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 Michael. Michael Wendland is the CEO and founder of Refresh Financial. When he’s not finding ways to help Canadian’s improve their credit scores, you’ll find him playing the piano or spending time with his family around the Okanagan.
Where do you work in the Okanagan?
I work as the CEO and founder of Refresh Financial. I’ve been in the financial services sector since moving to Kelowna in 2008 and started Refresh in 2013. Refresh is a Canada-wide fintech company that provides credit building solutions to Canadians with low credit scores. We want to help consumers move up the credit ladder and, in doing so, help them gain access to more credit and lower borrowing costs.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I love being the dumbest person in the room and working with people who are really smart in their areas. It’s fun to go to work every day to create and collaborate on new opportunities and relationships in the market.
How did you get into this kind of work?
Hearing the word “no” sucks, especially when it comes to borrowing money from a lender. What made me want to start Refresh was a personal situation where I was declined for our first home. My credit score had plummeted because of a credit card that my wife and I had paid off and cut up four years earlier. There was a $25 annual fee that had accrued on the card and I owed $100 of collections. That stopped me from getting approved for our mortgage. That was the pain point I was trying to solve.
What advice would you give to someone interested in a career like yours?
Plan your steps if you’re looking for a career in finance. Chart out your path and get to know people in the market. The success of Refresh came from building a good network of people. As much as technology is at our fingertips, value comes from building trust and relationships. Value the people in your network, not to use them or take from them, but to give back to them. Good things will come as a result.
What do you enjoy about the OKGNtech community?
Over the years, the combination of success stories, leadership and growth of our post-secondary institutions has increased the number of people looking at the tech community and visiting to see for themselves. The one thing that stands out to me, though, is Kelowna itself. When you combine a youthful entrepreneurial mindset with the luxury of doing business anywhere, Kelowna is literally the best place in the world to work and access a great lifestyle.
The best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Your success has a much lower ceiling if you don’t take care of your team. In order to be successful, you need to take care of your people first. Your people are the output and resemblance of your brand. If our brand is tarnished, it’s a result of you doing something wrong internally with your culture. I haven’t been perfect in that, but you want to take care of your own and be a great employer.
When you’re not at work and when you’re not online, where are you?
We have a full house, which means lots of family time these days. We have three children, from 9 to 13—so we’re regularly going to the grocery store to fill the fridge. We do a lot of skiing and snowboarding together and a lot of water activities in the summer. Lots of good family time. I personally like playing the piano, golfing and reading.
Is there something you want to be remembered for?
The best decision of my life was marrying my wife. I want to be remembered for being a great husband and father. I’m not perfect. There’s a lot of work to do, but that’s where my focus and priority needs to be. If I’ve done those two things well, I’ll have a long life. That’s enough for me.
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