In December 2019, the ThriveNorth program successfully completed its five-year mandate. Managed by Futurpreneur Canada, the program helped young entrepreneurs in Northern B.C. launch and grow their businesses by connecting them with resources, financing and mentorship.
ThriveNorth Business Challenge finalists Rachel Vowles and her husband Matt Roberson are the owners of Mile 0 Farrier Company, specialized equine hoof care dedicated to the promotion and maintenance of optimal health for horses through applied farrier science. Entrepreneurship has been a longstanding interest and way of life for both Matt and Rachel. Matt comes from a long line of cattle ranchers, while Rachel brings more than 20 years’ experience in the equine industry – a professional commitment that won her The Cindy Eldstrom Memorial Endowed Award in 2013. For the pair, starting an equine care business in Sunset Prairie, B.C. where there are well over 20,000 horses in the North Peace Region alone was a no brainer.
“The idea of creating your own employment setting in an industry that you strongly believe in is an empowering position,” Rachel says.
Read on as Rachel shares how she and Matt turned their passion and expertise into a business serving their community.
A farrier is a craftsman who trims and shoes horse’s hooves. Without regular and correct maintenance of the horse’s hoof, the horse will not survive. As the American Farrier’s Association states, “No Foot, No Horse.”
At Mile 0 Farrier Company, we provide the service of horseshoeing and horse hoof maintenance, which may include anything from trimming of horse hooves and application of horseshoes to education to horse owners. We’ve also partnered with our local veterinarian clinic to provide treatment plans for injured or unhealthy horses’ hooves.
Matt and I have been shoeing horses throughout B.C. for over 10 years, but horses have been a part of both of our lives since the beginning.
Matt spent his younger working years cowboying at ranches and comes from a long line of cattle ranchers that are well-known and respected in the province. He has also been shoeing horses on a part-time basis since graduating from the Advanced Farrier Science program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
I’ve been around horses for as long as I can remember. I enjoyed my first moments on a horse’s back at the age of five and have been teaching horseback riding lessons part-time since receiving my Equine Canada Rider Level 6 in 2010. I’ve also been shoeing horses full-time since graduating from my farrier apprenticeship in 2015 that I took on after my studies in Advanced Farrier science.
Horses are used for many aspects of people’s lives, such as companion pets, competition and farming/ working, and we’ve both definitely been dedicated and committed to performing the art of horseshoeing. We believe that the future of our community belongs to those who are willing to get their hands dirty!
Matt spent his younger working years cowboying at ranches such as Douglas Lake Cattle Company and the Gang Ranch as well as working in the outfitting industry.
For me, as well as teaching horseback riding lessons in the discipline of dressage, I also spent some of my early years managing an accounting firm.
The idea to open Mile 0 Farrier Company came when Matt and I were visiting Fort St John, B.C. We were shoeing horses for a few local outfitters and fell in love with the lifestyle of the rural communities of North Eastern B.C.
The equestrian scene in the north is scattered with horse owners and equine professionals from all different disciplines but we noticed that there were minimal local full-time professional farriers equipped with the skills, education and ability to provide a well- rounded service.
With our passion for horses, we wanted to fill this void, and that sparked the beginning of Mile 0 Farrier Company.
Our biggest challenge so far has been time management. There has been an overwhelming amount of work coming in this season, so learning to balance an appropriate schedule (that doesn’t burn you out) has been tough, while not having to turn away prospective clients.
And our biggest milestone this season has been Matt completing his Certified Farrier Certification with the American Farrier’s Association. The AFA holds some tough exams that really put a farrier’s skills and knowledge to the test!
One piece of advice would be to never undercut yourself. If you’re providing an excellent service or product that you’re proud of, then be proud! Market appropriately and remember that your time is not free.
And if you’re struggling in one area of business, then never hesitate to reach out to a professional in that aspect of business. Get the help and knowledge you need to succeed. Knowledge is power!
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