It was his admiration of Haflingers — a breed of small draft horses developed in Austria and northern Italy — that sparked Tim Wilson to start a horse-drawn carriage company in Balsam Lake, Wis. For two years he gave carriage rides as a hobby, then in 2008, he launched Wilson’s Carriage Co., which has ferried some 600 couples to the altar in a horse-drawn carriage. (Wilson also has a horse-drawn country wagon that holds 16 people, for those who desire a more rustic experience.) When he isn’t doing weddings, Wilson offers rides in the Twin Cities metro area and Western Wisconsin. His small business has four horses: two Haflingers and two recently acquired Percherons in training.
The GoPayment Blog recently talked with Wilson about how he caters to his customers’ needs and how GoPayment helps him get paid.
GoPayment: How do you make your carriage rides special?
Wilson: I send out a contract and questionnaire to every customer, and we ask them if they want it decorated — if they want flowers, certain colors, lights, or anything like that. Whatever they want, I’ll do it.
What types of weddings do you do?
I’ve done everything from taking the bride to a special outdoor wedding to bringing her to the aisle and then picking up the couple after the wedding. I’ve brought guests to their seats for outdoor weddings. Some couples just want a horse-drawn carriage for their wedding, while others want the whole fairy tale. I dress up in a tux, usually wearing my cowboy hat, but I also have a top hat that I use.
We understand your horses enjoy bridal bouquets.
They’ve grabbed flowers from brides and flowers off the boutonniere. If it’s close and frilly, they’ll try to eat it.
What are your plans for the future?
With one carriage, you can only do so much. We just purchased two new Percherons that are in training for the business. I’m looking to expand the business as soon as I get to the point where the economy looks like it’s going to [recover], because the economy did take a big hit on my business. I had to lower prices to get more business.
How has GoPayment helped your small business?
When I do horse-drawn carriage rides in a couple of the cities around the area, people walk up and ask me, “Do you have a credit card machine?” They swipe it, and away we go. I think it increased my business probably 25 percent. It’s helped a lot. Previously, people would just come up, and say, “Oh, I don’t have cash,” and then they would walk away. They’d say, “We’ll be back in 10 minutes,” but they never came back.
How has GoPayment helped you cut losses?
I started using it because too many people wrote bad checks. GoPayment works with my smartphone. I can be out in the middle of nowhere and, as long as I have service with my smartphone, I can type in their credit card number or swipe it. Either way, I make sure I get paid.
What are your thoughts on efforts to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City?
NYClass is [an advocacy group] that is trying to get rid of horse-drawn carriage rides in New York City. They’re saying horses should be free on the open range to do whatever they want, but if you’ve done any research on horses, wild horses are always sick, have bad feet, and they only live to be five to 10 years old.
Is it unpleasant for the horse when pulling a carriage?
No. People ask me that all the time: How do you know if they are happy? When the horses hear me start my truck up, and they come to the fence, I open the gate and they’ll run out in the open, where they’re free to go. Then, they’ll run right over to the trailer and stand there and wait for me.