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Perspective from an AO newbie
Accelerate Okanagan - May 21 - Columnists

Accelerate Okanagan’s new Community Curator, Špela Grašič, shares her first impressions
Photo: Contributed

I walked into the new building at the corner of Ellis and Doyle for the first time on April 7. This was the day after my second interview for the Community Curator position with Accelerate Okanagan – a role developed to help manage the Okanagan Centre for Innovation.

The interview panel had invited me to attend the grand opening and after party. I’m still convinced this was the unofficial third interview.

First Impressions of the New Okanagan Centre for Innovation

As I walked through those doors, I was tempted to simply stand in the middle of the atrium and slowly turn around, my arms spread wide. From the chalkboard wall at the entrance, to the magnificent living wall three steps in, to the stark white walls brimming with possibility, to the six-storey atrium, the building welcomed me in and made me feel like anything was possible. I felt like I belonged. (Hopefully the interview committee would agree).

The phrase “anything is possible” is painfully cliché, and I can just imagine my fourth-year creative writing instructor dropping his head in despair. Perhaps it would be better to say the centre has an air of uncertainty to it. I’m not talking about the uncomfortable uncertainty that paralyzes you in a chain of anxiety. Rather, I’m thinking of a sense of anticipation that while we may not be sure of what the future brings, we can feel the excitement and thrill of something new and wondrous.

There is an energy in that, an energy that I can’t help but feel that entrepreneurs and dreamers alike can relate to.

Photo: Contributed

What Does a Community Curator Do?

Many of you are probably wondering what a Community Curator does. That’s ok, I was too.

As the Community Curator, I’m responsible for building and supporting community in the centre as well as fostering engagement with the Okanagan community.

This includes everything from working with tenants and community members who would like to rent out the theatre and atrium, to giving tours of the building, to working with building owners to develop a communications and marketing strategy, to curating artwork on the atrium walls, to facilitating communication and collaboration between tenants.

In addition, my responsibilities include coordinating Accelerate Okanagan’s shared working spaces on the second floor.

I don’t think I’ll be bored any time soon, which works for me because I’m pretty sure this is the coolest job ever.

Photo: Contributed

Who Am I?

Prior to joining Accelerate Okanagan, I worked as a Marketer at Cheeky Monkey Media and as an Events and Media Assistant with the Faculty of Management at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan Campus.

Before that, I was an English student with UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies.

On the weekends, and outside of work hours, you’ll find me exploring the woods with my border collie/shepherd cross, reading a book, climbing trees, or taking a nap, not necessarily in that order. Oh, and eating ice cream. You can never have too much ice cream.

If you haven’t met me yet, or haven’t had a chance to see the centre yet, please stop by the centre and say hi and get a tour.

Penticton’s hidden gems
Okanagan Edge Staff - May 19 - Biz Releases

There’s a whole world of hidden tourism gems in Penticton, and one of the best places to uncover them all is the TRUE Penticton Tourism Tradeshow.

The show will give locals and visitors alike the opportunity to meet with local tourism businesses and learn more about the interesting and unique experiences they are offering.

On top of that, the afternoon will feature food and drink samples and a chance to win prizes.

Take the opportunity to get in the know about the best dinner locations, what adventures to go on or which wineries or craft breweries.

The free-to-attend event will take place June 6, from 2-6 p.m. at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.

For more on the event, or to register, click here.

What I learned at We for She
Danielle Hofer - May 19 - Columnists

Photo: Contributed

On April 13, I joined some of the biggest names in gender diversity to speak to more than 300 high school students from across SD23, including Catalyst Canada and the Minerva Foundation.

So how did we all end up there?

From one student who attended the 2016 WE FOR SHE event in Vancouver and wanted to share its inspirational message with other students back home.

The WE FOR SHE initiative stems from several years of action aimed at increasing the economic impact of women in the BC.

This year the focus is on the next generation: showing girls they can choose any career, giving them the confidence to take on leadership roles, inspiring them to follow their dreams and connecting them with role models.

I came on board as a mentor for the high school students to support them in what they called their ‘big, hairy, audacious goal’ of hosting a WE FOR SHE satellite event.

I wanted to share my experience as an event coordinator to help them manage the project – everything from securing sponsors to figuring out event logistics – but I didn’t expect to get so much in return through the enthusiasm, energy and work ethic of the students.

Here are 3 lessons I learned:

1.    Inspiration is exponential

This event is an example of how a powerful message that resonates with one person can grow to impact a large group. “My hope is that every guest can take what they learned at We for She out into the world and use it to empower others,” said Juliet Watts, that student who first brought the idea to the KSS Global Awareness Club.

