In fall 2023, three equestrians launched an endeavor to better support entrepreneurial women in the Western world through workshops and grants. Their resulting nonprofit is the powerfully titled Boss Mares, Inc.
The organization’s goal is to hold two workshops a year and offer business and education grants for women entrepreneurs. The first workshop happened in January at the Art of the Cowgirl, an annual gathering celebrating cowgirls and their artistic contributions to the Western lifestyle. Tammy Pate, the late founder of Art of the Cowgirl, embraced a spirit of growth and support among women, making this the perfect event to launch.
Boss Mares’ two-day seminar, titled Lead the Herd, was an exciting addition to a series of workshops, contests, and events at Art of the Cowgirl. Attendees listened as experts shared knowledge and resources about running and maintaining successful agricultural businesses.
“What this organization is trying to do is fantastic with women supporting women, providing a chance to grow the industry without gatekeeping ways to grow and achieve success,” said Claire Trafton, digital marketing analyst from Kimes Ranch and a speaker during the Lead the Herd session. “The entire group of women are great people and can only do good.”
Trafton credits the innovative efforts of Boss Mares’ founding trio: equine professional Anna Morrison, who came up with the idea for the group, and fellow equine experts Patti Colbert and Kate Bradley Byars. The trio used the event to express the need for women to support other women in agriculture.
The co-founders of Boss Mares each bring unique talents, abilities, and resumes to the organization:
- Colbert is a renowned horsewoman who created Extreme Mustang Makeover, was the executive director of the Mustang Heritage Foundation, and served on the board of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fall, the American Quarter Horse Association, and the American Stock Horse Association.
- Bradley Byars is a writer and photographer based near Fredericksburg, Texas. She is a storyteller of the Western world and enjoys putting the spotlight on her featured person or group. She has been published in Western Horseman, Horse & Rider, Horse Illustrated, and The American Quarter Horse Journal, among others.
- Morrison has served industry member organizations as chief foundation officer and chief international officer for the American Quarter Horse Association and then as the executive director of the National Reined Cow Horse Association.
Boss Mares aims to offer a leg up for cowgirl and agriculture entrepreneurs inspired by the co-founders’ experiences and challenges in the equine industry and the fact that they all succeeded by leaning on other strong women. Each has a personal example where they were given support, encouragement, mentorships, or someone just helping to lay out plans.
“We wanted to create a way for women to pay it forward to other women,” Morrison said.
The nonprofit workshops are slated to occur where women are already gathered, such as the inaugural session at the Art of the Cowgirl. This event was offered free to attendees thanks to underwriters Sassy Stanton, the Ellen English Family Partnership, Kelsey Delaplaine Fulmer, and the Delaplaine Family Foundation.
Jody Brooks of J.W. Brooks Custom Hats was the keynote speaker in an interview-style presentation with Colbert as the host on Friday. Brooks shared her business story and her challenges while working toward success. Attendees were given time to ask questions, and Brooks gave insightful answers to topics like handling product endorsements and how vital listening and loving your customers is to make your product stand out.
Certified Public Accountant Emily Landry of Whitley Penn followed Brooks, covering accounting basics. Landry suggested outsourcing one’s accounting needs to a reputable accountant as correct financials work to build your legacy.
Trafton from Kimes Ranch rounded out the session with part one of her presentation, covering the essentials of marketing plans. She touched on the importance of a mission and vision statement, citing that a mission statement answers the question of what an organization does and that the vision statement provides a guide to what’s next. Logo design tips and tricks were given, followed by an overview of what and how to use and design a brand guide. Trafton also shared the importance of finding your target market and the details of conducting a competitor analysis.
Mackenzie Kimbro, powerhouse Western influencer from the brand and TV show Roots Run Deep, was a last-minute fill-in due to the illness of the originally scheduled keynote speaker for Saturday. Kimbro, a sixth-generation Arizona cattle rancher, spoke about her many endeavors and how she keeps them all straight. Like all the speakers, Kimbro was open and honest when an attendee asked her how she keeps it all together and balanced. She answered that sometimes, she lets herself have a little cry when things get particularly tough, but then she wipes her tears and gets moving. Kimbro also shared the importance of relying on each other and learning from the best in your area of interest.
Following Kimbro, Associate Attorney Lisa Jones of Dismuke & Water spoke on legal issues that may be important for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Jones covered the importance of following the guidelines for the Corporate Transparency Act, which recently went into effect as of January 2024 and may require small businesses to report information about ownership to the government.
Trafton wrapped up the event with part two of her presentation, where she continued giving take-homes for your marketing plan needs. Saturday’s information included how and when to attend or sponsor events, social media usage and best practices, sponsored athlete ideas and uses, and an overview of the importance of a well-done website for your brand.
Trafton noted that the event participants weren’t the only ones feeling inspired when they headed home. The Monday after the weekend at Art of the Cowgirl, the Michigan Reining Horse Association put a call out for potential board members. After hearing from the other speakers and inspirational stories from attendees, Trafton herself decided to give it a shot.
“I was so impressed with all the speakers and their commitment to themselves and their businesses, their commitment to the community, and what they do to support the people around them,” she said. “The speakers and Boss Mares founders are involved with their horses and agriculture. They are showing and volunteering with their affiliate groups back home.”
She said she believed women must give back to their communities in these ways.
The Boss Mares have set the goal to put on two workshops a year. While the second workshop isn’t officially on the calendar, there is much interest in hosting a workshop, and conversations are working toward a place and date.
The second key goal of Boss Mares is through grants, which provide more targeted support, giving entrepreneurs the opportunities and resources they might need to launch their businesses, grow or change their current companies, or even invest in themselves through continuing education or leadership development.
A candid conversation with Colbert during the Art of the Cowgirl event got to the heart of this program. More women in the equine and agriculture world need to be recognized for their great work and contributions to the industry. However, support is needed to uphold professionalism and step out of the role of “just” the ranch or trainer’s wife. These women need people to look to for support with no gatekeeping. Boss Mares provides that opportunity plus more.
While keeping their vision laser-focused on their set goals, Boss Mares is committed to growing the leaders of the herd by paying it forward. They have an audacious goal of funding twenty-five grants in their first year, but as their website proudly declares, it is achievable.
If you or someone you know is interested in applying for a grant to further your business, head to the Boss Mares Inc. website.
Tiffany Selchow lives on a working cattle ranch in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona. With a life entrenched in the Western lifestyle and agriculture, her goal is to share worthwhile, intriguing, and exciting stories of the rodeo world, ranchers and farmers, the outdoor lifestyle, and more.
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