Kickin’ it with the founder of Ranch Road Boots—and Marine Corps veteran—Sarah Ford.
Written by Jenn Thornton
Yes, everything really is bigger in Texas. The larger-than-life story of Sarah Ford, for one. Before this daughter of San Angelo founded Ranch Road Boots in 2012, she was in the boot-camp business, a Marine who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and went on to get her MBA from Harvard Business School. Heading a custom boot outfit was never part of a grand plan but, spurred on by her West Texas roots and her feel for both Western fashion and entrepreneurship, she left the automotive industry to start a brand “born out of love for the great American West.”
Ford is the perfect ambassador for her brand—formed in Texas, she’s engaging and friendly but tough when she needs to be. She’s a bit of a renegade, too. Though Ford graduated from one of the most prestigious business programs out there, she’s quick to acknowledge that, while the education is invaluable, “most successful entrepreneurs in the world do not go to business school.” At this point, it’s Ford who—uniquely constituted to handle the ups and downs of building a business, least of all a boot business, in Texas, where boots are the basic uniform and the options are endless—is doing the schooling.
None of it would matter were Ford not supremely stylish. She loves a Western-style icon and knows a good-looking pair of boots when she sees it; that is, when she’s not making them. Under Ford’s watch, Ranch Road Boots has produced 65 boot styles for men and women to date—short, tall, studded and starred, all winners. While not a shoe designer, Ford is liberal with input and invests in great design. It shows. Handcrafted from impeccable, ethically sourced Spanish leathers in a century-old factory, the boots are clean, classic and style forward. They’re also emblems of world-class heritage construction.
For the day to day running of the operation, Ford’s military mindset is an asset. “We had to be scrappy a lot of the time, make do with less,” she remembers of her time in the service. “It was, well, we don’t have this, we don’t have that, so what’s the plan? We had to find and create solutions.” Her other military takeaway? “Just being courageous,” says Ford, who donates a portion of every Ranch Road Boots purchase to the Injured Marines Semper Fi Fund. “Is building a business scary? Yeah. But Marines do scary things all the time; we’re used to surviving. So I take inspiration from people who are very brave in battle. Entrepreneurship takes a similar courage.”
A mom, a boss in every way imaginable, “there’s so much of me in the brand,” Ford confesses. “It’s my granddad. It’s great boots that are stylish. It’s people who love to buy from veterans and women-owned businesses. At the end of the day, it’s the product.” It’s also the American spirit, which runs deep in the competitive Ford, who isn’t looking too far down the Ranch road. “The past two years has really accelerated things for us,” she says, “and it really feels like we’re on the verge of something great. For me? Hell yeah I’d love to have a giant global business, but a profitable smaller brand that everyone wants to buy—I like that too.” Could it be both? You bet your boots.
Photographs courtesy of Kacie Tomita