Charlotte’s Story

Walking into the stables, the smell of horses and dirt overcome the senses. The sound of trainers yelling instructions to those taking lessons and the clip-clop of hooves create a very fitting soundtrack. The miniature dust storms that form with every step leave shoes warm with a blanket of airy brown powder. Horses poke their long faces out from behind the stable doors. Their warm dark eyes seem to know exactly what you’re thinking. In this place, two walks of life become equal in a sport of elegance and grace; a horse and a human combine to create something beautiful. One duo seems to stand out among the rest. The presence of this chestnut-brown horse plays as a mantelpiece in the arena. Although it weighs more than a ton, this animal somehow gallops around the arena as if it were weightless. The woman, dressed warmly in riding clothes, moves in perfect unison with the horse. It seems natural for her to be on the back of such a massive animal. The confidence that both the rider and the horse find in each other results in an equestrian ballet. The woman finishes her ride and jumps off the back of the horse. She greets everyone with a pearly white smile and a cheerful voice. The grace and beauty of this woman is as overwhelming as the animal she was just riding. This woman is clearly an accomplished equestrian by her performance in the arena, but getting to know her, you realize that she is so much more than that. She is, in fact, the epitome of remarkable.

Charlotte Jorst, 49, is the kind of person that isn’t easily forgotten. A Copenhagen, Denmark native, Charlotte’s friendly personality and charming Danish accent make her memorable. Her tall slender figure and wavy blonde hair give her a welcoming and comforting appearance. The Jorst household would not be complete without a resounding greeting from this woman. In her house, Charlotte can often be found in her kitchen making traditional Danish food or at her dining table with her family.

“She is rarely in a bad mood,” said Camilla Jorst, Charlotte’s 20-year-old daughter.

Charlotte and her husband Henrik have made a name for themselves in this country by their determination and passion for adventure. She lived in Denmark for 23 years where she attended business school with Henrik.

“We actually went to high school together too,” Charlotte said. “Apparently there was something or someone who really wanted us to be together because we kept running into each other.”

Henrik and Charlotte’s relationship started as a friendship, but then grew into more than that. Shortly after they began to see each other, Henrik moved to United States for a work opportunity. Charlotte moved as well shortly after.

“It was really hard when Henrik moved, but he wasn’t the only reason I came to the states,” Charlotte said.

She was working for Carlsberg at the time, a Danish brewing company. They needed someone to come to the United States and promote their brand in a big city. Carlsberg is a brand that is more common in Europe than in the states.  They offered her an internship in New York and she seized the opportunity to start a new life overseas. She worked with this internship for three months.

“I got very bored with that job,” Charlotte said.

 

Charlotte shifted gears in the company and then become Miss Carlsberg, a spokeswoman for the beer. It was through this internship that Charlotte became a rep for a watch company that specialized in logo watches.

“I would just go around to banks and offices and stuff like that,” Charlotte said. “They could personalize the watches as well.”

Because each watch was supposed to be designed differently, Charlotte began to experiment with her own designs and styles of watches.

“One time, we went to a corporate convention and a retailer saw the watches that I had redesigned,” Charlotte said. “He told me that he could sell my watches if they had a different logo.”

Henrik and Charlotte transformed their small Long Island house into a design shop. They put 200 watches into production and decided to name the brand Skagen. This is the name of a small fishing village in Denmark.

“I used to love vacationing in Skagen, it’s very much so like the Laguna Beach of Denmark,” Charlotte said. “I designed the watches based off of the simplicity of the town itself. Not commercialized or modern. Just simple and beautiful.”

Coming to this country with zero connections, the Jorsts had to start from scratch with Skagen.

“All of our family was and currently is in Denmark,” Henrik said.

“It’s very unheard of that people can succeed in a city like New York without already having an in somewhere,” Charlotte said.“ But I love being the underdog.”

This kind of challenge only motivated them to work harder and push through the hard times of small paychecks and small houses. The drive to succeed and persevere only motivated the Jorsts to try harder.

“Charlotte is a very competitive woman,” said Henrik, Charlotte’s husband. “She even gets upset if she loses to a game of ‘Words With Friends’ with me.”

Being natives of Denmark, Charlotte and Henrik’s work visas were about to run out around the same that Skagen was starting.

“Charlotte won a Green Card Lottery about a month before our visas were about to run out,” Henrick said. “I have no idea how we got that lucky.”

Charlotte entered a lottery for a green card and was given an extra one as well. She gave the second one to Henrik, allowing them to continue their jobs in the states.

