With Copperfox Model Horses making their U.S. Debut at Triple Mountain, Eleda sat down with Becky Benfield, CEO of Copperfox Model Horses, to talk about their line of models and her work in bringing them to life. We're very excited by the opportunity to be the first dealer to bring this realistic line of models to customers in North America and to watch the line (or range, as they're called in the UK), grow.
Becky is a fascinating person who has built her brand guided by her morals and her love of horses, rather than focusing on the bottom line. This is a different perspective from every other model brand out there, and shows in her models. So let's dive right in and see what she has to say about Copperfox!
Eleda: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your philosophy for making your company so successful?
Becky: In a nutshell, Copperfox Model Horses is a family run British company. We have created a range of models around breeds of horses and ponies we all know and love here within the British Isles, from the cheeky pony in the field to the sleek eventer seen scaling jumps at top equestrian events. Our models are distinctively British with the Welsh Cob, Irish Sports Horse, Exmoor and Connemara ponies being the first models in our range, with many more wonderful breeds to follow in the near future.
Our philosophy and ethos behind the company is very simple. Our aim is to create models of British Breeds that can join your model horse herd, be given as gifts to an equine lover and become treasured collectibles within a collection. As we all know, a model horse is so much more that *just* a model horse, and this is why we also host model horse themed events and take an active role in the model horse hobby. Our models are fairly priced for their quality, realism and paintwork and we treasure every one, ensuring it’s safely packed and delivered to its new owner anywhere in the world. People say that we do have an immense attention to detail but to be honest that’s just normal to us and maybe that is what makes us different to everyone else?
Eleda: Is it true that you mentor other young entrepreneurs? What's that like?
Becky: Yes, I am a business mentor with the Princes Trust, a youth charity that helps young people aged 13 to 30 get into jobs, education and training. My role as a Business Mentor is to support young people who would like to start their own business and to accompany them on the exciting journey, giving advice, guidance and knowledge when needed, as well as just being there to be able to answer all those weird and wonderful questions. At the early stages of a business, there are so many questions that to the seasoned business owner would seem so trivial, like for example what’s the difference between turnover and profit, but it’s important to remember that we all started somewhere. Young people who are supported by the charity and their Business Mentors are the next age of business owners, which are the unsung heroes and backbone of the British economy, so I feel it’s important to pass my knowledge on and to encourage entrepreneurship for future generations to benefit from.
I am also a Modern Muse with Everywoman, a social enterprise and project designed to inspire and engage the next generation of female business leaders and entrepreneurs. I, together with 100 founding muses whose joint aim is to inspire 1 million young woman and girls about business and entrepreneurship. We would like to encourage young girls and women to take their own path in the world of business rather than aspire to be the next "It" girl or footballers WAG. We believe that the UK is suffering from a female role model shortage and that it is vital to motivate the next generation to embrace business and carve a fulfilling life for themselves.
Eleda: What motivated you to create your own line of model horses?
Becky: It’s been a project long in the making, as far back as the early 2000s and the stars finally aligned in 2013/2014 to make it all possible. It was certainly one of those better late than never moments!! I’ve been selling model horses, in all shapes and sizes, brands and materials all my working life and so have seen and sold a few million models during my time (which is quite scary when you think about it!). When you sell models and re-home them, you hear the future wishes of new owners for models, what colours they would like to see and what breeds they would like to collect. Collectors, Hobbyists, Consumers, even Corporate Clients, everyone wished and asked for models that we didn’t have and/or models that didn’t exist, simply because no one made them.
During our time as a retailer for other brands, we sold models to customers all over the UK. From the rugged Shetland Isles to the sunny shores of Cornwall, models cantered to all areas of the British Isles. We were selling models of breeds of horses and ponies that were are not native nor seen in the fields and paddocks of the English countryside, which was something that didn’t quite make sense to us. Our customers were asking for models of horses and ponies that they owned, who they rode in the local riding school or saw at the annual horse show. It’s this information, comments and feedback that sparked my, our, desire to create realistic representations of models based around British breeds of horses and ponies, at a time when no other manufacturer did.
