New Jersey is home to many ambitious and talented women who juggle family, career and home. A select few of these women are also extremely busy building their own companies to help better manage the whole work-life balance. At NJMOM, we want to highlight these extraordinary women building NJ businesses and learn the secret to their success.
Westphalen Farms Owner and NJMOMpreneur: Ryann Westphalen
Ryann Westphalen, owner of the family-run Westphalen Farms in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, offers horse boarding, riding, and training lessons in a comfortable farm atmosphere. This mother of 14-month-old Carsyn takes pride in creating a low-key environment that embodies the same professional quality of New Jersey’s larger stables, without the pressure of lofty price tags. NJMOM had the pleasure of learning about how Ryann pursued the dream of building her own farm, how it allows her to spend each day with her daughter, and how her own mother is a guiding force in her, and her family’s, lives.
NJMOM: What do you offer to your clients and how is it different than other professionals in your field?
Ryann: Westphalen Farms offers horse boarding, training, and riding lessons. Because horseback riding is a very expensive sport, it is very limiting to who is able to participate. I feel that I am different than other professionals in my field because I offer my services at affordable rates and in a low-key atmosphere. A lot of professionals in this industry are highly focused on attaining wealthy clients who can afford higher rates. I do not put pressure on my clients to do more than they are comfortable with.
My students are always hands on with the horses, even when they are not in the saddle. It is important to teach riders all aspects of the sport, not just riding. All students are taught how to groom their horses and tack and untack them.
NJMOM: What inspired you to come up with the idea for your business?
Ryann: I have been horseback riding my entire life and it was always my dream to have my own horse farm. Throughout my time as a horse rider and owner I have taken mental notes on what I believed would make an ideal farm. As a person who had a very limited budget for riding, I wanted to make the perfect oasis for people like myself to enjoy riding on a budget in a comfortable and inviting atmosphere.
NJMOM: What is your favorite part about your business?
Ryann: My favorite part about my business is that I get to work with horses every day. There is something very therapeutic about spending time with and caring for animals. When I am having a bad day, I am able to forget about everything when I am down at the barn caring for the horses, or while teaching a riding lesson. It is a dream come true to spend my days doing something I love and sharing it with others!
NJMOM: What is your background in your business expertise?
Ryann: My mother is also a rider, so she got me involved in riding at a very young age. Because of this I developed a confidence around these large animals that I don’t believe can be taught. Starting at around 8 years old, I practically lived at my local riding stable. I spent every weekend and summer at the barn from when it opened until it closed. I was able to hang out with the other “barn rats.” We were not allowed to just sit around and do nothing, so we worked in the barn in exchange for exercising horses. Looking back on this I always laugh because the horses we were so lucky to exercise happened to be the naughty ones that needed some extra schooling. At the time we were eager to ride any horse offered to us and were proud to be these “lucky ones!” In the end, I can attest that riding the difficult horses made me a better rider. As I grew into my teens years I wanted to progress in my riding, so I moved to a more competition oriented stable. I was able to compete often for a couple of years. In doing this, I took in a broader picture of what the “horse world” is comprised of. I observed various trainers and their students as they competed. I saw the good, bad, and the ugly which helped me to develop my own riding and training style.
Ryann: My mom is not only my role model, but she is definitely a role model to others as well! She has always encouraged me and my brothers to be ourselves, pursue our dreams, and never give up. I would not have been able to build my business to where it is without my mom. She has always offered me a helping hand, whether it be tackling a highly physical task, listening to all of my complaints when times get tough, or watching my daughter so I can get endless hours of work done. I inherited my knack of thinking up the most ludicrous ideas from my mom. When anyone else would tell me I’m crazy, I know I can just call my mom and she is immediately helping me figure out the perfect way to execute my plan! Her mental strength is admirable. In the last year and a half there have been two very tragic deaths in our family. My mom will put a smile on her face and bring an upbeat feeling to a room filled with sorrow. Even if she is having the worst day, she will go out of her way to make sure your day is going great. She is the most supportive, selfless, and strong person I know.
Ryann: My mom has always told me that I can achieve anything if I put my mind to it and work hard. When my husband and I feel that we are in over our heads, my mom constantly reminds us that if we work hard now we will be able to reap the benefits of all of that work later in life. Because of this I have always been a go-getter. I am never completely satisfied with what I have and set very high bars when it comes to goals. By taking her advice I hope to help set our family up for a successful and fulfilling life, even though sometimes I feel like I am pushing myself over the edge!
Ryann: Steve Jobs often spoke about living a fulfilling life before death. “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?” is something that he claimed to ask himself every morning. My younger brother passed away recently at just 22 years old. I often wonder if he would have felt that he lived each day like it was his last. This has opened my eyes to recognize how blessed I am being able to do something I love, even though it is my “work.” I am also able to share my love for horses with my daughter, who I stay home with every day. She is growing quickly so I continue to treasure the amazing milestone moments that I am able to witness firsthand. When I got pregnant I left my job as an insurance underwriter to build up my business at the farm. It was a very scary transition that didn’t make sense financially, but I saw the other mothers at my job miss out on so much of their children’s lives and I couldn’t stand the thought of being in that position one day!
Sometimes you just need to do what makes you happy and let everything else fall into place.
Ryann: My family enjoys going down to the Jersey Shore in the summertime. Both my husband and I have family members with houses on the bay. We take the boats and jet-skis out during the day and dock up at Tice’s Shoal in Lacey Township, Ocean County. Tice’s Shoal is an area on the bay with shallow water that you can swim in, float around on, or play water sports. Though it is difficult to get away from the farm for a weekend, it is the perfect getaway to relax and spend time with our friends and families. I am very excited for my daughter to grow up spending her summer weekends in the water. There is always a calming peacefulness to being on the water and lounging around at the shore house.
Ryann: The best part of being a mom is the incredibly strong, indescribable love that you feel every time you look at your child. Nothing compares to the snuggles, hugs, and kisses that I am so blessed to get from my daughter on a daily basis. I love to sit back and watch her take in the world, develop likes and dislikes, and play in such carefree way.
Ryann: I love going to the local farmer’s markets, general stores, and orchards/pumpkin patches that are local to us. Growing up in more of a suburban town, we did not have access to businesses that you see in more rural areas. Not only do I love that I am able to support other local small business owners, but I enjoy the experience so much more! In the fall we can go as a family to pick our own apples and pumpkins. The orchards and pumpkin patches have activities for kids to play too! You can buy fresh apple cider, baked goods, and make it into a fun trip on the weekend for the whole family.
Ryann: We reside in Hunterdon County. I love that there is so much to do outdoors. We can take the quads around our property (snowmobiles in the winter), ride horses, go hiking, garden, swim, and much more. The sights are beautiful, especially as the seasons change.
Ryann: As a first time mom of a 14 month old, I wanted to tell all the moms out there that they are doing a good job! Motherhood is so fulfilling, but of all the tasks I have taken on (and I take on a lot), being a mother has definitely been the most difficult. So, kudos to all the moms out there!