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Faces of #OKGNtech
Accelerate Okanagan - Jan 21, 2022 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

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 Tory. Tory Braun is the community cultivator for the Okanagan Young Professionals and the owner of Clever Girl Communications. When she’s not bringing the talented people of the Okanagan together, you’ll find Braun floating on the lake, playing in her multi-sport league or enjoying a book with a cup of tea.

Where do you work in the Okanagan? 

My main gig is working with the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission as the community cultivator for their Okanagan Young Professionals program. I have the awesome job of helping people get connected in the community—whether they’re relocating or have been here for a while. I also have my own consulting company called Clever Girl Communications. It leverages my background in communications, so I work one-on-one with people to help them tie their brand voice with what they need in digital tools.

What do you enjoy most about your role? 

I love meeting people. I’m naturally curious and creative, so getting to know people and what drives them is something I have fun with. Being able to communicate well is a skill that not everyone has, and I know that I’m lucky to have it. So helping to translate people’s vision to resonate with their audience and community is super fulfilling.

How did you get into this kind of work?

My degree is in archaeology, so this was not the original plan. When I came back to the Okanagan, there were no jobs in that field—which I knew—but I wanted to be here for the lifestyle. I had to draw on the skills that I used working in some of my previous jobs, and the natural communications skills I had. I’m happy with where I’ve ended up, but I’m sure I’ll have more career changes in the future, too.

What advice would you give to someone interested in a job like yours?

You need to stick with your authentic self to grow your skills. There are a lot of things that you can learn yourself, and there are a lot of things people will tell you that you should learn. But if you can tap into an educational institution or a mentor that you admire, follow that path to learn. Otherwise, it can be very overwhelming. Trust what it is that you look for in a learning experience over what people tell you is necessary.

What do you enjoy about the OKGNtech community?

People are really open to chatting and hearing about your business. They’re open to owning their own mistakes and sharing them with others. There are so many entrepreneurs here that this helping kind of give-and-take mentality has grown in the tech community’s relationships. The people are just fun, too—they’re not just a bunch of nerds. They like to get together and party.

Do you think there is anything missing from the community here?

I’d like to see more collaboration between the tech community and the broader community, especially arts and culture. There isn’t really a line between the two. There is a lot of art in tech, but people commonly separate those two worlds. The different components of our community are capable of coming together because, at the core of it, they are all one and the same. Besides, when different businesses and groups come together, they always come away with innovative ideas.

The best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

You can do anything that you want, but you can’t do everything that you want. For a long time, I didn’t know what it meant. In the last five years, I realized that I can set my mind to do anything, but I can’t do all of the things that I want or that other people want from me. You need to check in on the things that you want to do right now and focus on them. Don’t get sidetracked developing skills you’re not passionate about.

Who inspires you?

I really admire Arlene Dickinson as a female entrepreneur and a person. She owns herself and is honest about the emotional side of business—which is a really important thing to normalize. Also, the fact that she’s a badass mom and went through crappy relationships is inspiring. It’s the reality of life, trudging through those unpleasant things to find your success.

Best small businesses wanted
Okanagan Edge Staff - Jan 21, 2022 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed
Kelowna’s Twirling Umbrellas won the Best Company Award in 2020.

Small businesses making a big difference in the community will be honoured this spring when Small Business BC hands out its annual awards.

The organization is accepting nominations for the Small Business BC Awards, which will honour the best in the province and dish out $15,000 in prize money.

“Business owners have handled the incredible challenges of the last two years with determination, resiliency and kindness,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation. “The Small Business BC Awards are one way we can come together to show our local entrepreneurs how much we appreciate everything they are doing to keep people safe and healthy, while continuing to serve our communities.

“I encourage everyone to show some love and appreciation for their favourite local businesses by nominating them for a Small Business BC Award, and to continue supporting local in their communities.”

The nomination window opened on Thursday and will close Feb. 28. Businesses can be nominated by others or by themselves.

There will be just two awards given out this year, in an effort to honour “truly impactful businesses” and allow the winners to receive a bigger chunk of the cash prize. Businesses will be vying for the SBBC Business Impact Award and the Premier’s People’s Choice Award.