2.    There are many paths to success

Initially I thought I would guide the students through the event planning process. What I quickly learned was that they needed support and not answers. My role was to coach them and give them the tools to come up with the right decisions themselves.

This is true in a mentoring relationship and also in career planning. As one attendee shared, “at the end of the presentation I really felt like success varies from person to person, and that I have so much time to find my own path to success.”

3.    Embrace chances and opportunities when they come up

When I said yes to becoming a mentor I had no idea what other opportunities would arise. For example, on International Women’s Day, the high school girls were invited to speak about the event at a press conference on the steps of parliament in Victoria and I accompanied them as their mentor. We were introduced to the Premier and all the female cabinet ministers, and shared a conversation about inclusive leadership and diversity. I was just as thrilled as the students.

I was honored to be a part of this initiative and my hope is that WE FOR SHE Kelowna inspired someone in the audience to take on a WE FOR SHE satellite event at their school!

Danielle Hofer is the admin, client service and events coordinator at Women’s Enterprise Centre. As a former member of the social entrepreneurship group Enactus, she developed projects to help teach entrepreneurship to K-12 students. Now, she plays an active role in the coordination and administration of events/sponsorship for WEC, provides office administrative support and, as a member of the client services team, she connects clients to the resources they need to succeed in business.

Red-eye flights come to YLW
Jon Manchester - May 19 - Biz Releases

Photo: Westjet

Red-eye WestJet service from Kelowna to Toronto took off early Friday morning – very early.

The debut flight departed Kelowna at 12:05 a.m. and landed in Toronto at 7:15 a.m.

“This service greatly increases connectivity options for travellers,” said airport director Sam Samaddar. “It’s a great opportunity for our passengers to easily explore a number of destinations around the globe.”

The red-eye is the second daily flight from Kelowna to Toronto with WestJet.

“We thank our Okanagan Valley guests for their loyalty and support over the past 21 years and look forward to welcoming them on board this new service this summer,” said WestJet spokesperson Lee Lipton.

The YLW-YYZ non-stop service will fly four times a week, May 18 to June 29, daily June 30 to Sept. 5, and three times a week Sept. 6 to Oct. 8. All flights leave at 12:05 a.m.

Kelowna Airport served 1.7 million passengers in 2016.

New head of Vernon CMHA
Okanagan Edge Staff - May 19 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

There’s a new executive director at the Canadian Mental Health Association in Vernon.

Julia Payson comes to the CMHA from the Community Action Initiative, a  funding agency focused on building capacity in the mental health and substance use sector.

Payson brings more than 20 years of not-for-profit experience to the CMHA, having previously held senior leadership positions with the Canadian Cancer Society and John Howard Society of B.C.

She is also an active volunteer with Vantage Point, where she facilitates non-profit leadership training.

Payson grew up in the Okanagan and got an undergraduate degree from UBC. She spent five years working for Medecins Sans Frontieres before settling down in Vancouver.

She says she is “thrilled” to be returning to Vernon to take on her new challenge at the CMHA. She looks forward to “ensuring we continue to advocate for more mental health services in our community to meet the growing need.”

She will be actively working to promote early intervention and prevention education and programs to better service our community.

Payson takes over for the outgoing Sue Rossi, who is retiring after three years at the head of the Vernon Branch.

VAP spotlight: Points West
Accelerate Okanagan - May 19 - Columnists

Photo: Contributed
Tracey Cochrane, the owner of Points West, talk about becoming an entrepreneur

With a growing demographic of individuals suffering from dementia, care providers and facilities are challenged for more innovative ways to strike a balance of monitoring environments for staff and patient safety. The new healthcare technology division at Points West is providing a wireless solution that increases security and patient well-being in a less-stressful and peaceful environment.

Here’s what Tracey Cochrane, the owner of Points West, had to say about becoming an entrepreneur, the value of being involved in the tech community, and what advice she would give to aspiring entrepreneurs.

What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?

The idea of running my own business and making a difference by providing technology was exciting. It also provided flexibility for my young family. The idea of contributing to our local economy also appealed to me.

How did the idea for your business come about?

Points West started in 1991 and began by renting projectors and screens to people needing presentation equipment. By 2011, when I purchased the company, it had become the local supplier to the school districts for classroom technologies such as SMART Boards. We have since expanded into three divisions; audio visual, acoustics and now healthcare.

There is a need to improve the noise levels in many facilities as they are too loud and have a lot of echo. We fix that with our acoustics division. With healthcare, particularly residential care, there is a big problem with keeping staff and residents safe. Our safety systems address both areas.

Tell us about your product:

The healthcare division at Points West brings a unique safety solution to residential care facilities who are focused on staff safety and patient care.

What problem do you solve for your customer?

