Forest Franzoi, 32, is the creator/owner behind Herd of Zebras, a new lifestyle equestrian brand that focuses on individual empowerment and group solidarity. Forest began riding at just 5 yrs old and continued to ride through college and graduate school, where she got her Masters in Digital Marketing. Today, she owns 4 horses, including Sparky, a large pony she owned when she was 8 years old, and the inspiration behind her logo.
HG: Your website mentions that you suffer from chronic pain. It also talks about your decision to shift your attention from this pain to something more positive. Can you expand on this?
HofZ: I am not a person who likes to sulk in feeling bad for themselves. I have a rule that I will give myself one day to cry and be upset when something major happens in my life that I can’t control. In this case, it was endometriosis taking over and needing to have a hysterectomy at such a young age (before I was able to have children of my own). This was a really hard time for me. I was tired of feeling bad for myself and wanted to turn that energy around into something positive. I wanted to help other people who felt that they were alone in their struggles. This is not just about endometriosis, but for anyone who has gone through their own personal hell, and has the courage to get up and change their narrative.
HG: I imagine that living with chronic pain, as well as the emotional pain you described above, can be at times mentally and physically debilitating. How did you stay on course and not get sucked back in to feelings of negativity?
HofZ: It is exhausting in ways people don’t understand. Endometriosis is an autoimmune disease which not many people know. I am in pain every day and tired a lot. It really wears on someone’s mental health when you don’t feel well the majority of the time. What has helped me was finding doctors who specialize in this condition and are empathetic of what I am going through and are making an effort to help me feel better. I also have been in therapy which has helped a great deal. I was so reluctant to go but it was one of the best things I have ever done for myself.
HG: I love the idea of starting fresh and positive. Most people will never be able to relate to your trials, but of course everyone has something in their life that has the ability to bring them down. I do believe that it is our job to choose to be happy each day. Do you have any tips for how to accomplish this?
HofZ: I could not agree with this more. “Everyone has their stuff.” That is something I say a lot and remind myself of daily. We all have things that make our lives more difficult and challenge us every day. But it is our choice as to how we react to these challenges. We can’t control everything, but we can control how to respond to these situations. My family is also a massive part of my life and keep me smiling every day. I am very lucky to have my sister-in-law as my partner in this crazy adventure. My animals also help me daily to see how lucky I am. My horses and my two goldendoodles are a constant reminder of the joy in life. They are so goofy and loving. Whenever I am sad, they show me unconditional love and constantly make me laugh.
HG: No two zebras are alike. Zebras have unique stripes that they proudly and strongly display on their own, yet they survive in the wild through their ability to bond together as a herd. What does this mean to you – especially as it regards the equestrian sport?
HofZ: The bond that is shared among equestrians is so similar to that of a herd. We are stronger together than we are alone. It has never mattered your age, social status at school or work, or your background at the barn. It has always been my safe haven and I know many equestrians feel the same way.
HG: The reception surrounding your new brand as been very welcoming. What has surprised you as being the easiest, and the hardest, part of launching?
HofZ: Honestly, I have been so shocked at how kind people have been when I have reached out to them for help starting my business. The small businesses that I interact with on social media have been amazing. It is so nice to see other women owned businesses reaching out and helping to support one another. It is a lot different from the corporate job I had in the past where everyone was in constant competition with each other. This has been a very refreshing experience and I am so grateful for the amazing people I have met in the process!
HG: What is next for Herd of Zebras? Can you update us on any Summer ’19 plans?
HofZ: We have some exciting partnerships coming up with some brands that we really admire! We will also be launching an awesome Spring/ Summer line that my partner and HofZ designer/ sister-in-law, Liz, have been working really hard on. They are going to be our strongest items yet!
HG: If you could have one equestrian rider or celebrity wearing Herd of Zebras who would it be?
HofZ: Kaley Cuoco! I adore her. Not only is she a great rider (and entertainer) but she actively supports animal rescues. If anyone knows her, send her my way! A girl can dream, right?!
Thank you so much, Forest! You are such an inspiration and I am so excited to see where the Herd takes you!