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"Before my father died, he told my mom, ‘I believe that’s going to be Steve’s future."
Steve Wolgemuth grew up in Lancaster County and started riding horses at age 12—a passion inspired by his father, and one that drove him to work on the family farm to earn enough money to buy his first horse. “My parents taught me early on how to channel my determination,” he says with a laugh.
Wolgemuth earned a degree from Lancaster Bible College with an emphasis in education and youth ministry. He thought he might someday start a camping ministry and “make a difference in the world using horses.” After graduation, he began to study dressage. “I was always fascinated with it and believed that studying classical riding would be the ultimate riding education whether I went into western riding or jumping,” he says.
Commonly called “horse dancing” or “horse ballet,” the French word dressage means “training.” Invented to train horses for war, it became an Olympic discipline in 1912. Considered art and performed in exhibition and competition, dressage is pursued for mastery’s sake—the outcome a graceful performance where both rider and horse execute advanced movements seemingly effortlessly.
Wolgemuth’s dressage education lead to numerous unexpected opportunities, including sponsorship from Lancaster-based Charles Chips founder, opportunities to train at the Princeton Riding Center and with several world-class instructors, including Georg Heiser, the Olympic coach for Sweden, and Harry Boldt, Germany’s Olympic coach.
“I just wanted to study dressage, and it became a 20-year distraction,” Wolgemuth says smiling. During that time he married fellow dressage trainer, Lori Wolgemuth, and settled in Manheim, PA on a 36-acre equestrian facility, Graemont Farm, where they still reside with their three sons and Lori’s parents.
And what a 20-year distraction it was.
In 1991, Wolgemuth was named “most successful AHSA rider” by the United States Dressage Federation, and that same year was listed by the United States Equestrian Team as one of the nation’s top dressage riders. By 1993, Wolgemuth was the 4th ranked dressage rider in the USA, coming into the North American Championship tryouts.
“I was never much of a goal setter” Wolgemuth says. “I just liked getting better every day.” Oddly, this success milestone was demotivating for Wolgemuth who by age of 40 took his career a different direction. Bored with competition and teaching, he started an importing agency that helped dressage riders find horses in Europe.
Writing for Dressage Today Magazine and having become a self-taught website developer and marketer gave him the advantage he needed. “By 1994 ‘Graemont’ had become the most active importing service in the United States,” he says. Wolgemuth traveled to Europe every month for many years, filling up passports with stamps to Holland and Germany. “That business was built on two things,” Wolgemuth recounts, “solid Internet marketing to generate leads, and trusted partnerships in Europe to fulfill each buyer’s demands.
But by 2006, the dollar was losing buying power abroad. Around the same time, a few of Wolgemuth’s horse customers approached him with an unexpected request—they wanted help with their websites. “I said, ‘Sure, that would be fun’ but I didn’t want to mix up those activities with my horse business so I formed a separate LLC,” he says. Looking for the shortest domain name available, he landed on YDOP (pronounced “why-dop”). It stands for “Your Dream, Our Project.”
Ten years later, the company serves more than 100 clients nationally in need of YDOP’s trademarked Near-user Marketing®. “Had I known it would become a visible company in downtown Lancaster, I might have put a bit more thought into naming it,” he says smiling. “But our clients seem to like it, and it definitely stands out!”
True to his nature, Wolgemuth encourages his team to learn constantly. “‘Motivated by mastery’ is a core part of YDOP’s culture,” Wolgemuth says. “Our industry is changing so fast that we have to work hard to stay at the edge of innovation.”
And it’s working.
YDOP has seen more than 40% growth for four years consecutively. The company also is part of an exclusive think-tank group with members from Google and other top marketing professionals, and has worked closely with the nation’s leading digital marketing leader, MOZ, in beta testing local SEO software.
“While it’s exciting to see YDOP’s success now, it hasn’t been an easy road getting here,” he recalls. “In our first year, my business partner walked out on me and it was devastating. In the following years, some business ideas didn’t pan out and cash was short. We were getting traction in our fifth year of business, then my wife got cancer,” he says. “I wouldn’t have gotten through without my faith-based grit, and a few favors from above during my darkest hours.”
Inside YDOP a picture of Steve riding a horse hangs on the wall. The story behind the company’s success is derived from his love of mastery, commitment to partnerships, and the value of hard work to develop a truly unique skill set.