Q&A with Entrepreneur and Current MBA Student Josephine Graci (’12)

Q&A with Entrepreneur and Current MBA Student Josephine Graci (’12)

Businesswoman Shares 18 Years' Experience

Entrepreneur: Josephine Graci, owner, Graci Arabians
Company Type/Products: Breeder of national champion Arabian horses
Words of Inspiration: “I want more, know I can achieve it, and am not scared of working long and hard. Success is all I see.”

Baruchian Josephine Graci has been breeding and showing Arabian horses since the age of 14. BCAM caught up with this busy entrepreneur to talk about her business, Graci Arabians, and to get some advice for newbie entrepreneurs.

BCAM: What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur?

Graci: That it doesn’t seem like a job but more like a profitable passion—and it’s exciting to see my ideas become a successful reality.

BCAM: What’s the most exciting thing about your business, Graci Arabians?

Graci: I’m proud of the fact that I’ve made a name for myself as a small breeder of national champions. My business is about quality not quantity. The percentage of national champions I’ve bred is far, far higher than the average farm.

BCAM: What accounts for your phenomenal success breeding champions?

Graci: When I decide I want to breed a foal, I envision the result in my head and select the mare and stallion carefully. Most of the time, the foal is better than even I expected.

Don’t get me wrong. There have been times when I bred a national champion stallion to a national champion mare and was disappointed with a foal. But these quality-lineage horses possess other traits and are suitable for other jobs.

 BCAM: What was the greatest challenge getting Graci Arabians started?

Graci: You never realize how much capital is needed in the beginning even though you may have carefully planned a budget.

In my case, I’m dealing with living creatures with a mind of their own, and sometimes I have no control over events. Unexpected vet bills were always appearing.

BCAM: What was easier than you expected?

Graci: I was surprised by how easy it was to make business connections. As I attended horse shows and visited farms, I met people who became lasting associates and then great friends. We cheer each other on even when we compete against each other.

BCAM: You’ve been in this business for 18 years. Has your customer base changed over that time?

Graci: My clients have changed a bit. Originally I was selling to amateurs who wanted a reliable quality show horse to compete on a national level, and I still do sell predominantly to this group. But now I count trainers among my clients, and some of the biggest barns in the world are buying my foals.

Even though amateurs and trainers have different needs, both love my horses, which are competitive enough for a professional yet easy enough for an amateur to handle.

I’ve also consulted a lot on breeding pairs, and those foals became national champions.

BCAM: Describe your relationship with your clients. Buyers really do represent your brand, right?

Graci: Our relationship doesn’t end with a sale. The success of their horses furthers the success of my breeding program. It’s an entire support system. I attend shows, cheer on the horses, and celebrate in the victories. I update my website with news of their accomplishments. It becomes a family network, and my clients refer their friends who in turn refer more friends.

Because you’re dealing with living, feeling creatures, you have to select your clients carefully. Sometimes I’ll negotiate more with a prospective buyer who I know will give the horse proper care and training and a great home. The horse’s well-being is important to me.

BCAM: You mention the power of word-of-mouth. Apart from that, how do people learn of your business?

Graci: People in the industry know me. They know the horses I’ve bred, the wins I’ve garnered, and the success of my breeding program.

Of course that doesn’t mean that I don’t advertise. I advertise heavily and maintain a website. A lot happens on the web through social networking. Facebook, for example, brought a new dimension to the sales process: People send friend requests when they want to learn more about my horses. I’ve even sold through Facebook.

BCAM: How many people do you employ and in what jobs?

Graci: I employ trainers, vets, farriers (horseshoe makers), insurance carriers, and suppliers. Far and away, trainers are the most important professionals I hire.

A trainer’s ethics have to align with mine because the well-being of the horse is first and foremost. And I’m not at the barn every day, so I have to trust my trainers. I may see a trainer only a couple times a month or, when out of state, a few times a year. You quickly learn who is dependable and honest, and you stick with them.

BCAM: What are your most immediate business concerns?

Graci: This economy has changed our industry. Sales are few and far between. Many people don’t have the same amount of disposable income, and showing horses is a luxury.

Sadly many barns have sold out. Last year was the first year I didn’t have a sale. I’ve persisted, though, and become more creative, very proactive, and willing to change my pricing structure. They say more millionaires are made during depressions then booms.

So when clients couldn’t afford to buy a horse, I negotiated a lease for the show season. That’s a win-win situation. I no longer carry the maintenance expense on the horse, and the lessee gains a competitive show horse without the up-front purchase price.

BCAM: What motivated you to become an entrepreneur? What still motivates you?

Graci: I find great satisfaction in going beyond the scope of the job and exceeding expectations. I’m always looking to improve. I find I can accomplish those goals best as my own boss.

I can’t see myself in a mundane position. I want more, know I can achieve it, and am not scared of working long and hard.

Success is all I see.

BCAM: You obviously love these horses. What makes Arabians so special?

Graci: Arabians are a living art form. They possess all the qualities that are best in any being: beauty, brains, personality, bravado, gentility, sensitivity, loyalty, versatility, athleticism, and drive. They have an incredible work ethic and are the top breed for 100-mile endurance races. They always give it their all. I could not see my life with any other breed.

Related Story: Zicklin MBA Takes the Reins: Josephine Graci (’12)



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