Eleda: Price-wise, Copperfox Model Horses fit in between Breyer and Peter Stone models. For those who haven't yet met a Copperfox in person, can you tell us what makes them worth their price, and why many are selling for higher than their purchase price on places like eBay?
Becky: Copperfox Models are designed to fit between the two other manufacturers within the marketplace. We’re not producing thousands of one model, nor creating one-of-a-kind model horses. Our models are stabled in the void in-between the two.
Our models are not high volume models, produced in tens of thousands. Copperfox models are limited to a maximum run of 250 pieces, with each one accompanied by a certificate, confirming they are a limited edition. Our models retail for a price that would actually better reflect that of a model with a higher production number- and lower quality!
Pricing and model horses is quite an interesting thing when you think about it. I remember back in January 2016 when I first published the details of how much our models would be on our blog and the question I posed back then. Here is the snippet from the post:
“ Even in the model horse world today, there are vast differences in price points, even with models produced by the same manufacturer. For example, one mould could be produced in a run of tens of thousands to be sold in shops and through online stores. That same mould could then be produced in a run of a hundred for a collectors club with a price tag that is five times that of the retail one. Technically it is the same model, the same material, the same creation technique- but what makes them different?”
We take this into account for our models. Our models have run numbers less than other manufacturers but not the price tag to match. They are extremely high quality models with an attention to detail but are retailed for a price that is fair and affordable. The prices of our models are the same whether they are a special run (i.e only available at tour events) compared to a model that is generally available. We understand and appreciate that collecting model horses is not the cheapest hobby in the world, so we sell our models for a fair and affordable price, that is relatable to the quality and finish of the model horse.
Eleda: I've heard this story before, but think it says a lot about your dedication to "getting it right." Will you please share with everyone how you chose the material that Copperfoxes are made from?
Becky: Creating model horses is much like creating that unique and memorable family recipe that lasts for centuries. It involves a lot of testing, trial and error before you get it right! The first Copperfox Models were actually squeaky, like a dog toy. You literally could squash them. The first factory we tried for production didn’t quite get what we were after and so production was swiftly moved!! The squishy models are still with us, living out their years in our archives.
Our Founding Fox models were created in Cellulose Acetate plastic, with the material being shipped over from the USA to China especially for these models. This was a learning curve as it was extremely expensive to move the plastic and on a long term scale wasn’t financially possible. We tested many different plastics after our Founding Fox run, exploring all the options and possibilities, looking into the properties of a multitude of plastics and also where we could obtain it for a reasonable price.
Five factory moves later, our current Copperfox Models are made from a mixture of plastics- Polycarbonate (PC) and ABS. The combinations of plastic enables us to create a model that is highly detailed but extremely strong. PC has an impact resistance 200 times greater than glass, as a fun fact. We (the royal we I must add! I couldn’t bring myself to personally do it) have tested the strength of our models by a very complicated and hi-tech method of hurling one across a room, to land on the floor with a crash and then watching the model bounce around until coming to settle on the factory floor. The model and plastic was unscathed with all ears, legs and tail intact.
Eleda: What other Quality Control processes do you have in place to ensure that your models always look top-notch?
Becky: The secret is that I check every single model, personally, multiple times. Copperfox Model Horses is a small company, there are only two of us and so every task has one of us at the end (or beginning) of it. Models are checked at the factory before they leave on their month long journey to the UK. They are then re-checked when they are settled into our warehouse. Models are then re-checked and packaged for their travels to a new owner. I guess you could say, I say hello and goodbye to every single model!
