A strong community can promote new ideas and ensure accountability. It can also act as motivation, support and even provide a little friendly competition. The power of community is undeniable, and the Okanagan tech community is no exception.
Our community is strong and growing with record speed, and maintaining connections through a period of growth like this can be a challenge. Nobody panic. We’ve got a plan.
This is “The Faces of #OKGNtech,” a showcase of Okanagan tech entrepreneurs, partners, supporters and cheerleaders designed to fuel more connection, more growth and more excitement. Follow along on the blog and on Instagram at @OKGNtech to learn more about our growing community and what makes them awesome.
Meet Markku. Markku Luopa is a freelance graphic designer and founder of CDN apparel. When he’s not creating one-of-a-kind designs, you’ll find Markku reminiscing about playing slow pitch and spending time at the gym in a pre-COVID world.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
As a freelancer, the thing that I like the most is being able to work with small businesses or individuals with ideas that I can help bring to life. Being able to drive downtown and see some of my designs on buildings or store signs hasn’t gotten old. For CDN, it’s being able to share a great story with what we’re trying to do and get people excited about apparel that’s made in Canada. It’s been so cool to have people message us after they’ve bought a sweater and tell me that it’s their favourite thing to wear.
What made you want to start CDN?
The driving factor was seeing apparel in airports around the country that say Canada 14 different ways with a toque-wearing moose on it. That, to me, wasn’t an accurate representation of Canada. That’s where my vision came from. The apparel doesn’t need to be loud, it can just be your favourite black shirt that you know was made in Canada.
Was it difficult having all manufacturing in Canada?
Yes, 100%. Especially when we’re trying to achieve price points that resonate with the consumer when they’re used to paying $15 for a T-shirt. Everybody has a budget and everyone works within certain means. We’re giving people an opportunity to buy apparel to modify their wardrobe and support local.
How did you get into this kind of work?
I always loved playing around with designs, drawings, fonts or whatever the case was. I finished school, started working with some fitness studios, and that just snowballed into helping various other people with their logos. There’s a certain percentage of luck, but there were a lot of hard days and long nights where you’re working for low costs.
What advice would you give to someone interested in a job like yours?
Your portfolio is yours. Don’t let people tell you what you should be doing for free. One thing I hate is doing work “for exposure” or “for my portfolio.” Those are things that I don’t regret, but it’s one piece of advice that I’ve shared. If something takes you only an hour that doesn’t mean you didn’t spend thousands of hours learning and perfecting your craft.
Do you think there is anything missing from the community here?
As a freelancer, it seems like we are competing for work, which isn’t what we want. I think that it would be great if there was something that could help bring us all together. There have been a lot of times where people have reached out to me asking to do some work for them and it just didn’t fit my skill set. I love having 10 or 12 people in B.C. that I can refer out to when something doesn’t fit.
The best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Or can share?
Believe in yourself. When it comes to creating a brand, it’s overwhelming how often the outside world tells you it’s not going to work. The only thing that keeps you going is yourself and the ability to pull yourself back up. The most successful businesses aren’t always the best ideas, but they’re the ones that kept at it the most. That’s something I draw on quite often.
Is there something you want to be remembered for?
As a designer, it would be cool to be remembered for leaving a mark on the city. Whether it’s the work for Tourism Kelowna or Okanagan Lifestyle, it would be cool if people knew I did them. Most people don’t know when they’ve seen something that I’ve worked on, but if they buy into what it stands for just, or like the look of it, that’d be a pretty cool feeling.
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