Shane Farmer transferred to the University of San Diego in 2005 with eyes on the school’s baseball program – but his dream slipped away when he slept through tryouts. With nothing to do for the next year, a neighbor who’d been recruited to the school’s rowing team suggested he give the sport a try.
“I tried it out, fell in love with it, and had this amazing four years at our school, where we went from a really small program that had never done anything before to the national championships,” he said.
Fifteen years later, Farmer is the founder and CEO of Dark Horse Rowing, which teaches indoor rowing and sells Dark Horse Rowing-branded apparel, rowing machines, workout gear, and other equipment. Dark Horse's mission is to inspire people to "move better for life and growth, and to be lofty and ambitious" with their lives.
The company’s name encapsulates Farmer’s experiences. He struggled academically in high school, performing just well enough to keep playing sports. He wasn’t great at that, either, but had a passion for them: baseball, football, track, skiing – anything that was available to him. Farmer graduated with a 2.5 GPA, but in college, his grades turned around.
“I was on the Dean's List,” he said. “All of a sudden, I just enjoyed school because it was on me. And if I failed or succeeded, it was because it was up to me.”
Farmer transferred to the University of San Diego, where that come-from-behind theme in his life continued during a four-year run on the rowing team. After graduation, Farmer jumped into CrossFit competitions and coaching. That’s when he identified a gap of knowledge between CrossFit and using rowing machines.
“I started teaching the coaches at my gym and then the members at my gym, then started putting on my own seminars,” Farmer said. The company that made the rowing machines at his gym also recruited Farmer to teach seminars.
Over time, more and more people asked Farmer to teach them how to row. He began writing blog posts but decided it’d be better to show than tell and started recording a series of YouTube videos in 2016. As Farmer’s network grew, so did calls for his expertise. He went on to create and sell indoor rowing courses, which evolved into his community of thousands of dedicated rowers from around the world. In them he sees himself.
“What makes us special is that we truly believe in the dark horse idiom that my own experiences made me connect with,” Farmer said. “When I was in CrossFit, I was too tall to be the strong guy. When I was in rowing, we were too small of a program to succeed at a national level. And nobody really believed in us. Not even our own coach. Being a dark horse, pursuing my own passions, pursuing the passions of the team, I just believe that everybody should have that support if they choose to go that route.”
Partnering with Fast
Part of that member experience involves ordering what they need without any hassles. Dark Horse Rowing is one of the first sellers that use the platform WooCommerce to install Fast Checkout, a one-click, password-free purchasing experience.
“I am excited to reduce the complication of checkout,” he said. “I can't stand having to fill in all of my shipping information, all of my credit card information every time I go to check out on something just drives me absolutely nuts. So I'm excited to simplify that process for people.”
Farmer is looking forward to introducing more Dark Horse Rowing-branded products, and Fast will play a big part.
“I’m really hoping that in the New Year, we’re going to be launching more apparel,” he said, “and, absolutely, a piece of that is having a smooth checkout process.”