Some would say that it’s wrong for me to mention that this is how we operate our Quality Control but many will know that I prefer to be open and honest about what we do. As it sounds, this QC checking method a very labour-intensive process but one that I think is necessary to ensure the models that we re-home are models that we would want to receive. We are model horse collectors at heart and totally understand what it’s like collecting models. Being a young company, we are always learning and the best way to learn is to be in amongst everything, with your finger on the pulse of things, so to speak.
Copperfox Model Horses are created in extremely low run numbers when compared to other manufacturers. We value each and every model and so really enjoy welcoming each one into the world and then waving it farewell as it trots to a new owner. It’s part of the cycle.
Of course in the future, the way we do Quality Control will and might change, but like everything at the moment, we’re taking one step at a time and not running before we can walk!
Eleda: Dapples have always been a challenge to model manufacturers. Your recent dapples have been incredible… How did you get your painters to make a break-through in realistic dappling?
Becky: This is simply down to our fantastic team of painters at our factory. It took us many tries and attempts to find the right factory and once we found the right one, we were off and running.
When it comes to painting models, we spent countless hours trying different painting techniques, seeing what would work- and what wouldn’t. Some models have even evolved over time, from small production run to another. On some of the models, in particular Bertie and Henrietta, there are two different versions, with the first ones having stenciled markings. This gives the patches a blurred edge rather than the crisp edge, which later versions have. There aren’t many of the first versions but there are a few out in the world!
Eleda: How does it feel when people send you photos of their Copperfox models winning at shows over lots of other brands?
Becky: We literally (quite literally) whoop with delight and give a mini cheer! It’s amazing to see the models out in the world, strutting their stuff in the show ring, being enjoyed by their owners. That is what is all about.
Even this weekend, we’ve had models all around the globe winning Overall Champion and Reserve Champions prizes, beating hundreds of other models to take the title. When you’re in my position and you think about that, working the thought backwards, the feeling is similar to how a breeder of a horse that won a horse race or a grand event would feel. It’s a mixture of pride, joy, happiness and admiration. It’s even weirder to think that every Copperfox Model that is out in the world I have seen, handled and said hello to more than once!
Eleda: What’s your favorite mould in the range so far?
Becky: I can’t have one favourite mould for the simple reason that the others would get jealous. I love each one for a different reason and each model has its own personality and story to tell.
The Welsh Cob is a very handsome fellow who knows it. He is the peacock of the showring and one that would shout, “Look at me!” This mould looks wonderful in any colour; even in plain, unpainted white, he looks gorgeous. His face is so expressive, even if it does have that look of “butter wouldn’t melt”! When Kelly was sculpting Celtic Warrior, many people actually saw this model at our UH Hullaballoo back in 2013 but at the time didn’t know what he would be part of!
The Exmoor Pony, sculpted by Harriet Knibbs, is a pony that doesn’t conform and I love that about her. She is a roly-pony pony who knows her own mind and does her own thing. She is one that hates being photographed but in person she is the loveliest model you could ever own. Many collectors don’t like this model or at least don’t think they do until they see and hold her in person! Some also say that this mould, Dunkery Belle, is pregnant. She wasn’t created as that, rather than she is a little pony that enjoys the grass a little too much, well, that and the odd sugar lump! She is often considered the odd one out of the quartet but I think really, she is the one that holds them all together.
The Connemara Pony is a model that can do it all, much like its real life counterpart. English, Western, Stunt Pony, Chariot Racing, this mould is one that loves to gallop into the Performance classes at live shows. The model is quiet, calm and disciplined, like it’s a pony that knows its job and does it well. I’m looking forward to getting this mould into different colourways in the future as you find that when a colour changes on a model, the whole look changes too.
The Irish Sports Horse, or King Horse as he is known at the factory, is the bold one of the bunch, with a heart of a lion and the courage to leap over a giant cross country fence. Like his real life counterparts, he is intelligent, kind but a little mischievous if not channeled into something. This mould, like the Connemara Pony, excels in Performance classes, especially if there is a jump involved!
