Charlotte Jorst Pursuing Olympic Dreams & Building a Business All in a Day’s Work
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April 8, 2015
By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
When Charlotte Jorst and her husband sold their designer watch company for a quarter billion dollars, the one-time Miss Carlsberg beer model figured on buying some top horses and pursuing a new goal of making America’s dressage team for the Rio Olympic Games next year.
To get there she bought several pricey horses including Akeem Foldager that was a 2014 World Games mount for her native Denmark as well as Nintendo, a 12-year-old Dutch stallion, and Adventure, a 10-year-old gelding that’s also Dutch.
She has others in her string, including Vitalis that she took as a six-year-old to the World Young Horse Championship in Germany in 2013. Charlotte has so many horses with sought after pedigrees that she’s turned to breeding them so, she jokes, she won’t have to pay the prices that are demanded for Olympic and championship prospects.
The campaign to fulfill her Olympic dream took her to Florida’s Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington this winter, then back to her training base in California. In a year of record entries in shows on both the East and West Coasts Charlotte placed seventh in the nation at Big Tour on Nintendo and sixth at Small Tour on Adventure in the rankings for the Pan American Games. The Pan Ams were not on her radar when she began her quest.
Although she seemed to be competing everywhere, her show schedule wasn’t enough.
She missed the stress of doing business.
So after getting “extremely sunburned and fried” riding outdoors she designed shirts to protect against under blazing sun but fashionable enough to be worn out shopping, to supermarkets and restaurants and had them made in China with the label, “Kastel Denmark.”
Between competition rides she started selling them to vendors at horse shows. Sales hit $1.5 million the first year.
With plans to expand the wardrobe to seasonal lines by adding winter wool clothing–not likely to be in high demand in Florida or Southern California–and a toehold in Europe that she wants to build into a continent-wide chain of stores, Charlotte has set a target of $50 million in revenues by 2020, a big enough company to sell for another fortune.
Charlotte grew up in Denmark, never happy with her prospects–“I felt like a square peg in a round hole”–and certain there was more to life. When she was 18 years old, she went to work at a French ski resort. She returned home to take a masters degree in business.
The man she was seeing who was to become her husband, Henrik, was transferred to New York to handle sales for the Danish beer company Carlsberg that has become a global brand since its founding almost 170 years ago. She could not work legally so modeled as Miss Carlsberg, a smiling blonde wearing a big green sash and promoting beer. She became an American citizen in 1995.
She and Henrik founded Skagen, initially shipping designer watches and accessories from their New York apartment.
She was a latecomer to equestrian sports, getting her first hunter/jumper horse when she was 35 years old to share the equestrian experiences with her young children in Reno,Nevada, but admits she had zero timing, couldn’t remember the jumping course, in short, “I was just horrid.”
As her girls eased into other pursuits, Charlotte became more interested in dressage and worked with German transplant Volker Brommann.
The sale of Skagen for about $235 million in 2012 gave her the means to buy Vitalis and with training help from Volker she qualified the horse with the highest ever score in America for a six-year-old for the World Young Horse Championships in Verden, Germany in 2013 and the United States championship shortly after.
While attending riding clinics in Southern Caliornia after her return, she began training with Günter Seidel, the Olympic team medalist for the United States who lives in Cardiff near San Diego. She has bought a house there that is being rebuilt.
However, she wasn’t satisfied that the calendar of international events in California was enough for her to get into a show rhythm so moved to Florida this winter with its lineup of seven CDIs over three months. It worked so well she plans to return for the 2016 circuit.
“I could never gain a rhythm,” she said of being on the West Coast, “I was so far behind everyone else I never felt I could catch up and get the necessary experience. I felt I had to go to Wellington.”
No matter whether she is among the group of perhaps as many as two dozen American combinations to be sent to Europe this year, she plans to take her horses across the Atlantic to gain more competition experience.
Meantime, though she’s building the Kastel Denmark clothing lines–not just in the number of products but moving into outdoor sports such as golf and skiing as well as equestrian.
“The business takes a lot of time,” said the 50-year-old rider who admits she is driven to succeed. “After riding I make sales calls. Then at night I work on designs for the new collections, advertising, sales campaigns, expanding into Europe.
“A lot is wearing the cothes. It’s very integrated into my life and what I do in general.
“I love working. I love being a busy person. I don’t like any downtime in a day. I like being pulled in many directions, I like the stress.
“All the things people teach you as a girl not to do, anxious stress, I love it. That’s what drives you. I’ve learned to embrace those feelings, constantly turning them into positives.
“I don’t have the desire to go on vacation or sit on a beach, or have my nails or my hair done. That drives me nuts. It gives me a headache.”