Through our research and speaking to directors of care, facility owners, nurses, front line workers, residential care associations and many others the problem that was being experienced across the industry was violence against staff by residents in addition to resident on resident aggression.

Why did you choose to join Accelerate Okanagan?

I was telling our story to Laurel Douglas, the CEO at the Women’s Enterprise Centre. Laurel recommended we speak to the team at AO and explore the programs available to us.

As an entrepreneur, what keeps you up at night?

As our company grows it is important for me to ensure we grow in a manageable way. We have a great team who work hard but I want them to be able to take time off and recharge. So managing work loads and making sure we hire at the right time to set people up for success is important. Also, making sure our customers get timely responses and great services is really important to me.

What’s the value of being involved in the tech community?

Being connected with other organizations who are growing and experiencing many of the same challenges/successes is very valuable. The conversations that happen and the knowledge gained has really helped us in our strategies and planning.

Why did you choose the Okanagan to start your company?

Family. My parents and in-laws had moved to the Okanagan many years ago and with young children it was important for them to be connected to their grandparents and other family members.

How has being an entrepreneur impacted your family, social life, or relationships?

Entrepreneurs need to make tough choices and that sometimes means we miss out on events or time with friends and family. However we often have flexibility with our work schedules so we can make those really important things. I know my family appreciates how hard I work and they are proud of what we are doing at Points West.

What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?

Use the resources around you like Accelerate Okanagan. Ask a lot of questions and get help if you need it instead of trying to do it all yourself.

What are three attributes needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

Adaptability, risk taker and persistence.

How would you describe the work culture and environment at Points West?

We are a hard working group but we like to have fun too. Our customers motivate us and make us strive to be better at what we do.

What have been some of your challenges and what have you learned from them?

Starting a new division takes some time to really gain steam. That is a real challenge when you want to be in front of customers talking about what you do and how you can help them. We could have jumped right into sales but we chose to really take our time and plan for success and do our research to make sure what were doing was right and was what our customers needed.

What roles are you looking to add to your growing team?

We have a great team in place but we will be needing technicians, installers, marketing, administration and additional sales positions down the road.

What’s next for your company?

We are attending the BC Care Providers conference at the end of May. One part of the program is called the “Safety Den” a Dragon’s Den style event where companies showcase their innovation in healthcare. We are a sponsor of the event and I was asked to sit on the panel of judges. Our new video will be shown to over 400+ delegates as well. This will be a huge event for us.

Who do you look to for mentorship/advice and why?

Larry Smith who has been our executive in residence at AO has been wonderful to work with. His experience and knowledge of the healthcare industry is invaluable.

In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.


Kevin’s Konnections
Kevin Lavigne - May 19 - Columnists

He found his man

Photo: Contributed

MGN Ventures is well known in Kelowna for their new home builds and renovations.

Owner Marc Lamarche is an experienced project manager of both residential and commercial spaces, but it’s his reputation for quality that makes him so highly sought after.

He has been incredibly busy since he started his Build It Better business and has needed a partner for a long time, but it has taken him some time to find that certain someone who could match his standards.

Well, he found his partner, so join me in congratulating Jon Morrison as the newest partner of MGN Ventures.

Jon comes with an incredible background, and I am very excited to see what the future holds for these two.
Another talented company has arisen this year as well. Kelly of Moskalyk has started Solid Earth Landscaping and he too is highly sought after because of his attention to detail.

Kelly does the plans and the installation of both residential and commercial landscapes.

Solid Earth Landscaping believes you deserve an oasis of your own, so let them craft a landscape you will love.

Perhaps MGN and Solid Earth should get together and have a coffee.
If you have a new house and a beautiful new yard, then you need to be walking in style when you come and go.

Thankfully, David and Lisa Broesky have opened Galibelle Shoes by Brazilian Design to help you look good.

When I first walked by their store this week there were four women already peaking in their windows and then my three girls joined them as a few of us husbands looked at each other and smiled.

They have some fun style and a lot of colours. Go and check them out.
I am a big fan of BNA because of the great food, beer and service they provide. I just found they do Sunday dinners for the family.

Every Sunday, their kitchen team brings you roast chicken with all the fixings – gravy, potatoes and vegetables.

Join them on your own or bring the whole family down.
Accelerate Okanagan has hired Spela Grasic as its new community curator.

Many of you are probably wondering what a community curator does just like Spela and I did too. She is responsible for building and supporting community in the new Okanagan Centre for Innovation.

What a cool idea! I just keep getting impressed by the tech community here in Kelowna.

You can read Heidi Mann’s full article about Spela here.
The 60th running of the Knox Mountain Hill Climb happens this weekend and this year it’s shaping up to be an amazing event with new cars, faster cars and more drivers than ever.