Eleda: Have you gotten to meet any of the real horses that you’ve made portrait models of?
Becky: Yes, I have met all of the real life equines of which our portrait models- D’Abernon Tiger Woods (Bailey), Lakeview Knight (Duggie) and Loughnatousa Fabio (Superman) are based upon. Trifle is a fictional pony so I haven’t met her exactly, but I’ve read all of the books from the Katy’s Exmoor Series in which Trifle is the star.
When we create a portrait model, we take pictures from every single angle of the horse so we can ensure that we include all the details on the model, from Duggie’s little pink kissy spot on his nose, to Bailey’s unique hooves and Superman’s star.
Eleda: What events are on the Copperfox calendar in 2017?
Becky: This year is a busy year with our diary fully booked with events, tour stops and shows. In the UK, we have our Copperfox on Tour events which consist of 16 individual stops in various locations around the British Isles. Each tour stop event features a mini live show together with a workshop in the afternoon and is a day full of fun- and most importantly model horses! These events are always great fun and most importantly bring like-minded people together over their shared love of model horses.
In the USA, Canada and Australia, we have several events that our Copperfox Ambassadors are attending. Copperfox Ambassadors are our representatives who attend selected model horse and equine events, with a range of Copperfox Models that people can see and purchase in person.
So, as you can see, the Copperfox Family is very busy spreading the word and sharing the love for our models all around the globe, quite literally.
Eleda: If we were to ask your customers to describe your models, what three words would you hope to hear?
Becky: Quality. Realism. Cherished.
Quality for the feel of the model, Realism for the craftsmanship and paintwork of the piece and Cherished for it being an item that will be enjoyed and treasured for years to come.
Eleda: Collectors would be very upset with me if I don't ask: Do you expect to add additional molds to your range in 2017? Can you give us any "sneak peeks" regarding what might be coming, either in molds or colors?
Becky: Our factory is working on new colours at the moment and we have two new colourways due to launch around June this year. One will be on the Welsh Mould and another on the Irish Sports Horse. Both are absolutely gorgeous!
On the new mould front, yes, we do have a new mould that we hope to introduce into the range later this year. He is complete, is a real stunner and will create quite a wave when he is unveiled. He is going to create a BIG impression. We haven’t quite decided on his name as yet. He hasn’t spoken to us to tell us what he would like to be called. We’re just hoping he doesn’t want to be called some unpronounceable name!!
For this new mould we are also looking into the possibility of launching another crowdfunding campaign to help get the model into production. As you can imagine, this is not a simple task simply due to the costs involved and one thing we like about doing it this way is that everyone becomes part of the journey and helps make it possible.
My idea for the crowdfunding campaign would be to fund the introduction of a new horse mould, with a stretch goal to put the actual Copper fox into production too. Pledges would include copies of the model with options of blank, painted and resin copies of the model as well as other options like Copperfox Merchandise, events and other bits and bobs. I hope to have more information about this idea soon and as soon as I know everything myself, I’ll be sure to let everyone know!
Eleda: When you retire (many years from now), how would you like to be remembered?
Becky: You never really know how you have an impact on things until you step away from it. it’s hard to know at this stage what our real impression is, especially when the models have had just under a year out in the big wide world. Many years down the road, I think that we would like to feel that we created a range of models that people enjoyed and cherished, helped them to create memories and moments they treasured. It’s as simple as that really; that through it all, the ups and downs, the roller-coaster of the journey enabled us to created model horses that people appreciated, loved and remembered owning.
We wish Becky and Copperfox lots of success. They may not be the ONLY model horses you collect, but I think you'll enjoy adding Copperfox models to your collection. We can't wait to find out what she has in store for us all next, and yes, Triple Mountain will try to bring you whatever new molds and colors appear in the Copperfox range!
Watch for their US Debut with us on April 10th!
Model listings will appear below the brand info on this page, beginning on the debut day.