not only trail riders, but equestrians who show (both pro and amateur) dressage, eventing, and jumpers, and people who simply enjoy horses but can no longer ride due to age or their life circumstances.
I really love how it has brought people together and created a sort of online club. It’s been fun over the past few years, watching the photos of the ^^ views sprout up much more frequently as more people want to share their photos.
What would you say is the most unique feature behind your brand?
I’d like to think it’s the community aspect. We’re a happy bunch, albeit typically a bit crazy—we all speak horse.
How has your brand helped riders and those in the equine industry?
I’m honestly not sure it has helped riders or anyone in the industry, but it’s developed a community of sorts, and I hope it’s made riding a bit more fun!
Why do you choose to have your products made in the USA?
I live here and I have vendors I have established relationships with, and more overseas shipping of products just adds to the rate of climate change.
What has been the greatest challenge to building Life Between the Ears and what did you do it overcome it?
Time. Carving out time is the hardest part since this is a side gig that can easily suck up an entire afternoon just researching one perfect photo and connecting with the photographer (which is the most fun for me). But then I remember that I have a day job and client websites and graphic projects to do, so it’s a constant battle between graphic work, mining for the next breathtaking photo, and sleep—let alone trying to get my own riding in. But that’s life, and it’s no different than anyone else’s juggling.
How has your business shifted during the pandemic?
Feeling a little overwhelmed with the state of the world, I took a little sabbatical just to give myself some time away from the screens. You’d be surprised at how much time it takes to constantly be on the lookout for the next “Oh my god, this is the most incredible ears shot ever.” I can get a little obsessed and lose myself for hours looking at one thing that leads to another lead, that leads to another person or another location, that leads to looking up information about a specific location, or a certain style of architecture, or unique geographic feature. It can be endless.
But to answer your question, as far as the business side of things, several of my wholesale accounts that carry the cards pushed the pause button because they didn’t have customers coming in the door. It’s nice to see the world picking up again and reconnecting. I’m excited to get back to it.
How do you see the future of Life Between the Ears?
This is my side-gig and my day job as a graphic and web designer keeps me crazy busy, but I hope to continue to expand the card line to include all 195 countries. I’m thrilled when online friends send me a tip on a cool new photo I might have missed. It really takes a village—I’m always on the hunt.
What advice do you have for aspiring equine entrepreneurs?
If you have an idea, don’t wait until you have it all figured out. Just start doing it. Baby steps. Even if you’re one of those people that has it all figured out from the beginning with a shiny business plan—which is great btw, but I didn’t—just START. Get into action and move forward.
The thing will take on a life of its own anyway. You’ll get feedback, something might seem like a good idea and you do that for a while, but then you realize maybe that wasn’t the smartest move, so ditch that and keep moving forward. Being a graphic designer for over 30 years has taught me that the best work is collaborative and that even if you do have a spiffy bullet point plan, things will change—and that’s a good thing. It’s fun to just roll with whatever comes your way.
Check out our other Building a Brand features here.