Editor’s note: In 2020 it should be no surprise that more and more woman hold positions of power. Whether it’s business, politics, sports or the non-profit sector, woman continue to achieve new milestones. This story is part of a series of stories highlighting 16 women in Kelowna who are leaders in their fields.You can read all of their stories in our annual publication called Women in Business in the Feb. 28 issue of Kelowna Capital News.
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Moving to Kelowna at the age of 19, Tracy Gray had no idea the impact she would have on the political landscape of the city.
As the first female MP elected to represent Kelowna-Lake Country in 2019, she has spent the better part of the last decade toiling in both municipal and now federal politics.
While politics might be her current passion, she still considers herself an entrepureur and it’s easy to see why.
Fresh out of business classes at a community college in her hometown of Lethbridge, Alta., Gray took up a job in the wine industry as a tour guide at Mission Hill Winery in 1989. At the time, she knew nothing about wine and had to memorize a tour manual in just a few days.
“I remember conducting my first tour, which was a full bus-load of people, and hoping no one asked me any questions because I knew nothing outside of what was written in that manual.”
Gray took to the wine business quickly, rewriting that manual two years later to make it easier for new hires.
As she took on new positions with other wineries and breweries through the ’90s, Gray decided it was time to make her own endeavour into the industry.
Flash forward to 2003 and Gray launched Discover Wines, privately owned wine store.
As Gray and her team prepared to open their first storefront, the Okanagan Mountain Park wildfire struck. A third of Kelowna was evacuated, including Gray and some of her team. They cancelled their grand opening, but despite the challenges within a year they became the number one VQA wine store in the province of BC.
“It wasn’t about selling bottles of wine to people, it was about building relationships, promoting and helping the wine industry, especially new small wineries, and promoting local artists and small food producers.”
It was through her extensive experience in the business world, serving people and building relationships within the community, she decided to run for Kelowna city council in 2014. Gray felt small business needed a voice in municipal politics.
“That role exposed me to every aspect of the community and all levels of government, which led me into serving at the federal level,” said Gray.
Gray unseated incumbent Liberal MP Stephen Fuhr in the 2019 federal election, taking the riding back for the Conservative Party.
Since getting settled in her new office in Ottawa, Gray said she’s focusing on what she knows best: serving people.
“I’m an entrepreneur who just happens to be working in politics right now,” she said with a laugh.