Amy won’t let me enter the minivan again this year, so I have to get me something cooler for next year.
Watch my video blog this week to find out if you should be paying down your mortgage quicker or investing more. Once again, I blame the shoes for my sporting mishaps.

Make it a great week!

Kevin Lavigne is a local advisor with Reid & Associates Financial Solutions. In 2014 he was nominated for Kelowna’s Top 40 Under 40 and in 2016 sat as the President of Junior Chamber International. Kevin also works with multiple non profits and is a mentor for the Canadian Youth Business Foundation.


Flood prep at yacht club
Dustin Godfrey - May 19 - Biz Releases

Photo: Bruce Merit

The Penticton Yacht Club is preparing for some extra water this weekend, as high weekend temperatures are expected to cause more snowmelt to flow into the Okanagan Lake.

The lake continues to rise, with Environment Canada pegging Thursday’s lake levels peaking over its height from late last week, and that’s expected to continue rising. As the sun comes out in full force this weekend, and temperatures reach above 25 degrees, snowmelt from the mountains is expect to contribute more water to the overflowing lake.

And currently that overflow is being seen in the South Okanagan, including at the Penticton Yacht Club, where fleet captain Bruce Merit says the building, which floats on a hydraulic on the water, is seeing cracking due to the rising lake.

Currently, sandbags sit along a low point in the grounds and around the building itself, but that hasn’t stopped flooding in parking lots, which, early on Thursday, had water half-surrounding the building according to Merit.

To combat that, the club has a pump near the low point, which shoots the water to the other side of the sandbags. But that still opens the grounds up to water leaking back in, which means the pump needs to be fired up every so often.

“We’ve asked the city for those big, large bladders that Kelowna has,” Merit said, referring to water-filled barricades put up around Kelowna to protect low-lying properties from flooding.

On top of a rising lake, junk that has flowed into the lake from high-volume creeks and rivers should have boaters cautious about going out this weekend, of all weekends. May long weekend is considered to be the kickoff weekend for boating season.

“That’s just dangerous,” Merit said of the debris that litters the lake. “We’ve already put high water advisories and that kind of stuff, but we haven’t officially said anything to our members yet, regarding don’t go out.”

But Merit says most members of the club are “savvy” and are likely aware of the debris on the lake.

“They all have their safe boat operator’s permits and what have you, so it’s, on the water it’s safety first,” he said.

Kelowna ready for visitors
Trevor Nichols - May 19 - Biz Releases

Local residents may be on high alert as Okanagan Lake continues to rise, but Chris Shauf says Kelowna will be “open for business” over the long weekend.

Tourism Kelowna’s director of marketing says the May long weekend is one of the busiest tourism weekends of the year for Kelowna, and that the city should fill with visitors despite persistent flood warnings.

“Right now Kelowna is open for business, and welcoming,” Shauf said, pointing out that most everything will be open over the weekend, regardless of the conditions.

As a kind of “kickoff” to the tourist season, Shauf says the May long weekend is an important one for the city, as visitors have extra time to take in what the city has to offer.

“Any time that there’s a long weekend, people have an extra day and they can spend a little bit of extra time exploring that new destination,” he says. “We do see an additional increase in traffic, in numbers, when it is a long weekend.”

Shauf says visitation to Kelowna has been on the rise in recent years, with more than 1.9 million people passing through last year.

Those visitors spent $337 million, which was 21 per cent more than 2011. That makes tourism the third-largest employer by industry behind health care and construction, accounting for 11,890 jobs here.

“When you’re talking about tourism, it’s such an important and vital industry to local business. [It provides] taxation that pays for services and improvements that residents like … so we want to do whatever we can to make sure that people know that Kelowna is a fantastic destination,” Shauf says.

Nevertheless, the flood warnings will still have at least some impact on the number of visitors the city sees this weekend.

Shauf says it’s hard to predict with much accuracy exactly how many people might avoid the city, but said accommodations are getting calls from customers concerned about the conditions.

Business awards shake-up
Okanagan Edge Staff - May 18 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce has officially announced that nominations for the 30th annual business excellence awards are open.

The chamber, along with its partners the Business Development Bank of Canada and Farris Law Firm, will be taking nominations from now until June 8.

Nominations for any business from Peachland to Oyama are encouraged, and nominees do not have to be chamber members.

The chamber has also reviewed its annual awards process, categories and ceremony, and have decided to change things up “in order to reflect the varied business environment in the Valley.”

This year’s program will see the addition of four new categories: The Social Impact Award, the Excellence in Agriculture Award, the Marketing Campaign of the Year and the Arts and Entertainment Achievement Award.

Those four awards will round out the six core awards, for a total of ten categories.

The winners of each award will be announced on Oct. 12 at a special dinner. Nominations can be found on the chamber’s website.

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