Catching up with Rachel Lok
It’s coming up 2 years since Rachel Lok won our 2018 Scholarship and since then, it’s been marvellous to see her develop her skills, expand her knowledge and become the competent saddler and saddle fitter she is today. However, it seems this is just the beginning for Rachel. We caught up with Lok to discuss the achievements she’s accomplished in the last two years and what are her future endeavours.
Rachel, when you won our 2018 Scholarship you were in the midst of your Level Three City and Guilds Exams. Have you embarked or looking to embark on any more courses?
I'm always looking for new courses to gain new skills and knowledge!
Since the scholarship I have completed my Government apprenticeship along with all 3 (Saddle, Bridle and Harness) Level Three City and Guilds exams – The dressage saddle and harness set I made for the exams are currently for sale! I have also completed my saddle fitting training and became a Society of Master Saddlers Qualified Saddle Fitter in October 2018 after passing the flocking and fitting exams. I have also been able to complete various CPD courses in between all of that including lorinery, whip repairs, product training days and most recently a harness fitting day– there’s so much to learn in this job!
From your own experience, do you think saddlery courses should have compulsory business modules to ensure trainee saddlers and harness makers acquire the skills needed to set up and run their own business if they so choose?
The 2 year course run at Capel Manor College does have a business module in the second year which is geared to help young entrepreneurs starting out in the saddlery industry; it includes pricing strategies, tax calculations and business planning. I think it can be quite a daunting aspect of starting out in a new career and I think it would only be beneficial if there were another business module in the Government Apprenticeship, perhaps focusing more on business development therefore benefiting the employers of apprentices.
You have received an abundance of awards since you started your training but which one are you most proud of?
I have been very lucky in these first years of my training but of course being the first winner of the Abbey England scholarship was a huge highlight and confidence boost coming out of college.
What has been your biggest work challenge over last two years?
I think one of the hardest things is being confident while saddle fitting, it can be a difficult thing telling someone what you think or trying to solve a tricky problem while out on an appointment especially as you’re dealing with that owner’s pride and joy. You need to be able to think on your feet but when you know you’ve helped a horse and rider, that’s the best thing about the job.
You recently moved to Kent for a new job. What’s the best thing about your new job?
It’s a very active, bustling working environment which I love; everyone is full of enthusiasm and ideas with the unified goal of being better saddlers, saddle fitters and bridle fitters. I also get to spend a lot more time with my family!
What does the main body of your saddle work entail?
The majority is saddle fitting, covering the majority of the Southeast with a huge range of saddles, stocking many well-known brands. But we are also working on making our workshop stronger; already offering repairs and bespoke work, my aim is to expand on the bespoke work we can offer to our clients, branching into other areas of leatherwork.
As a company, we have always loved seeing your bespoke leather items on your Lok Leatherwork’s Facebook page. How is the business venture going?
It had to take a bit of a back seat with the new job and while I was completing the giant project that was the Level three harness set – it was about 200 hours of hand stitching!
It was great to see you at SPOGA Horse this year. What would you say to those individuals who haven’t yet attended the show but are thinking of attending next year?
Do it! It was brilliant, it was enormous and a fantastic way to stay up to date with all the latest products and network with all the fabulous suppliers!
We have just launched our 2020 scholarship. What advice would you give to our applicants and how did our scholarship help you personally?
I would say be honest about what you’ve done and what you’re aiming to achieve – the scholarship is designed to help those just starting out so think about what your dreams are in this industry. The scholarship was a tremendous help not only towards the materials for my City and Guild exams but also to have the Abbey England team there to support me was brilliant.
Can we expect to see you at BETA International this January either as a visitor or fellow exhibitor?
Absolutely – possibly competing on the SMS stand again!