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VIDEO: Tracy Gray's journey from the wine industry into federal politics

In the second episode in the newly launched series Women Business & Leadership, CEO Nikki Csek and Operations Manager Alexa Anderson are joined by Kelowna–Lake Country MP Tracy Gray.

Tracy Gray was first elected to federal politics in October 2019 and again in September 2021.

Before that, she served as a city councillor for the City of Kelowna from 2014 to 2018.

Although she’s had a successful career in politics for the last decade, she started her journey in business in one of the Okanagan’s staple economies: the wine industry.

She started her career at Mission Hill Winery shortly after arriving in Kelowna.

“That sort of started me on a really long path of learning about the industry, advancing through different positions,” Gray said in an interview with Csek and Anderson.

She and her family spent a short stint in Vancouver in the mid-1990s where she experimented with the brewery industry, working for Granville Island Brewery and Bowen Island Brewery.

After returning to the Okanagan, Tracy and her husband welcomed their first child.

Tracy explained that starting her own family made her stop and reflect on her priorities, which ultimately led to a shift in her career.

“That's when I actually started to bridge getting into entrepreneurship,” Gray said.

“I started a little consulting company. I did work for some wineries here. I ended up working for about 10 different wineries, different special projects and it allowed me the flexibility of being able to work from home.”

After a few years, Gray started Discover Wines, BCVQA Wines and Gifts here in Kelowna.

Throughout that 13-year span in her career, she has received several recognition and awards including RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in 2006.

When she reflects on that award, she recalls the honour she felt being selected out of a pool of thousands of women. She also remembers the marketing boost that national recognition gave her small business.

“So it was all about what we were doing; we were promoting the wine industry and especially little wineries,” she said.

“That was a big focus of ours, was to promote up and coming wineries and just gain exposure for the industry, both for locals and also for visitors.”

After years of interacting with local wine growers, local wine lovers, tourists, and, eventually, city councillors, she started to become interested in municipal politics.

“I was realizing that for my business, for example, that there's a lot that affects a small business in all levels of government,” she said.

“What put me into that decision was I was looking at who was running again, who were incumbents and who was maybe considering running. And I realized that no one was a small business owner.”

Shortly after she was elected to city council, she was appointed to the regional district and from there she began to delve into regional, provincial and federal political issues and learn how all levels of government work.

Gray chats about the several boards she has sat on over the years, the experience she’s gained through work with organizations like the Prospera Credit Union, what sparked her journey into federal politics and how she juggles her career, her family life and plenty more in this fascinating and inspiring interview.

If you have suggestions on women that Nikki and Alexa can interview you can connect them on Linkedin Nikki Csek or Alexa Anderson.

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