“At the heart of every small business is an entrepreneur whose drive and determination pushes them, even as they face challenges and hurdles in their path,” Small Business BC CEO Tom Conway said. “The SBBC Awards is about celebrating that entrepreneurial spirit and supporting small businesses that inspire us all. I encourage all BC residents to nominate a business that has helped strengthen your community.”

There will eventually be five finalists for the SBBC Business Impact Award, whose winner will receive $8,000 during the virtual awards gala on April 28. The winner of the People’s Choice Award will pocket $1,500.

More information about the awards can be found here.

TOTA honours green advocates
Okanagan Edge Staff - Jan 21, 2022 - Biz Releases

File photo: Jon Manchester

Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association has been busy handing out the hardware this week to some of the top organizations in the industry.

The Kelowna Yacht Club received TOTA’s 2021 Eco Efficiency Excellence Award. The club has been hard at work on its sustainability efforts, attending most TOTA programs about the topic last year, and implemented an internal recycling initiative, participated in the eco efficiency program and created its own “save energy” system.

TOTA also awarded the 2021 Pioneer Award to Best Western Plus Kamloops. The hotel has always operated with sustainability in mind, thanks to the leadership of general manager Tim Rodgers. The hotel has implemented programs like the green towel option, biodegradable products in its breakfast room and Lotus Pro, which uses ozonated water to clean and sanitize the rooms.

FortisBC hopes to create ‘new era’
Okanagan Edge Staff - Jan 21, 2022 - Biz Releases

Photo: City of Penticton

FortisBC has submitted a proposal that would supply nothing but renewable gas to new homes for the lifespan of the building.

The utility said it would mark “a new era in the evolution of the company’s energy programs.”

Renewable gas can help cut greenhouse gas emissions without changing heating equipment. If British Columbia Utilities Commission approves the proposal, it would help home builders, real estate developers and new home owners with another path to meet provincial GHG emission reduction targets.

“If approved by the BCUC, this would give every British Columbian a choice on how best to reduce GHG emissions from their new home,” FortisBC vice-president of energy supply and resource development Joe Mazza said in a press release.

“We realize there’s much to consider in the proposal we’ve put forward, but we’re excited about the prospect of a new generation of FortisBC customers knowing us as a renewable energy provider.”

FortisBC has committed to increasing the amount of renewable gas in its system and reducing the amount of conventional natural gas used by its customers.

Structurlam adds new sales VP
Casey Richardson - Jan 21, 2022 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

Penticton-based mass timber manufacturer Structurlam has welcomed Paul Drace as the company’s new vice-president of sales for construction east division and industrial North America.

Drace is based in Wisconsin and brings an extensive background in engineered wood, with experience working with major suppliers including Trus-Joist, Weyerhaeuser, RedBuilt and SmartLam.

In his new role, the VP will lead construction sales regions to drive sales efforts, promoting and expanding the company’s mass timber work.

“With a strong diverse background in engineered wood, Paul will be a tremendous asset to not only our sales team, but for our customer and technical services teams,” Structurlam senior vice-president of sales and marketing Paul Sehn said in a press release. “With Paul joining our sales leadership team, we will be able to bring heightened focus to Structurlam’s growth and advance the mass timber movement across North America.”

Structurlam describes its economic benefit as offering the ability to design, model and prefabricate the structural elements of a project off site, accelerating the on-site production schedule compared to traditional on-site building with steel and concrete.

The company has production facilities in Okanagan Falls, Penticton, Oliver and Conway, Ark., in the U.S.

BlueSky back in Home Depot
Victoria Femia - Jan 21, 2022 - Biz Releases

Photo: BlueSky Organics

A Vernon company has had its national distribution contract renewed with Home Depot Canada.

Soil and nutrient manufacturer BlueSky Organics says the contract has been continued for the 2022 lawn and garden season.

The product line, Whole Earth, was designed specifically for growing organically.

The line consists of five products, including a rooting/seed starter, vegetable and herb fertilizer, a bloom enhancer, a soil regenerator and an environmentally safe lawn fertilizer called Green-Up.

“These products and recyclable packaging are aligned with our global mission of taking care of our planet and each other, they are pollinator-friendly, child and pet safe,” BlueSky Organics co-founder and CEO Mary Horvatincic said.

