This year marks the third year of Perfect Pitch MV, where Island entrepreneurs pitch their ideas “Shark Tank“–style to local businesses in hopes of getting seed money for their ventures. The 2017 second-place winner was Sonnyside Rides, and we thought it would be interesting to follow up and see how they’re doing. Perfect Pitch MV is sponsored by the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, Seidman Investment Portfolios, Martha’s Vineyard Bank, Cape & Islands SCORE, Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and many individual donors.
If you were at the fair this year, you couldn’t miss the horses and carriages taking fairgoers for rides; especially the happy smiles on the riders’ faces. Sonnyside Rides, Perfect Pitch MV 2017 second-place winner, was hired by the fair’s management. The business is a service that caters to weddings, birthday parties, reunions, and all sorts of events on the Island.
Laura and Bruce Marshard have a long history of horses in their lives and business. In fact, Bruce rescued Sonny Boy (for whom the business is named), and that horse’s image even graced an Agricultural Fair poster back in 2014. While Sonny Boy is unfortunately no longer, there are two Percherons (Touch of Texas and Tim) and a Belgian (Dudley) who continue his legacy of making events more special for everyone involved.
Marshard, who prepared and presented with her friend and business associate Emily Moehnke, remembers her Perfect Pitch well. “We had a great time, and tried to convey the fact that horse and carriage rides have the potential to enhance any outing.” She recalls enjoying preparing the presentation, and credits Mike Adele from SCORE for his assistance. She focused on the carriage and the farm-style hay wagon, the latter accommodating up to 18 people. “Arrive at your special event in unforgettable style. These horses will take you on the ride of your life.” Marshard told her audience.
“Our pitch was a little unusual — it was nighttime, and we had stationed a horse and carriage outside the windows, and had set up a spotlight.” At the right time during the presentation, Marshard prompted the audience to look outside: “They were surprised and elated to see the horse-drawn carriage and its driver standing at attention in front of the Whaling Church.”
Marshard says she and her husband put the Perfect Pitch MV winnings toward a new carriage intended for weddings and other formal events. The ornate carriage has velvet seats, accommodates six people, and has a retractable cover to protect passengers from inclement weather. Recently it was rented by a high schooler to transport him and a group of friends from the Tisbury School to the Junior Prom at West Chop.
Marshard also credits the Perfect Pitch experience with her becoming more involved with the M.V. Chamber of Commerce and the local businesses that participate. She was impressed to see how hard the chamber works for Island businesses, and appreciates the connections she made with other entrepreneurs.
While Marshard has found that word of mouth can be the best advertising, she has worked with event venues like the Harbor View and Winnetu hotels to get the word out about Sonnyside Rides. Her website, mvhorseandcarriage.com, created and updated by Moehnke, is loaded with photos and a video of the horses in action at several local weddings.
Marshard says it has been gratifying to see people so happy with her service. She describes one rider at the Agricultural Fair as saying the horse and carriage ride was the “best ride if you’re under 5 and over 30.” She commented that she enjoys the huge smiles on people’s faces when they get off the carriage, and was especially pleased to have hosted Jabberwocky campers for rides at this year’s fair.
Marshard notes that the horses make appearances at more than just weddings. The hay wagons are often used for children’s birthday parties, as well as at Misty Meadows Equine Learning Center: “We have a lot of fun whenever we bring our horses and carriages to an event — it always feels great to enhance it and make it even more special.”
Her advice for upcoming Perfect Pitchers is to “take advantage of the assistance they offer — it’s so helpful for the way you present your business to the public.” Marshard is lucky to have the best ambassadors built right in to her business — three horses who make people smile.