Nominated for the BC Small Business Awards!

It is such an incredible honour to be nominated for the BC Small Business Award of 2024! We have been nominated for two categories, the People’s Choice Award and Best Youth Entrepreneur Award! 

Want to help see us get to the shortlisted finalists? You can help us be voting, sharing and telling your friends. Every vote helps!  Thank you! 

 Click Here to Cast Your Vote 

 

Get to know more about Evolution Equestrian

Evolution Equestrian evolved from a shelf in a laundry room and 2 saddle racks on the wall. It soon grew into a brick-and-mortar storefront with a full-service website shipping around the globe! Evolution Equestrian is more than just a tack store; it is a central hub for all things equestrian in the Comox Valley and Vancouver Island. We have options for all budgets with new and used tack and offer something for every equestrian from all ages.

This dream took flight just as Samantha came off maternity leave. A lack of childcare and a need for another income, Samantha decided to take the leap and invest in herself as the ideal location magically came available. It was something we weren’t looking for but everything aligned. Day to day you will still often find our employee of the month our son Jasper "helping" to restock the shelf and pick out his favorite products to put on sale as well as Samantha’s shadow DeHavilland who has been a tack store dog since she was born.

While being a self proclaim “tack-nerd”, Samantha loves to continuously learn and share about horses, tack and their welfare. Each week sharing a short vlog of a #TackTipTuesday with her social media followers.  She loves being able to help her customers solve their tack problems, even if it requires out of the box ideas that they might not have in store.

By being able to offer consignment items, in addition to new, it allows to bring our customers a wider variety of products and brands at great prices.

 

What motivated you to start your business and what is your vision for the future of the company?

Owning my own tack store has always been a dream. With a life-long love of horses and learning, I naturally fell into this career path. Initially, I pursued post-secondary education in Architecture and Building Technology but soon felt the call back to the equestrian world. After some soul-searching, I obtained my coaching certification and undertook working student positions, eventually finding my way to a local tack store. It was there that I realized, “this is what I want to do.”

After seven years at the store, it became clear there was no long-term future for me there. Just as I decided to venture out on my own and found the perfect spot, the world shut down due to COVID-19. Being young with no safety net, I decided to delay taking the leap. During this pause, my husband and I expanded our family, welcoming our son in 2021. This new chapter brought challenges, including a severe lack of childcare. Needing two incomes, I started to build my business from my laundry room, offering consignment tack and saddles from home and through a simple website.

The dream quickly grew with support from the local community, and my stock soon filled the laundry room, expanding into the garage. I created a small space for customers to shop, while expanding my website and offering local drop-off and pick-up services. In early 2023, a customer informed me that the old location I originally had my eyes on was available again. This time, I knew I had to make it work. Having a brick-and-mortar location would advance my business to the next level.

Funding became an issue, as I hadn’t planned to jump into a storefront so soon and had no savings for this expansion. Since I had just finished maternity leave and was working part-time social media work, getting a business loan was challenging. The standard channels didn’t look past the numbers on paper. Then I found WeBC, Women’s Enterprise BC. This incredible organization looked beyond the numbers and saw me as an entrepreneur with a strong business plan and background. Through them, I was able to get the support and a loan to start my business. This helped me do renovations, bring in more stock, and implement point-of-sale technology.

We are just passed our first year of being open at our storefront, and the business has grown much more rapidly than I could have ever expected! We have over 50 brands in stock, with hundreds of consignment items. I am proud to have partnered with several local businesses and artists, giving them a place to sell and display their work. Even though our walk-in traffic brings in the most sales, our online presence is steadily growing as we ship daily across Canada and the United States.

As we expand into the future, I aim to bring in a larger selection of brands and work with more small businesses. Being online always brings the challenge of keeping up with changing times and technology, including SEO information, blog posts, social platforms, and improving website dynamics.

Evolution Equestrian is not just a storefront but also a significant part of the equestrian community on Vancouver Island. We sponsor several shows, clinics, and educational events and hope to support even more events and clubs. During the winter, we host educational talks within our store space. Our vision is to continue growing as a community hub and a leading provider of equestrian products and services.

 

Why do you deserve to win the Best Youth Entrepreneur Award?

