EAST GARAFRAXA – From the barn to businesswomen, two entrepreneurs are working to transform the world of women’s rodeo, “one cattle tag at a time.”
100K Cattle Tag, a retail company based out of Dufferin County, offers quarterly releases of leather and steel cattle tag keychains.
The company also pairs as a rodeo event fundraiser, with the goal of redirecting the funds raised from keychain sales back into rodeo sponsorships and women’s events.
Robyn Schieck of Dufferin County and Morriah Gilman, based out of Didsbury, Alberta, are the women behind this operation.
Schieck said the pair saw that although rodeo is a traditional sport, it took a long time for women’s barrel racing to get incorporated into the National Finals Rodeo (NFR).
“It’s mostly a male dominated sport,” Schieck said. “And I think it takes a long time because you need the sponsorship and funding.
“And the girls just have a harder time getting the sponsorship because it’s still so new.”
‘It’s really a community’
Schieck won her first breakaway buckle last summer. Her husband has rodeoed his whole life and she figured “I better get on board or I’m going to be sitting bored on the sidelines.
“Breakaway makes it so much more inviting, I think, for women to become a part of the sport,” she explained.
Schieck has now transitioned to team roping, but she got her confidence for team roping by starting with breakaway.
“It’s just you and your horse and you go out there and you do your thing,” Schieck said. “You don’t have to worry about whether you are going to catch for your partner.
“And in our community in Ontario, it’s really, really supportive,” she added. “And there’s so many girls out there and everybody’s willing to help lend a hand give you advice.”
“It’s really a community,” Gilman added. “It’s really a place where a lot of women I feel find their passion and are able to get together with a group of like-minded women who have the same ambitions and learn from each other and help each other.
“You get the community rallying behind you to build you up and help you realize your potential.”
How it works
Schieck said the company began as a way to generate funds to give back to the customer.
When a customer purchases a cattle tag, they receive a code that they can then enter to win anywhere from 25 cents to $100,000.
From there, all proceeds are then put back into the community, primarily the roping community, the pair noted.
“We’re focusing on breakaway, but it’s just overall in general helping welcome more women and make rodeo more accessible for women,” Schieck explained.
“It’s about the whole community in the long run,” she said. “But what we found is most of our customer base are the people that might be also benefiting from our sponsorships in the future.”
Although events have been limited due to the pandemic, the company has been able to sponsor some events including the Bob Feist Invitational and the Wrangler Bob Feist Reno Championship last year.
Right now, the pair is looking forward to sponsoring the World Race in Oklahoma.
“Really, we’re trying to make it more accessible,” Gilman said. “We’re trying to make it easier for women to get into the sport by hosting clinics and sponsoring events.
“But then we’re also trying to help the women who are competing get down the road, because competing in rodeo is not inexpensive.
“And if we can kind of help those women who are really going for it get down the road by adding to pay outs when we are able to, and just making their dreams more attainable, that’s what our goal is.”
Events have been limited
Because the company’s business structure is solely based online, Gilman said they haven’t been largely impacted by the pandemic.
However, they’ve noticed a big shift in how the pandemic has impacted the sport of rodeo as a whole and their ability to sponsor events in Canada has been limited.
“When there were events, you were at limited capacity for what you could have for spectators,” Gilman said.
“And then of course, that limits the rodeo company’s ability to pay out events and really make it an event or a rodeo that people can go there and really know that it’s going to be awesome for either learning or growing as a competitor.
“So we’ve noticed that from a competitive standpoint, COVID has affected that side a lot.”
With many rodeo producers choosing not to plan ahead due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, Gilman said the event in Oklahoma was concrete, allowing them to develop ideas on the “when, where, what, how” of planning.
“And with the amount of competitors being there, we thought that we’d be able to reach a wide enough audience and really do the most with what we could, sponsorship wise,” she explained.
“Really, we just want to try and help as many people as we can, borders notwithstanding.”
Due to the pandemic and the impact on housing prices, Gilman and her family moved to Alberta in May of last year.
“We kind of started looking at what our options are and realized that even if I was across the country, that actually would give us opportunities to reach a wider audience than both of us being in one central location,” Gilman said.
“So I’ve been able to create a lot of relationships in Alberta with Alberta rodeos and competitors in that area, to reach sponsorships out there and create relationships out there.”
Since then, they’ve done their first drop, they’ve learned a lot and Gilman said there’s going to be a big pivot within the company, but the pair is confident it’s going to be even better.
Being a part of the equine community
“It’s like my life,” Schieck said of what the equine community means to her.
Gilman, who didn’t grow up on a farm or within agriculture, started riding horses when she was about five years old.
“Coming from my background, we didn’t have a lot of money or a lot of access to competing or showing or anything like that,” she explained.
“So I pretty much worked from the age of 13 on to be able to afford horses, because like Robin said, it’s my life, and it always has been.”
Gilman said every path she’s gone down in life has been directed by her love for horses, and her desire to have a life with horses and rodeo and competing.
“So when I knew that there was an opportunity to kind of give back and support a community that has really meant so much to me throughout my life, I just thought it was like a really great idea,” she said.
“For me, on a personal level to be able to offer something to 13-year-old me that didn’t have access to anything like this when I was younger and would have loved to have some more opportunities … to be able to support someone in a way where those opportunities didn’t exist when we were younger, I thought was a really awesome idea.”
While their goal is to give back as much money as they can to the equine community, Schieck said one thing they’d love to see and be able to make happen is to have breakaway roping and women’s team roping in the main NFR performances.
“We would love to one day have an equine community centre in a central location to be able to put on subsidized or free clinics, make it a place where it’s just so much more cost effective to learn and practice and compete and just gain more experience for anybody,” Schieck added.
“The horse industry in general is not accessible very easily to people who either don’t have the money [or] haven’t grown up in it,” Gilman added.
“And to be able to maybe make that more widely accessible and affordable for people would be awesome.”
The next merchandise drop for 100K Cattle Tag is in June. More information can also be found at their website, www.100kcattletag.com or on 100K Cattle Tag’s Instagram and Facebook.
“The format’s going to be a little bit different, but I think it’s going to really appeal a lot to our current customer base and what we’ve kind of come to realize our overall customer base is going to be,” Schieck said.