That batch of the original 200 watches was the start of what would become an international designer watch brand. Henrik and Charlotte soon found themselves in the spotlight as some of the fastest growing entrepreneurs in the United States. Skagen is now sold in over 60 different countries and also has a branch of jewelry and sunglasses.

“Once it took off there was no looking back,” Henrik said. “It felt great to watch the brand go from a local New York one to a worldwide brand.”

“It grew exponentially,” Charlotte said. “It was such a huge achievement.”

The Jorsts, now with their eldest daughter Christine, moved their family and company headquarters across the country to Nevada. Originally living in Incline Village, they moved to Reno after the birth of their second daughter Camilla.

“Nevada was a good choice for us because of the low property taxes,” Charlotte said. “We literally just got in the car and started driving cross country and eventually hit Tahoe.”

As the company began to get larger and larger, Charlotte and Henrik began to lose sight of the little watch shop they once had in Long Island.

“By the end of Skagen, I was somewhat bored,” Charlotte said. “It was so big by that point and it just wasn’t the same.”

It was through the success of Skagen that the Jorsts realized that it was never the money that they were after. It was the journey and excitement that comes from starting at the bottom that they really loved.

“I love beginnings,” Charlotte said. “I love it when everything that goes right seems like a miracle, and every little thing is worth celebrating.”

Fossil, a larger brand that had always been a competitor for Skagen, offered to buy the company.

“It was a really big decision,” Charlotte said. “Skagen was the start of it all.”

“It was like giving up our baby that we had nurtured for 23 years,” Henrik said. “But once we got used to the idea of selling we were happy with it.”

After months of negotiation and meetings, the Jorsts sold Skagen to Fossil for a total of 240 million dollars. A Danish couple, who started with zero connections and little funds, found themselves decades later selling their company to one of the largest brands in the United States.

“Sure, it was exciting to get an order for 2 million watches from Costco,” Charlotte said. “But it was time to move on and let someone else take over.”

After selling Skagen, Charlotte and Henrik said goodbye to the company that made them famous and began to look for the next adventure. With newfound time and resources, Charlotte began to rekindle her passion for horseback riding. The fire in her eyes that shines when Charlotte talks about horses and her love for riding is apparent to all.

“I have ridden horses since I was a little girl,” Charlotte said. “My dad passed away when I was 18 though, so then I had to stop because it was too expensive. I’ve always loved it though.”

“Charlotte spends four to five hours a day on those horses,” Henrik said. “She’s married to me, but also to the horses.”

Dressage, a branch of horseback riding, is Charlotte’s specialty. Dressage is essentially “horse dancing,” where the rider and horse are expected to eloquently execute predetermined movements. Over the past year, Charlotte has invested a lot of time into her equestrian passion.

“I didn’t ride for a long time, but then Henrik gave me a horse for our tenth wedding anniversary,” Charlotte said. “After that, I got my daughters into it as well and we’ve all ridden together ever since.”

The Jorsts own a small stable close to their house located in south Reno where Charlotte goes to ride. They also offer room and board to other horses, but the majority of animals there belong to the Jorsts.  It is there that Charlotte keeps her three newest horses. She invested in these horses after the deal with Fossil was finalized. There names are Vitalis, Nintendo and Wilkin. Vitalis is a personal favorite of Charlotte’s.

“I absolutely love dressage,” Charlotte said. “I am so glad to have so much time for it again.”

Charlotte is an extremely accomplished equestrian in her years of riding. When asked how many awards she has won for dressage, her answer was “countless.”

In their house, an entire wall is dedicated solely to the display of her ribbons she has won at various shows.

Christine and Camilla, Charlotte’s two daughters, both competitively ride horses as well. Camilla is currently apart of the New York University equestrian team.

“For me, horseback riding is a release,” Camilla said. “The emotional connection that you make with the horses is unparalled.”

In the last year, Charlotte was able to compete in her most notable show yet. The World Young Horse Championship in Verdin, Germany is a competition of the best riders in the world. She took Vitalis with her to this competition. This was Charlotte’s first time competing in Europe. She quickly became a fan and judge favorite and was also the only American competing in the competition. Charlotte and Vitalis earned their place there by qualifying with 9.2, the highest score ever given to a United States six-year-old horse.

10 being the highest score you can receive in one category, Charlotte receive a score of 8.24, that included 9 for the trot, 8 for canter, 8.7 for submission and 8.5 for general impression. According to the judges, however, Charlotte scored a 10 for enjoying the experience. She was the only rider who smiled while riding.

“Some of those people look like they’re suffering,” Charlotte said. “Why look like that? It’s such a beautiful sport with such wonderful animals.”

