2023 Rising Star Jessica Garza: Making place for rural businesswomen
Police officer connects far-flung female vendorsSeptember 14th, 2023
Jessica Garza says her decade of experience as a police officer continuously informs the way she operates her agrotourism business, Moose Valley Ranch Inc.
“It’s the lens through which I view my community and the kind of legacy I want to leave,” she says.
Garza is a full-time police officer with the city of Newport, about 50 miles north of Spokane. When she began her career, it was an adventure, says the 34-year-old officer and entrepreneur. During her time, she also became a trained child forensic interviewer, a field that she hopes to continue to educate the community about after she leaves the police force to dedicate her time to her business.
Moose Valley Ranch covers 1,200 acres of land near the small rural town of Springdale, which has a population of just over 500 and is about 40 miles northwest of downtown Spokane. Garza’s father purchased the land at a tax auction in 1982. She currently lives on the land with her husband, who is the Newport chief of police, and their two children.
At the ranch, which she shares with her brother and his family, Garza has been finding success in agrotourism by hosting events like weddings, photoshoots, custom hunting expeditions, snow-shoe elopements, and “glamping,” which is glamorous camping with amenities that include a real mattress and access to running water.
Nearly all of her advertising is either through word-of-mouth or Instagram.
Her success as an entrepreneur inspired her desire to share her experience with the community and connect with other woman business owners. However, because Springdale and some neighboring small towns don’t have chambers of commerce, Garza and Alexandra Hoskins, owner of Alexandra Rae Photo, created Gather, an event for rural, female entrepreneurs, hosted at Moose Valley Ranch.
“People don’t always understand the challenges that come with living so far from town, being so far removed from resources,” she says. “Most of us don’t live in towns that are even big enough to have a chamber of commerce.”
In its third year, Gather is much like a rural chamber of commerce for businesswomen, says Jessica Garza.
At Gather events, women who run agricultural and retail businesses congregate to offer support, community, and connection. Each event hosts about 60 female entrepreneurs, with an even larger online community.
Amanda Landreth, director of lending administration at Liberty Lake-based STCU and 2022 Journal of Business Rising Star, says Garza has gone above and beyond to create something that wasn’t there.
“People who are self-employed or live on a family farm are disconnected but still want that sense of community. That is what she is trying to address and bring together,” says Landreth.
Garza says Gather is her passion project as it doesn’t generate profit yet. Rather, its expenses are covered through ticket sales and other promotional sponsorships.
“My whole goal is to show other women entrepreneurs that you can do this, and you can do it so far from town, and you can do it with limited resources and with your kids,” says Garza. “Sometimes I think there is a dichotomy between businesspeople who wear a suit and go to the office every day and what we’re doing. But at the end of the day, the revenue and the economic impact is no different.”
Last October, Gather hosted its first Market in the Mountains, in which 35 vendors set up booths to sell goods and wares at Moose Valley Ranch.
Market in the Mountains will be held again on Sept. 30, and Garza says she expects it will attract over 70 vendors.