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Melfort woman turns passion for health, food into business

Raianne Maga, owner of RJ’s Urban Garden Cafe in Melfort, said passion, purpose and commitment are essential. talked to Maga about her business for Women Entrepreneurs Week.
Raianne Maga, owner of RJ’s Urban Garden Cafe, is one of many women entrepreneurs who contribute to the province's economy.

MELFORT — Raianne Maga, chef, owner and operator of RJ’s Urban Garden Cafe turned her passion for health, food and serving others into a business that serves the Northeast.

Maga, 38, grew up on a mixed farm north of Gronlid. She is the oldest of four siblings and is a mother to two boys. 

“The nature of farm work taught me the value of hard work and responsibility,” she said. “Also, no matter what you do, passion, purpose and commitment are essential. You never know what Mother Nature will throw at you over the course of a season. Farm life taught me how to overcome adversity, persevere when things get tough and gave me a drive and determination that have served me well on this journey.”

Women Entrepreneurs Week is May 14 to 20, a time to focus on the contributions women make to Saskatchewan's business community and our province's economic prosperity.

"So many women have contributed their entrepreneurial vision to our province," Minister Responsible for the Status of Women Laura Ross said. "Their success has helped shape our economy and our future, and the number of women business owners keeps growing. Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan has been supporting women on this journey for many years and our government is proud to proclaim Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan Week."

Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan (WESK) is a non-profit dedicated to helping women start, grow, and scale their businesses. They offer a wide range of services, and ultimately, look to connect like-minded professionals and empower female entrepreneurs of every age, stage and culture.

Maga credits motherhood to creating a gateway to entrepreneurship and the idea of RJ’s Urban Garden Café. It’s not uncommon for Maga to be changing hats throughout the day.

“One moment I am learning and teaching, the next I am creating and plating, washing dishes, serving, hosting, bar tending, mopping floors, accounting, scheduling or ordering supplies.“

Maga said the City of Melfort was important for her success and the support that they have given to her business.

Maga is passionate about real food and connections and conversations with people.

“My heart has always been in food service and hospitality industry and after working in financial services in the downtown core I found it frustrating that I couldn’t get a quick healthy meal, downtown. “ After her second son was born she made a plan to start her restaurant.  

Melfort is home for Maga.

“The City of Melfort is a beautiful community with all of the essentials. It is a great place to raise a family and build a life. The creation of RJ’s was twofold: meet a niche need in my community and lead my boys by example. Teaching them that they can do hard things and that it is never too late to pursue your passions.”

RJ’s is located in the heart of downtown Melfort settled comfortably in a 1905 heritage building on Burrows West. We are a specialty coffee shop and full service licensed family restaurant offering dine in and take out or enjoy a seat in our outdoor dining area, home of the “Weeping Willow family tree” created by local artist Rob Jüng and his son.

Maga said that not all things have come easy and when RJ’s Urban Garden first opened six years, she deatl with a failed partnership in the first six months of startup and then, 20 months later, had to temporarily close because of the pandemic.

“Our success comes with much sacrifice, hard work, quality teamwork, many setbacks and unknowns with our industry being one of the hardest hit sectors.”

It was during the pandemic that Maga became a member of the Melfort Trade Alliance Chamber of Commerce. Participating in zoom meetings, collaborating and connecting with other business owners and management teams trying to make sense of the times. It was shortly after the Melfort Trade Alliance Chamber of Commerce was formed that she quickly volunteered and was nominated to sit on the board.

“Over the years we have supported numerous nonprofits and individuals in our community, with a particular focus on food security and mental health initiatives. Both are very close to my heart. Many of our donations are made anonymously. If there is a need and we can help, we will. When we host private events, our rental fee goes into a ‘good food box.’ We use these funds to donate cash or meal donations to families that have experienced the loss of a loved one, medical procedures, illness, displacement, homelessness or other crisis.

Our goal is to continue to increase these supports working in partnership with other local community outreach initiatives.

“There have been many remarkable women that have inspired my journey. My grandma, my mom and sister are three that have pushed me to be who I am today and everyone I meet throughout my day gives me so much more than they even know.”

Miriam Johnson, chief executive officer of Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan, said women entrepreneurs are a vital part of Saskatchewan's business landscape.

"By encouraging collaboration amongst all organizations interested in progressing women entrepreneurs, we can help close the gender gap and promote economic growth in our province."

To help businesses and individuals in finding and supporting women entrepreneurs, WESK hosts a Saskatchewan women-owned business database that currently holds more than six hundred business listings. 

There are several other programs that are available for women entrepreneurs ready to take their business to the next step. The SK Startup Institute helps entrepreneurs with the first steps in creating their business. Innovation Saskatchewan's Saskatchewan Technology Startup Incentive encourages investment in early-stage technology startups via tax credits. The Scale Up for Entrepreneurs initiative provides eligible entrepreneurs with training, skills and knowledge to grow their business.