This competition put Charlotte on the international map as an equestrian and had every person there watching her as she brightened up the competition with her smile and charm.

“Germany was definitely the biggest and most exciting competition I’ve ever done,” Charlotte said. “It felt great to represent the United States.”

Charlotte ended up finishing in ninth place. Charlotte’s family was also in Germany watching the competition.

Two weeks after the competition in Germany, Charlotte traveled to Chicago to compete in the United States Championship, where her and Vitalis took first.

“Competing in Europe was different, but whenever I compete in the states I usually win,” Charlotte said.

Her newest ambition is to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

“I think the best part about dressage is that it doesn’t matter how old you are,” Charlotte said. “I’m almost 50 and I’m just as competitive as anyone else.”

“I have no doubts that Charlotte will make it to the Olympics,” Henrik said. “Once she puts her heart into something, there’s no stopping her.”

To prepare for the Olympics, Charlotte has been training every day and competing as often as she can. Charlotte knows that her hard-work and determination can get her anywhere that she needs to be, even if it’s as ambitious as the Olympics.

“I know it’s going to be hard, but I just feel like there’s no reason not to try,” Charlotte said. “I have nothing to lose and opportunities like this are too wonderful not to take.”

Charlotte is at the barn every day and puts her heart and soul into every practice.

Aside from her equestrian ambitions, Charlotte’s latest business adventure is her new line of active wear.

“I started designing these pieces because I wanted to look decent in work-out clothes,” Charlotte said. “I could never understand why every piece of sport clothing had to be neon and hideous.”

The clothing line, Kastel, is named after the Danish word for “fortress.”

“I named the brand Kastel because I envisioned these pieces to be a fortress against weather and they are meant to protect you,” Charlotte said.

The clothes are designed to be flattering, comfortable and able to keep you warm or cool depending on what you’re doing. Kastel was first launched in October of 2012. Charlotte is in charge of all the designs and Henrik helps with the financial and technical side of things.

“Kastel is a great concept, with beautiful designs and the same core values that we executed in Skagen,” Henrik said.

Charlotte sports her own designs in her daily life, as well as in the riding arena when she is practicing. Her goal was to break even after two years, but with the success of Kastel so far, she is shooting to break even after one.

“I love being back at the beginning with Kastel,” Charlotte said. “Every small order is worth celebrating.”

Kastel holds 20 different accounts and is now becoming a recognized brand in the fashion and equestrian circles.

 

For Charlotte, her life has been a whirlwind of different experiences, challenges and miracles. She is a wife, mother, equestrian, business woman and inspiration. For her, age is truly just a number. There will never be a dream too big or a goal too ambitious.

“I decided that I can’t die,” Charlotte said. “I have way too many ideas and goals. As most people get older, they just start to look forward to their retirement. I can’t imagine living like that. There is so much more life for me to live.”

Being able to experience this amazing life with her husband Henrik has been the icing on the cake for Charlotte.

“Henrik is so awesome,” Charlotte said. “He is the brains and I’m the visionary. We’re a perfect team.”

Henrik and Charlotte have become the power couple of Denmark, making marks in the United States with their teamwork and success.

“It is amazing to see all the success that has come from nothing,” Henrik said. “To be able to do all of that with your life partner is even better.”

The Jorsts enjoy their time together now in their Reno home, seeing their daughters as often as they can.

“My parents have never let their success get in the way of our family, which I’ve always really appreciated,” Camilla said.

Christine is currently a school teacher and Camilla is working and attending school in New York City. They also have three dogs, Nemo, Mimi and Ali. The amount of wealth and success that the Jorsts have would never be expected by how humble they choose to be.

“It was really incredible to watch my mom’s success over the years,” Camilla said. “I learn so much from her.”

“A lot of people ask me how my success has effected me,” Charlotte said. “It’s been amazing, definitely. But I know there are so many things that I’m still not good at.”

Charlotte and Henrik still speak to each other in their native tongue.  Although they jump from Danish to English, their tone of voice and body language when they converse in Danish is intimate. The quirky language is another commonly heard sound around the Jorst household. The way they smile and talk to each other is a clear reflection of the love between them.

“She’s wonderful,” Henrik said.

“Henrik has so much to do with any success I’ve had in my life,” Charlotte said.

For Charlotte, the end of her journey is still far off. Her dreams will continue to carry her from one place to the next, with her family and friends there to watch and support her. She is a true inspiration to all, and will surely be remembered by the many people she has touched in her life.

“I have the most beautiful life in the world,” Charlotte said. “I can’t wait to keep living it.”

Advertisements