2011 Winners

Timmins | Young Entrepreneur

Leslie-Anne McKee

Leslie-Anne McKee

Young Entpreneur Leslie-Anne McKee (Dupuis) is passionate about singing.

"Music is the soul of life. It's like breathing. The first time I sang on stage, I was 10 years old."

After winning numerous singing contests, and recording in Nashville, McKee now runs the bar where she first sang, J.J.'s Ranch in Schumacher near Timmins.

"Singing puts everything back into perspective for me. I think it's what keeps my grandma going strong and keeps my family together. It's also a great stress reliever."

Since McKee took over J.J. Ranch's from her parents in 2004, dinners with her parents more often than not turn into business meetings. Her husband pitches in with the business as well, dropping off bank deposits, and rearranging his schedule around hers.

"Shawn is everything to me...he's the backbone that helps me do the crazy things I do. It takes all of us to do what I'm doing."

And what she is doing is a lot. In addition to her music, and running the bar, and raising her son, she also devotes time and energy toward raising money for a variety of causes.

"I was always taught to lend a hand whenever you can by my parents and grandparents."

The bar raised $1,500 in one night in November for the homeless shelter, the Good Samaritan Inn.

"With the retirement home having burnt down earlier this year, we were happy to hear that the money we helped raise bought bunk beds that can be used by some of the seniors."

Of her Métis and First Nation's heritage, McKee says, "The women in our family are very strong and determined. My grandma, still singing in her 80s, taught me not to give up. And my mom, well, I probably couldn't breathe without my mom. She gives me direction, guidance, love, and support."

All three generations can be found at J.J.'s Ranch on Friday nights, with McKee bartending, her mom running karaoke, and her grandmother on "security."

"Grandma'll sing a song or two, but then she sits and watches everyone. We all leave together at closing time."

Her hours are long, but McKee's been able to set her work schedule in order to carve out quality time for her son.

Intertwined with J.J.'s Ranch will be McKee's own entrepreneurial baby, Tickiboo Studios, set to open within a year.

"I'll be recording some of my own music with my band of eight years, and I will also offer musicians in the North a professional recording facility, in addition to teaching vocals."

McKee's music career highlight was winning the Canadian Open in Simcoe. Two years earlier, she hadn't made the top 10, so she wasn't taking the competition as seriously as she might have.

"I only brought one outfit, and I had to reappear each time I made the short list...winning was like an Olympic moment.

"Then I won over $10,000 in cash and three other major contests within the next three weeks, and I was 22!"

Unfortunately, she lost two record deals because they said she was too heavy.

"It's a bit of a fickle industry, but it won't stop me from singing. There's no such thing as 'stop' in our family, just go, go, go.

"I'm only 35, and I still have a lot more music in me."