By Britney Grover
From Israel to Florida, pre-med to creative and from an interest in horses to driven competitor, Shai Tertner has followed his instincts. Though it may not always have been the obvious — or easiest — choice, Shai’s “gut feeling” has proved a powerful tool. Now, Shai is founder and CEO of a large global events company and has his sights set on competing for his home country of Israel at the 2024 Olympic Games in show jumping.
Shai was born and raised in Israel, which is also where he first felt drawn to horses. “From a young age, I felt this connection with horses that I couldn’t explain,” he said. “No one in my family had horses or rode. When I was 15 years old, I walked by a stable that specialized in breeding Arabians. I asked if I could be a working student, and that’s how I started riding.”
Shai learned the basics of horsemanship riding Arabians, but still wanted more. He found an equestrian couple who had moved to Israel from Switzerland and trained with them for a year. With them, he found his niche in show jumping. But his life soon took an extended detour from horses as he served in the military and pursued his education.
“After I finished my military service, I studied molecular biology as a pre-med student and got accepted to medical school in Milan, Italy,” Shai said of his 20-year “pause” in riding — which timeframe also included moving not to Italy but to the United States. “I came to New York City for a fun summer trip and really fell in love with the city. I decided to stay longer, thus I didn’t move to Milan or start medical school.”
If following his heart to New York City instead of Milan wasn’t brave enough, Shai’s course took yet another turn. “I got accepted to a pre-med program in New York City, but my gut feeling was to look for something more creative. I studied fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, and a year later I opened my company, Shiraz Creative.”
Much like Shai’s own life, Shiraz Creative didn’t stay on a predictable path. It was founded a far cry from the global event company it is today. “I helped a friend open a model bartender agency, and after two weeks he decided he wasn’t interested anymore so I took over,” Shai said. “The company turned into a catering company and then an event design company.”
In addition to the New York location, Shiraz Creative now has offices in Miami, Los Angeles, Mexico City and London. They are known not just for producing events, but creating experiences. Since opening in 2001, Shiraz Creative has been the force behind stunning events for clients such as Google, Gucci, Prada, Microsoft, Dolce & Gabbana, Vanity Fair, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Bentley — the list goes on.
“The most recent event I really enjoyed working on was the activations for Visa during the FIFA World Cup in Russia,” Shai shared. “I enjoyed visiting Moscow and St. Petersburg, two beautiful cities, and learning a new culture, producing a month-long epic activation.”
Already a standout event company, Shiraz Creative is still expanding. “Last year we added a digital department and, more importantly for the equestrian world, a sponsorship department. Our sponsorship department leverages our 18-year relationship with brands and introduces them to the appropriate equestrian events as sponsors.”
The success of his company has allowed Shai to get back to his other passion: horses. Just a few years ago, he began training with Ellen Raidt, whom Shai credits for improving his riding and helping him advance from 1.15m to 1.40m in just two years.
“The first horse I owned as an adult, and still own, was Shiraz Creative Solero de Grasset,” Shai said. “We were both so green, and this horse tried so hard for me. He brought me, successfully, to the 1.35m level in open classes, riding and placing against Olympic riders.”
Top of Both Fields
Somehow, Shai has managed to not only balance his career as CEO of Shiraz Creative with his riding, but to excel in both. “My trainers couldn’t believe how I could go on a business trip, come back after a week and jump my horses like there was never a break,” Shai said. “I think the breaks help; they ground you and keep the passion for the sport going. It’s not easy; I juggle the two sides of my life and I make sure to rest and have downtime at the beach or pool.”
Additionally, Shai is finding ways to integrate the two parts of his life by doing more events for the equestrian community, such as in his capacity as a board member for Give Back for Special Equestrians, and starting Shiraz Creative’s sponsorship division. “We now work with the American Gold Cup and the Great Lakes Festival to secure brand sponsorships for these two great shows,” he said. “I hope this will allow me to be at shows and compete more. I’d like to give credit to my business partners, Yaniv and Jason, for their support and understanding.”
Now, Shai rides with Diego Muyshondt at DM Showjumping in Southwest Ranches, Florida. When he’s not on a business trip, he rides four or five times a week, goes to the gym three or four times per week and also does Bikram Yoga once or twice. His main horse, Shiraz Creative Bonius de Laubry, is another special horse.
“I believe he’ll take me to FEI ranking classes this year,” Shai said. “He’s such an experienced horse that allows me to enter the ring with confidence and determination — a gentle giant that shows his unconditional love over and over again. With Bonius I completed my first national grand prix this year, with top riders in my class, finishing seventh after two clear rounds.”
Though his goals might seem lofty, he’s already proven he has the determination and momentum to get there. “My goal as a rider is to move up to the international level in the next year or so. Business-wise, I always push myself and my team for growth, for innovation, to be on the leading edge of my industry. I hope to grow our international presence and enjoy the process.”
But even as he follows his heart into the future, Shai hasn’t forgotten where it all started; representing Israel as a rider means a lot to him. “I grew up there, my family still lives there. It makes me very proud and excited about the path. The Israeli team is gathering momentum. Paris is one of my favorite cities, and the thought of competing there in 2024 is thrilling for me. I’m one to pursue my goals and dreams: I believe they come true.”