By Jennifer Goodale
Meet Sarah Ford, a Texas native, former Marine Corps officer, current military spouse, mother of two, and entrepreneur. Inspired by her granddad, West Texas roots, military background, and an appreciation of global gaucho culture, Sarah launched Ranch Road Boots. Through her boots, she hopes to inspire people to embrace their individuality.
Q. Tell us about your connection to the military.
A. My father, two uncles, and two cousins were all Marines, so I grew up with a lot of pride for the Marine Corps. I joined in June of 2001, right before September 11th, and I served from 2001-05 doing logistics. I was deployed to Iraq twice before getting out after my contract was up, and a couple years later, I was recalled out of the inactive reserves to deploy again in 2007.
Q. Tell us about your business.
A. Ranch Road Boots make timeless fine leather boots rooted in classic style with life-lasting quality for both men and women. Our designs are inspired by western and military cultures — stemming from my background and Texas roots. We proudly handcraft all of our boots in Spain without cutting corners. Uncompromised craftsmanship at a fair price is at the core of our brand. Our collections release twice a year and are mainly sold direct-to-consumer through our online store.
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Q. How did your entrepreneurial journey start?
A. When I was 10, I spent my time as a janitor at my dad’s office complex. I’d go knock on doors and ask business owners if they wanted me to clean their office. I did this through high school, so you can say I became an entrepreneur at a young age. After I graduated from Harvard Business School, I joined a big consulting company to pay off my $105,000 debt from school as fast as possible. Then I joined a startup as VP of sales, and after two years, I knew it was time to start my own company.
Q. What resources did you have while starting your business?
A. I had $65,000 in savings that I used to bootstrap the business. I looked to my good education, the network I developed, and the experiences the Marines taught me as my starting compass. I was lucky to have no debt and a low cost of living, so everything I had and made was put back into the business, and that’s what I did for years.
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Q. What is the biggest challenge you faced when launching your business?
A. I’m married to an active duty Marine, and we moved four times in the first seven years. That was a challenge. For most startups, seeking venture type or angel funding is a difficult process, which is even harder when the business is moving to places like 29 Palms or Camp Lejeune — areas that are geographically removed from traditional places entrepreneurs land to pitch investors. As a 40-plus-year-old woman with two kids married to a Marine infantryman who deploys, I don’t fit the typical profile of an entrepreneur that most venture capitalists [would] fund. Not to mention, only 2% of [venture capital] money goes to women-owned companies. However, I believe in what we are doing and in our ability to scale and become a profitable $80 million a year company within nine years.
Q. What is your best advice?
A. I love this quote from Howard Stevenson (1975) – “Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.” The point is to keep going, don’t quit, and always remain optimistic. Even the incumbent big competitors are struggling, and within four years, 50% of people will be buying their shoes online, so I see a ton of challenges — and opportunity.
Q. How can people connect with you?
A. People can connect with us through social media, on Facebook and Instagram (@ranchroadboots). They can email us directly at email@example.com.