Living on a small wilderness farm between St. Charles and Hagar for the past eight years, Jennifer Crawford has acquired an affinity to the wilderness, wildlife, and her first love, her Siberian husky sled dogs.
Home schooling offered Crawford special opportunities and benefits. This suited her lifestyle of disciplined learning, enriching and empowering her quest for knowledge and learning at her doorstep.
Inheriting, from her mother, what were to become her 25 most loyal friends, Crawford juggled scholastic work and the caring for her Siberian huskies. She successfully completed her high school studies before the age of 16, and was confronted with the dilemma of what to do next.
Reinforced by her love of animals, she embarked on the bio-med course at Laurentian University before she turned 17, pursuing the laudable goal to become a veterinarian.
Her first year at university was a whirl of classes, travelling back and forth to Laurentian (an hour each way), and the demands of caring for her family of very exuberant, high energy dogs.
While Crawford rose to the challenges of algebra, chemistry and cellular biology, an introductory course in psychology changed her course of study. She changed her focus to the psychology program which enabled her to take many of her courses through distant learning. This meant she could spend more time with her dogs and develop skills that she would call upon in the future.
Her enjoyment of sledding and the delights of sharing her hobby with others led to the possibilities of developing a business. After six months of careful study, planning, researching and good old-fashioned hard work, a business plan was in place for M.U.S.H.E.R.S. Dog Sled Tours.
Crawford was able to access government resources for small businesses with a plan that was submitted to Economic Partners (funded by Industry Canada and Fednor) for seed money loans.
Community development officers were not burdened with confidence about loaning money to a 19-year-old, but with some hard work, her loan was approved just after her 20th birthday.
After her graduation with a baccalaureate degree from Laurentian in 2009, Crawford saw the rapid approach of her second year in business. Plans had to be made and business goals established with all the pre-season demands of time and energy.
The final product was a dog sled touring company that offers both standard winter packages and customizable unique packages. In fact, so unique is her vision compared to other dog sledding companies in Ontario, that Crawford named the business M.U.S.H.E.R.S.: Making Unique Siberian Husky Experiences Running Sleds.
Using primarily Siberian Husky sled dogs – though she rescues dogs from owners who don’t realize that the cute little puppy pet can grow into 70 pounds of time consuming energy unfit for normal family life – she therefore can’t always pick and choose the breeds. She offers a historic experience designed for all ages and abilities that challenges physical and psychological limits, promoting healthy, active living. These packages can last a few hours to several days, with a special package exclusive for families and youth groups.
M.U.S.H.E.R.S. is so unique that it is not stationary from one location. She travels with the dogs to schools, municipal events, fairs, carnivals, and lodges to offer an unforgettable experience.
On her experiences, Crawford reflects that most students are under the impression that once they leave school, they no longer have to complete assignments or report to anybody. In the “real world” and homework never ends regardless of your age.
Thinking back to that choice five years ago to become a veterinarian, she never would have guessed that she would become an entrepreneur before the age of 20 with a bachelor’s degree!
“Regardless of where your life has been, and where you think it’s taking you right now, you always have the power to take it anywhere you choose with a little dedication and hard work,” she says.
A visit with Crawford and to explore the programs that she offers is an enlightening experience and like a true musher – you will never look back. She is a great ambassador of Laurentian,and the youth of our community – the true spirit of the north.
If you are interested in learning more about Jennifer or M.U.S.H.E.R.S. and the packages she offers, visit: www.sledtours.ca!