“Why are we still using chemicals that could potentially harm our families and the environment? It is 2022, and we need to make drastic changes in this industry that support these values.”

A study published by Dalhousie University found that over 50% of people grow food at home to reduce their environmental impact, BlueSky noted.

The 2020 study on gardening trends also found that 66.9% of longtime gardeners and 56.1% of new gardeners agree that homegrown food is healthier.

BSO will begin filling orders from 182 Home Depot stores on Jan. 24.

The products are also available in independent gardening stores, including Briteland Garden Centre, Swan Lake Market and Garden Centre and Golden Acres Garden Centre.

Tolko feedback wanted soon
Wayne Moore - Jan 21, 2022 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

The second phase in the lengthy process of redeveloping the former Tolko sawmill site is set to begin.

Holar Developments, who will ultimately redevelop the 40-acre site in Kelowna’s north end, is setting up a series of virtual workshops to obtain public feedback on the future look of the site.

Workshops are set to take place Feb. 5, 8 and 10.

These are the first of what are expected to be numerous engagement opportunities.

The planning team will also be popping up in the downtown and north end Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 28 and 29.

Click here to register to take part in one of the workshops.

Ideas from the workshops will help shape the initial concept which is expected to be unveiled later this year.

The Tolko site plan is being conducted alongside a comprehensive redevelopment plan for the entire north end of the city.

Both plans are expected to take about 18 months to complete.

Economic award nominees sought
Okanagan Edge Staff - Jan 20, 2022 - Biz Releases

Photo: Facebook

B.C.’s best work in economic development will be honoured later this year.

The BC Economic Development Association, which is based in Penticton, is now accepting nominations for the BC Economic Development Awards, which will be handed out April 3-5.

The awards cover a wide range of categories within the industry, including economic development programs, partnerships, economic reconciliation, resiliency and marketing initiatives. There are two awards for each category—one for locations with a population of more than 20,000 and another for those with fewer than 20,000 people.

The general award categories are marketing innovation, community project, economic recovery and resiliency, and economic reconciliation, which is new this year.

The nomination window will be open until Feb. 28. Submissions are $30 for BCEDA members and $100 for non-members.

More information about the awards, including how to nominate, can be found here.

New Rust Valley season looms
Jon Manchester - Jan 20, 2022 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

A new season of Rust Valley Restorers will begin airing next month on History channel.

The fourth season of the hit series follows car fanatic Mike Hall, his best friend Avery, and his son Connor at Rust Bros. restoration as they race to restore his collection of more than 400 decaying classic cars.

The season will also follow Hall’s giant auction of the remaining vehicles, which took place in October at the Tappen “field of dreams.”

The new season premieres Feb. 24 at 9 p.m.

“Facing a threat that could bring down the shop, Mike takes a huge gamble and prepares to auction off most of his beloved collection, in order to save the few cars that matter most to him,” publicists for the show say.

The season will include 10 60-minute episodes.

Hall held an unreserved auction in early October after the Tappen property where he kept the cars was sold.

It remains to be seen in the new season what happened next.

Emerging tech talk on tap
Okanagan Edge Staff - Jan 20, 2022 - Biz Releases

Photo: Kanchanara, Unsplash

Everything you ever wanted to know about the world’s latest technologies, including non-fungible tokens and cryptocurrencies, will be discussed in downtown Kelowna next month.

Web 3 Okanagan will bring together metaverse industry leaders to educate local entrepreneurs, business owners, artists, creators, and community members on the emerging technologies.

“We want to bring together the brightest minds in the Okanagan to build a community to collaborate and learn about this technology,” one of the organizers, Dan Martell, said in a press release. “We are still in the early days, and with the thriving tech community in Okanagan I believe we can be at the leading edge of the revolution.”

Web 3 Okanagan will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 15, from 1 to 5 p.m. at Kelowna’s newly constructed Metro Hub at the Metro Community Church, which is located at 1265 Ellis St. and will receive the proceeds from the event due to its tangible support of Kelowna’s most vulnerable residents.

Some of the speakers include include Pela Earth CEO Matt Bertulli, Metaverse Group CEO Lorne Sugarman, Newton.co CEO Dustin Walper and Bookcoin.com’s Ty Ward.

More information about the event can be found here.

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