A rural entrepreneur who started in a city helps other ranchers, their kids, and their families to start their businesses.
Mary Heffernan worked as a founder, CEO, and rancher before becoming her current title. Brian and Mary Heffernan successfully managed ten small businesses. They have a tutoring center, a floral shop, as well two farm-to-table eateries. Now, her singular focus is on Five Marys Farms. This name is in honor of Mary and her four daughters, named Mary after memorable aunts and grandparents on both sides.
The ranch was meant to be a getaway destination and a source of quality meats to their restaurant customers. Mary and Brian decided to relocate their family from Silicon Valley, California, to Sharps Gulch Ranch. It is a 160-year old livestock farm located in Fort Jones in California. They lost much of their belongings in Los Altos, where they moved to a 780-square feet caretaker’s cabin and a house measuring 5,000 square feet. However, Mary’s passion was for finding business opportunities. Mary is currently the owner of Five Marys Burger house. Five Marys Meats. Camp Five Marys. M5 Entrepreneurs Small-Business Academy. M5 Ranch School.
Mary started the M5 Ranch School in 2020. Mary wanted to share with others the skills and lessons her children learn through raising animals and ranching. M5 Ranch School emphasizes vocational skills and age-old skills like candlemaking and welding. There are also lessons about ranch life, such as using tractors and farm implements and harvesting trees. Classes can be viewed in videos, with printable lessons, how-to books, and suitable activities for all levels.
M5 Ranch School has enrolled more than 5,000 students to date. Students range from pre-schoolers to lifelong learners. Kimberly Walker, a mother of five children (aged 15, 5, 8,10, and 11), resides in Eddy, Texas. She was searching for activities to enhance her daughters’ homeschool curriculum. The video components and well-planned lessons and worksheets made it easy for her to add the M5 tasks. Walker said, “The Ranch School inspired us in many different ways. We were able to stop putting off having chickens because of the workshop “all about chickens.” We were able to get baby chicks from the workshop after the girls learned how a chicken house is constructed.
Nearly every workshop was attended by the older sisters, from candlemaking to leatherworking and cooking lessons. They took the knowledge and opened 5 Sisters Handmade, where they now sell their products. They are now selling their candles and leather goods at a local store and looking forward to selling their products at the craft fair in their community. Kyrie, 10, said that the M5 lessons were “fun” because she received worksheets which helped her figure out how much each item would cost and how they could be turned into a business.
Mary is also committed to empowering the parents of M5 Ranch School young entrepreneurs. Her e-course, The M5 Entrepreneurs academy, offers videos, workbooks, downloads, and access to resources and a community of adult entrepreneurs. These courses cover everything you have to know about starting your own business, particularly in the agricultural sector, branding, social media, shipping, and more. Mary and Brian regularly host live Q&A sessions.
Hannah and Daniel Neelman (@ballerinafarm), Academy members, said they met Mary early in their quest to become new ranchers. Their business has grown from nothing to booming within three years of following the advice and guidance provided by the M5 Entrepreneurs program.
Mary inspires others because of her experience building something from scratch. The family began living on the ranch full-time in 2014 after watching YouTube videos and reading books. They also talked with neighbors and relied on Brian’s brother-in-law, an Eastern Oregon cattle rancher of the fifth generation. The ranch was not equipped with any infrastructure such as irrigation or fencing. They had to build almost everything from the ground up. This included silos to store feed and pole barns to store winter hay. Watering systems were also needed for pastures and animals. There are still improvements, especially in the vintage farmhouse, which was built in 1868.
Mary is available to anyone not enrolled at M5 Ranch School or the M5 Entrepreneurs program. Followers of @fivemaryfarms on Instagram can also get a front-row seat for the real-time lessons taught at the farm. Mary was filming ten piglet deliveries a few months ago and sharing it with her nearly 250,000 followers. Mary was there to help, and the piglets survived. Things became a little more complicated when there was so much time between births. The whole experience is shared on Instagram and shared with M5 Ranch School.
Mary wants to expand her reach as a teacher. Mary recently recorded ten episodes on her podcast Boots & Bangles. She is co-hosting the show with Ann Williams, sister founder of Yearly Company that sells 14-karat-gold jewelry. The episodes highlight the lessons learned during their small business ventures. Topics include how young people can be entrepreneurs. Mary founded Mary’s Summer Fun Camp when she was in junior high. Mary hosted 15-20 children in her backyard every week and made a lot of money. We’ll be sharing lessons from our early days, including advice about starting before we think we are ready, hiring slowly, firing fast, and how to use influencer marketing as small brands.
Mary has learned so much from people who are willing to share their expertise. Now she is just as passionate about sharing that knowledge with other entrepreneurs. Hannah Klitz, the founder of Oak Barn Beef, shared her knowledge a few years ago. Hannah was a recent college graduate looking for an internship. Five Marys Farms was her choice. Mary was a summer intern at Five Marys Farms, helping Klitz launch her ranch-raised beef export business. Mary shares that seeing young entrepreneurs start their successful businesses excites her the most.