It’s a long way from Modesto, California to Bobcaygeon – particularly with stops in Toronto, Nairobi, Kenya, and Gulu, Uganda – but for the owner of the award-winning Kicking Cowgirl Designs western boutique, the journey has been a summation of her skills, passions, and vocation.
Kimberly Dawn had come to the family cottage in Buckhorn since her youth, but made a permanent move to the Kawarthas four years ago. Prior to that she called Toronto home, operating her western boutique from a storefront in a section of her parents’ silk screening shop. Similar to the present store in Bobcaygeon, her 416 location sold western wear ranging from boots, to belts, to hats, to clothing, but the entire business originated from screened t-shirts she sold as a fund-raiser years earlier.
Dawn was preparing for an upcoming mission trip with World Embrace to Uganda but had more money to raise. She and a friend designed the original Kicking Cowgirl buckle logo graphic; she tapped mom and dad to do the screening and then sold them from a booth at a major car show in Mississauga. After selling out the first day, she took orders to fill and ship during the following week and closed out the weekend with enough sales to fund the trip.
This was not her first trip to Africa, having spent time in Kenya as well with another humanitarian group. The opportunity left a meaningful impression on the then 26-year old, so much so that she stayed for three years, establishing among other things, the Sandals for Souls initiative. In it, Canadians are challenged to give up their Tim Hortons or Starbucks for one day and use that money to buy a pair of flip-flops or sandals for donation to the program. She has had to check up to 48 hockey equipment bags full of shoes on subsequent relief mission flights to Uganda.
The desire to help out where she can has not waned, and Dawn now sets aside 20 per cent of her sales for local and international giving. She still supports a family in Uganda, a camp in Gravenhurst, and responds to local requests as needs arise.
Recently, the store made an impact with voters at the RockN W Report, a website dedicated to the western industry that conducts an annual reader’s choice award competition. After battling it out with every western shop in North America, Kicking Cowgirl Designs was voted Best Western Boutique.
Dawn attributes part of the win to her charitable efforts, which were described in the store’s on-line voting profile, but also points out that the store has become a destination for western clothing fans on the strength of quality products, fair pricing, and excellent selection. It is not unusual for customers to spend 2 or 3 hours in the store, or to drive that long to get there.
Dawn herself knows a thing or two about driving, since on many summer weekends she hauls the Kicking Cowgirl Designs or a Kicking Cowboy Designs merchandise trailer to rodeos in Ontario, Quebec, or the U.S.
With four years and international recognition under her studded belt, Kimberly Dawn sees continued growth for the company, and hopes to open a second store in the US, or western Ontario. She proudly notes that the Bobcaygeon shop is staffed locally, the silk screening is done right in Bobcaygeon, and she sources local or Canadian-made product whenever possible. Look for the KCD trailers at the Lindsay Pro Rodeo in July.