Growth

Annette Kaitinis: growing a business means knowing when to trot, canter, and gallop

Annette Kaitinis
Co-founder and Director – Scoot Boots

Annette Kaitinis is the co-founder and director of Scoot Boots, a Tasmanian company producing innovative removable horse boots that replace traditional iron shoes. Annette has a background as a practicing lawyer and barrister. Her strategic insight, honed from experience in the legal field, has brought business success with Scoot Boots. In 2018, Scoot Boots won the 2018 Telstra Australian Emerging and Energised Award. In October 2018, Scoot Boots won the Tasmanian E-commerce Export Award.

Annette Kaitinis
Co-founder and Director – Scoot Boots

Annette Kaitinis is the co-founder and director of Scoot Boots, a Tasmanian company producing innovative removable horse boots that replace traditional iron shoes. Annette has a background as a practicing lawyer and barrister. Her strategic insight, honed from experience in the legal field, has brought business success with Scoot Boots. In 2018, Scoot Boots won the 2018 Telstra Australian Emerging and Energised Award. In October 2018, Scoot Boots won the Tasmanian E-commerce Export Award.

Annette Kaitinis and Dave Macdonald have taken their small business with a big idea from Tasmania to the world. After just four short years, they're reaching international markets with their product and are set to continue growing. They've scaled smart. In this article, Annette gives us her essential tips on growing a start-up without scaling too fast.

What makes us us

When he was a farrier, Dave noticed that people were still shoeing their horses in the same centuries-old way: nailing iron into the horse's hoof. Seeing it as an unnecessary and uneconomical practice that damages the hoof, he thought there must be a better way. 

Dave Macdonald and Annette Kaitinis

Dave came up with a radical, new idea to create a shoe that was removable like a sandal and didn’t require the use of cumbersome velcro, cables, or iron nails. His design for the first Scoot Boot was revolutionary.

The path to getting the product right has not always been straightforward. Research and development has played a big part.

We needed to test the Scoot Boot’s versatility, but we simply didn’t have the resources. To truly test it we would need thousands of horses travelling over thousands of terrains.

But we came up with solution. Let’s say it was a little unorthodox.

How the customer was crucial

We tested the product to meet the minimum requirement and released it. We then spent the next year tweaking and improving the design based on direct feedback from our customers.

It was a risky way to start a business. But in our case it was a necessary one. We received valuable information back from customers on everything: different horse breeds, different gaits, different hoofs, and all sorts of different riding terrains.

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“We never stopped listening to our customers. Testing, updating and improving our product became a part of Scoot’s DNA.”

Annette Kaitinis

Beyond research and development, a lot of our stockists came because of customer demand, too – so our communication with customers sure has helped. These stockists have had customers enter their stores and enquire about Scoot Boot. They went on to contact us because of customers asking for our brand and our product.

And with our limited spend on advertising in the US, positive word-of-mouth is valuable. 

Galloping growth

We capitalised on a specific moment in time when we started Scoot. These were the earliest days of the burgeoning ‘barefoot movement’ with equine owners replacing traditional iron shoes with products like ours.

Fortunately for us (and the horses), this is where the market is moving. In Europe, for instance, it's now the norm for horses to ride without nailed shoes. And it’s a market that’s still enthusiastically unfolding.

Admittedly, we’ve had luck along the way.

We broke through in the United States – one of our biggest markets – under slightly bizarre circumstances. You’ve probably heard of ‘Super Bowl ads’ – highly anticipated TV commercials that air during the NFL champion game, watched by millions. From an advertising perspective, the stakes are high.

We had our own brand-defining Super Bowl moment. But it wasn’t during an ad break, rather the broadcast itself: the police horses that patrolled the game were wearing our boots. It was the kind of advertising you can’t pay for.

After just three years, we now supply two major US retailers. We also have around a hundred stockists across the US – a number that keeps growing. And more farriers and ‘barefoot trimmers’ (who deal exclusively with barefoot horses) are signing up to our boot.

By all accounts, our message is being heard.

Winning the 2018 Telstra Australian Emerging and Energised Award was also a boom for us. It made people aware that there is – and can be – a global business operating from a small island at the end of the world.

“The racing industry loses countless value on livestock that break down because of the iron on their feet.”

Annette Kaitinis

Scaling up with caution

I wake up every morning excited to start my day. Our vision for Scoot is to be the world’s largest hoof boot manufacturer and supplier. This would mean selling to our customers directly online.

But there are risks to scaling up too fast. In the case of selling online, for instance, there are issues around sizing. Buying a horse boot isn’t like buying a watch – every hoof is different.

Then there’s the issue of production. Our manufacturer, who is in Indonesia, currently turns out around one pair of boots a minute. He has already scaled up himself with 13 new injection machines. Though he’s still got a way to go before he can reach the kind of output we dream of.

Scaling up successfully is about considering all aspects of the business and making sure they’re ready handle it.

We see these challenges as opportunities to innovate and continue to think outside of the box. For us, scaling up means first having our ducks in a row. And we’re committed to getting everything right. The product is worth it.


Before you scale up, make sure to…
  1. Know your product: We spent our first year on R&D, which was key to getting our main product right. We’re always innovating and improving it (and creating new products), but we only do so knowing what’s essential about our brand
  2. Have your systems in place: We’re now a team of 10. This means we can dedicate resources to things like marketing and optimising our website and online platforms. When it was just the two of us, this would have been daunting, if not impossible.
  3. Check that your co-existing partners are ready to go: Our Indonesian manufacturer has come a long way in scaling up, but he needs to keep growing. Overwhelming the supply chain can be devastating to a business. We’re not ready until he is.
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Originally published July 10th 2019. Updated August 1st 2019.

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