By Lakisha Meade, CPCDC Grants and Finance Coordinator
In the heart of Norman, Oklahoma, lies Sunset Ranch, a sprawling equine boarding facility that serves as a testament to dreams coming true, resilience and the invaluable support provided by the Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Corporation. This is the remarkable story of CPN tribal member and Peltier/Vieux family descendant Jessica King, the visionary behind Sunset Ranch.
For Jessica, a seasoned manager at Oklahoma Gas & Electric with over a decade of experience, life had always been about balancing work and family. She held a bachelor’s degree in management and ethics from Mid-America Christian University and a master’s in business administration with an emphasis in energy management from Oklahoma Baptist University. Her dedication to her career and raising her daughter, who was pursuing a master’s in counseling psychology at East Central University, left little room for pursuing personal passions.
However, life has a way of shifting perspectives, and for Jessica, that shift was profound and unexpected. It came in the form of a tragic loss — the untimely passing of her mother, an avid horsewoman, at the age of 55. This loss brought into sharp focus the notion of not waiting until retirement to pursue one’s dreams. Jessica began to contemplate the possibility of owning horses herself, a lifelong aspiration that she thought could only be realized much later in life. The prospect of moving to the countryside and starting her own ranch seemed distant, but Jessica’s determination was unwavering.
Her search for a more immediate solution led her to Travis Ranch, an impressive 240-acre equine boarding facility conveniently located just five minutes from her home in Norman. It was here that Jessica’s journey took an unexpected turn. While exploring the possibility of boarding her horses at Travis Ranch, she discovered that the property was not just available for boarding — it was for sale.
This revelation ignited a spark within Jessica. Her dream of horse ownership suddenly expanded from a modest 10-40 acres in the distant future to a grand vision of acquiring Travis Ranch, a property of unparalleled scale and opportunity. However, this ambitious dream came with a formidable financial barrier. Jessica did not have the capital required for a down payment, and traditional lenders were reluctant to provide the necessary financing.
This is where Jessica’s tenacity and the CPCDC’s support intertwined. Drawing on her experience and connections, she reached out to the CPCDC, a lifeline that would make her dream attainable. CPCDC’s Felecia Freeman became her guiding light through this complex journey.
With CPCDC’s help, Jessica embarked on a three-year odyssey to secure her dream property. Their partnership was more than just financial; it was about innovative problem-solving and unwavering support. The challenges were substantial, but Jesssica was determined to see her vision through.
She submitted her first commercial loan application in January 2021, only to face a setback when it was initially declined due to revenue constraints. In the face of adversity, Jessica and Felecia devised a plan — negotiate the purchase price, increase revenue or find the right partner.
Undeterred, Jessica delved deep into the property’s financials, identifying opportunities to boost revenue by increasing boarders and improving rent collection. While her commitment was unwavering, it became evident that finding the right partner would be the key to success.
The journey continued with the pursuit of potential partners. The first prospect seemed promising but ultimately withdrew from the opportunity. Jessica’s perseverance remained unshaken. The second set of potential partners, experienced and enthusiastic about the venture, ignited new hope. Yet, once again, uncertainty loomed as they deliberated.
Then came a moment of serendipity. During a lunch meeting with Mary Westman, a boarder at Travis Ranch and a supportive friend, Jessica received an email that would change everything. Her second set of potential partners regretfully withdrew their interest. With mixed emotions, Jessica finished her lunch and, after processing the news, shared it with Mary.
In a surprising turn of events, Mary Westman, not just a friend but an equine attorney with a deep understanding of the property and its challenges, offered a glimmer of hope. She asked Jessica if she had a business plan and whether she would be interested in presenting it to her husband, David.
Jessica’s response was filled with a mix of excitement, anticipation and trepidation. What followed was a pivotal meeting where she presented her business plan to Mary and David Westman. The outcome was nothing short of a dream come true. Mary, David and Jessica decided to join forces and pursue the opportunity to acquire historic Travis Ranch.
In October 2022, they submitted a commercial loan application that marked a turning point in Jessica’s journey. Freeman and the CPCDC remained steadfast pillars of support throughout, participating in countless meetings and offering guidance to keep the process on track.
Finally, on Jan. 20, 2023, Jessica King, alongside Mary and David Westman, celebrated the opening of their new Sunset Ranch — a momentous achievement that had been three years in the making. Jessica has since brought her daughter on board, making this a family business.
This transformative journey taught Jessica invaluable lessons. It proved that dreams could be grander than imagined and that “no” was not always a dead end but sometimes a redirection toward the right path. Trust in the process and the support of the CPCDC allowed her to create a legacy and fulfill a lifelong dream.
Jessica King’s story is a testament to the power of determination, the importance of seeking unconventional solutions and the role of unwavering support from organizations like the CPCDC in making dreams come true.
To those considering a similar path, Jessica’s advice is simple, “Do it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to get something wrong. CPCDC is your partner and will help you through the challenges. CPCDC made my dream possible.”
To learn more, visit sunsetranchok.info. Sunset Ranch is a gated facility. Guests may call 405-726-0246 for assistance, and boarders are assigned a gate code for entry and exit.
The CPCDC is a tribally chartered nonprofit corporation that provides capital for projects that create a healthy tribal economy through a commercial loan program tailor packaged to help Native American businesses become more competitive and profitable. Learn more at cpcdc.org or on Facebook at @CPNCDFI.