NEW WATERFORD, Ohio – Murphy’s law says if anything can go wrong, it will. Undoubtedly, the moment it goes wrong is the most inopportune time.
For livestock showmen, it’s usually in the last-minute rush before setting foot in the show ring that something is discovered amiss.
The steer is standing impatiently in the grooming chute, the class starts in 20 minutes, and the clipper blades are dull. Or worse yet, the motor just burned up and the job isn’t finished.
And what happened to the show halter? Who left the feed pans at home? Where’s the show stick and that can of grooming adhesive?
Curt Hively knows the feeling, the panic, the dread. He grew up showing steers and saw plenty of last-minute scrambling.
Those experiences have built a strong foundation for his business, Highland Enterprises Livestock Supplies.
Common sense start. Fourteen years ago, Hively was hauling his Shorthorn showstring to 10 county fairs throughout the summer.
Friends on the circuit began asking him to order an extra bottle of this or case of that when he stocked up on his own supplies, and soon he was toting an extra show box full of products to the shows.
When show organizers found out what he was doing, they reacted by asking him to fill his livestock trailer with the tools, bring a folding table and set up shop.
Today, Hively and his partner, Allison Baker, pull a 24-foot gooseneck trailer loaded with nearly anything a showman would need – both at the show and at home – to approximately 20 shows and events year-round.
The business caters to cattle showmen but carries supplies for most species.
Full time. What started as a sideline during the show season has turned into a full-time passion for the two, and Hively admits business “just doesn’t seem to slow down, ever, anymore.”
“From the beginning, I knew farming is a very hard business to make a living at,” said Hively, the seventh generation to live on his Columbiana County farmstead.
“If I could enjoy raising cattle and start a small cattle-related business, I figured that would suit me real good,” Hively said.
He’s built the business around the requests and needs of customers.
Spring and fall buyers tend to focus on handling equipment, and show supplies are shipped out the door all summer long.
Aside from visiting the mobile shop at fairs and shows, buyers can order items in Highland Enterprises’ catalog via fax, phone or e-mail.
Handling it well. Baker is a sales representative for StrongHold handling equipment, a well-known line the duo deals from their New Waterford-area farm.
Hively also specializes in designing handling facilities.
“Guys can say, ‘Hey, I don’t really know what I’m looking for,’ and I go look at what they’ve got to work with, take measurements, and custom fit their set-up,” Hively said.
“It’s not like TSC or some other store, where you buy what they’ve got and try to make it work. Here, we do what works for you,” he stressed.
Though the bulk of yearly sales is in handling equipment – headlocks, gates, chutes and alleyways – the business also markets a fair share of barn fans, show foams and adhesives, shampoos, brushes, clippers and other supplies.
Personal service. Hively also sharpens clipper blades, repairs clipper and blower motors, and takes trade-ins.
“It’s about service. You can’t just walk into some other supply stores and ask them to fix [clippers or blowers.] We do that all here,” he said, referring to a small garage he’s turned into his office and workshop.
The room also doubles as a rough showroom and shelters the table where repairs are made and halters are knotted.
Baker hand-crafts nylon rope halters, and the company boasts a wide variety of rope color combinations.
“I can make almost any color, any way you want it. If somebody wants a 600-foot halter, I can make it,” she joked.
More to life. But the two aren’t in it just for the sales.
The two use or have used most every product they sell, a move that gives them plenty of firsthand background to back up advice they give.
And no matter what they’re doing – Hively predicts local customers will show up at the farm unannounced when he’s working his own cattle or is knee-deep in chores – the team often drops its own priorities to help customers.
Their service, they say, keeps customers coming back and develops lasting business and personal friendships.
“We’re very picky about our service. It’s just the two of us doing all this, and we’re not going to sell something just to make a buck,” Baker said.
“We’re not trying to be the lowest prices on everything. We just want a fair profit to stay in business,” Hively admits.
“I’ve come a long way in 14 years, but I still have a long way to go,” Hively said, mentioning dreams of a retail store.
“But I don’t know how I could find a better job. I do what I like to do,” he said.
(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Get the details
* Highland Enterprises Livestock Supplies
P.O. Box 190
New Waterford, OH 44445
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