Evolution Equestrian began as a humble shelf in a laundry room and two saddle racks on the wall. It has since blossomed into a thriving brick-and-mortar storefront with a full-service website, shipping products worldwide. More than just a tack store, Evolution Equestrian serves as a central hub for all things equestrian in the Comox Valley and Vancouver Island. We cater to all budgets, offering both new and used tack, and provide solutions for equestrians of all ages.

This venture took flight just as I, Samantha, came off maternity leave. Faced with a lack of childcare and the need for another income, I decided to take the leap and invest in myself when an ideal location became available. Everything aligned perfectly, and Evolution Equestrian was born.

Day to day, you’ll often find our "employee of the month," my son Jasper, enthusiastically "helping" to restock shelves and selecting his favorite products to put on sale. My loyal dog, DeHavilland, has been a constant presence in the store since its inception, adding to the welcoming atmosphere.

As a self-proclaimed “tack-nerd,” I continuously strive to learn and share my knowledge about horses, tack, and their welfare. Each week, I engage with my social media followers through a short vlog series called #TackTipTuesday, offering valuable insights and tips. My dedication to customer satisfaction often leads me to devise creative, out-of-the-box solutions to their tack problems, even if it requires finding products we don’t have in store.

Our ability to offer consignment items in addition to new ones allows us to bring a wider variety of products and brands to our customers at great prices. This inclusive approach ensures that we can accommodate all budgets and preferences, making our store accessible to every equestrian enthusiast.

Despite my relative lack of experience, I have demonstrated a solid grasp of business fundamentals, including operations, marketing, finance, and sales. I have overcome challenges such as a lack of credit history and modest asset base, creating a thriving small business with significant growth potential.

Evolution Equestrian is not just a store; it’s a community hub where passion for horses meets practical solutions, driven by my dedication and the collective enthusiasm of the local equestrian community. Thank you for considering Evolution Equestrian for the Our Best Youth Entrepreneur Award.

 

Why do you think you should win the Premier’s People’s Choice Award?

Winning the Premier’s People’s Choice Award for the BC Small Business Awards of 2024 would be an incredible honor. The heart and soul of a small business lie in its community, and Evolution Equestrian exemplifies this principle. Without the unwavering support of the Comox Valley and Vancouver Island community, our dream would have remained in its infancy. Despite a slow launch, juggling motherhood, and starting from home, the community continually chose to support us.

As I prepared to submit this nomination, I reached out to our clients for testimonials and reference letters, and their responses were overwhelmingly positive. Clients described Evolution Equestrian as "always helping and educating," "highly knowledgeable," and praised our dedication with comments like "amazing, selfless, passionate human works her proverbial tail off every day." Such feedback fills me with immense pride and validates the hard work I invest in building and growing this business.

Evolution Equestrian is more than just a brick-and-mortar store; it’s a community hub. We provide a space where the local equestrian community can gather, learn, and receive advice. We actively support local events and riders and offer an online platform to connect and engage. Our social media presence spans Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, where our #TackTipTuesday vlog series provides valuable insights and tips.

Moreover, we cherish opportunities to share knowledge with local groups like the Pony Club and Back Country Horseman’s Association. This commitment to education and community involvement sets Evolution Equestrian apart.

The Premier’s People’s Choice Award would not only honor the business itself but also the incredible community that has supported us from day one. Their recognition of our efforts and their belief in our mission make every challenge worthwhile. We are proud to be a cornerstone of the local equestrian community, and winning this award would be a testament to the power of community support and the impact of small businesses.

 

"Where to start with my admiration for Samantha!! I first "met" Sam through an Island Horses forum as a horse crazy pre-teen. I have watched her grow up, be a hugely successful tack store manager, get married, become a mom and open her own tack store at home during Covid. Samantha's drive, desire and passion for all things horses and her community has never wavered and it is that passion, along with her never ending commitment to excellent customer service, that saw her new business, Evolution Equestrian, take off during a time when so many businesses were struggling. Fast forward to post Covid and her dream location for a storefront became available and the rest is history! Sam is well known up and down Vancouver Island for being a tirelessly friendly and supportive member of her community. All while raising her young son!  The things Sam has accomplished at such a young age and during a global pandemic are testament to her hard work and perseverance. As a fellow small business owner I know firsthand the challenges involved. I honestly cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award than Sam." - Nicole Gibby