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Métis entrepreneur Dawn-Rae Gray has taken her childhood passion for ranching and turned it into a lifestyle and sustainable business with help from a grant from the Aboriginal Business Development Program (ABDP).
Dawn-Rae Gray at the Manitoba Ranch Rodeo Association Finals. (Photo by: Dawn-Rae Gray)
"It made everything feasible – ABDP really helped me get on my feet," Gray says of the contribution.
The ABDP – formerly known as Aboriginal Business Canada – provides financing, business support and information to new and existing Aboriginal businesses to increase their competitiveness and success in Canadian and world markets. In 2010-2011 alone, the ABDP will contribute over $4 million in support to Aboriginal-owned businesses within Manitoba. Nationally, the ABDP contributed over $26.4 million to Aboriginal businesses in 2009-2010.
Ranch Hand Headquarters is found in the heart of Manitoba's Interlake region on Gray's own land on Lake Francis. The ranch includes a tack and clothing shop that sells everything from special rider's jeans to the necessary tools of the equine trade. Gray also boards and trains horses, hosts roping and barrel racing competitions, offers teaching lessons, and visitors can enjoy seasonal wagon and sleigh rides. Last summer the ranch got so busy, Gray had to hire a local Métis youth to help out.
Funding from the ABDP supports a wide range of business activities, including business planning, acquisitions and expansions; marketing initiatives and product development; and capital costs associated with establishing or operating a business. The program can also provide support for financial services, business-related training and mentoring services to help Aboriginal businesses grow and compete.
A Steer Riding School hosted by Dawn-Rae Gray with Professional Bull Rider Justin Hogue as the instructor. (Photo by: Dawn-Rae Gray)
With almost a year in business under her belt, Dawn-Rae Gray considers her first year ranching a huge success. "Since the owner of the local tack store was retiring, I saw the opportunity to start my own shop and jumped at the chance," she said. "Because of ABDP I'm loving what I do, because I do what I love."
Through the funding from ABDP, Gray has been able to take her dream of owning and operating a public ranch and turned it into a reality with the opening of Ranch Hand Headquarters last July.