The monthly Startup Founder Hot Seat event took place in Kelowna this past week with hopeful entrepreneurs vying to catch the attention of angel investors.
The event featured software executive and veteran investor Grant Lawerence, who is also the president of Valhalla Angels Kelowna. Lawerence has seen countless pitches and is an expert in guiding entrepreneurs. To tap into his knowledge and expertise, we sat down with Lawerence to find out what it takes to give an outstanding pitch to investors.
What are some of the best things to do when looking to beginning to formulate a pitch?
The first thing to do is reduce the amount of technical stuff. Reduce text, use big graphics, big letters and think about it as if you are going to pitch to your grandparent. You want big font. A font size of 30 means you have to reduce the amount of text on the screen. You don’t want there to be a lot of text because people will be trying to read it while you are speaking, they will not be paying attention to you anymore.
Don’t pitch a product, you’ll spend too much time on it. The maximum amount of time you should spend on your product is a maximum 45 seconds. At Hot Seat we had two guys pitch and they spend 2 minutes and a half minutes on their product. They didn’t get to the meat of here’s the market, here’s the problem, here’s how we are going to make money, etc, etc. Tell me about the problems you will solve. You don’t want to look at the solution, you want to look at what the problem is and how you fit to solve that problem.
Is this something you often see and hear from first timers?
Yes, very frequently. Especially if they have not had any experience in the sales world, and they can’t relate that they are trying to get somebody to do something. It’s like trying to get your kids to do something, it’s more let’s use the carrot instead of the stick. Human psychology 101, the what’s in it for me idea. If you can answer that question then you are stepping in the shoes of the investor or, in part, in the shoes of the customer.
How does someone get organized for a pitch for the first time?
We have a recommended pitch content book that we send to people who want to get in front of the Valhalla Angel group. It identifies all the things you want to do in your pitch and cut it down based on how much time you have to do your pitch. It’s not a template, it’s a guide as to what the content should be and how to get ready for it. There’s so many companies and volunteers out there who can help with this. Including UBCO, they have their Lean Launchpad for alumni grads, fourth year students, and professors. We have Accelerate Okanagan to help out with this as well. They can help you go validate your market and accelerate and grow.
We have basecamp for startups which allows founders to get inside the shoes of investors for two days, and figure out their capital plan, what does that raise mean, how to go and raise that capital and what is the impact as they raise multiple rounds. Round one maybe friends and family, round two, three, and four may be angel round, then you may get to qualify for banks or for venture capitalists and so on.
What stands out for you when someone pitches to you?
How did you come to this story? We want to know how you came about to solve this problem. We at Valhalla want to understand what is your skin in this. If you are coming to a pitch event and just saying that your idea looks like a cool way to make money, that is not as impactful as saying “I had this huge problem in my life, I had to solve it and this is how I did it.”
Or, this is something that affected five of my friends and this is what I came up with to help. We’re looking for the narrative of a personal story because we know that your journey forward is not going to as smooth as everyone shows on grass. You are going to have big ups and downs, some personal skin is going to be nice to have.
What exactly is an angel investor?
Angel investors started back in the 1800s when there was an attempt to support the arts and theatre, these supporters were called angels. That means an accredited individual in Canada and U.S. It’s a definition from the federal government that means that you have earned $200,000 a year for the past two years or you have a million dollars in equity outside of your home, and there are other definitions when a spouse is included. There are multiple ways to qualify as an angel investor. By definition, an angel has to be accredited in Canada so the government can say you have enough money that if you go and invest in something, it’s your own decision, and if you lose it, don’t come back to us crying that something went wrong.
Angel investors all come to this world for different reasons. For some it’s because they want to give back because someone else helped them along the way. Others want to live vicariously though the founders and help to contribute to technology and changes. And of course returns, some people are just looking for returns on their investments.
Lawerence adds that anyone who is going to pitch a business idea to should consider asking for more than just money. Ask for other stuff that you are missing. That might including asking for an introduction to someone or a business, mentorship, or advisors. Take advantage of the people in the room and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
To learn more about Valhalla Angels and become a member, visit their website.
A local waterpark design and manufacturing company has completed a massive expansion, doubling its manufacturing space.
Waterplay solutions purchased an old chopsticks manufacturing plant in Kelowna’s North End several years ago, and much of the company’s manufacturing has taken place in the 10,000 square foot facility since then.
Earlier this year, Waterplay completed construction at the facility, doubling its manufacturing area and adding office space for a total of 38,000 square feet.
“We started our expansion on this facility about three or four years ago, we started the design process, and we broke ground in January of 2018,” said Lisa Neilson, Waterplay’s vice-president of corporate services.
Notable local Waterplay water parks include the recent revitalization at Kelowna’s City Park, along with the water park at Ben Lee Park, but Waterplay has projects around the world, in the United States, Australia, Europe, Dubai and Singapore.
“Wherever people want to go play in the spray park, we’re there,” Neilson said.
Waterplay traces its roots back to the 1980s, but it was bought by Vernon’s Jill White in 2004, who began moving much of the manufacturing in house. That trend continues with the expansion of the facility’s manufacturing space.
On Thursday, Waterplay held their grand opening of the new facility, now that most of the finishing touches have been put in place. Family and friends of the company’s 64 local staff were treated to a barbecue and games, carrying on into the evening.
“It’s been a great success story. Jill’s made the investment right now in this new facility to position us for additional growth,” Neilson said. “We’ve also been filling out some of our team in order to allow us to better service some of the remote markets. We’re looking forward to what’s to come in the next 10 years.”
If you have been to Orchard Park Shopping Centre you may have noticed a brand new sandwich shop in the food court, but what you may not know is it is a Kelowna man’s franchise.
Chachi’s may have started in 2006 in Calgary, but it has a strong connection to Kelowna as one of the business partners, Jason Cunningham, grew up in the city. Cunningham helped open up the first Starbucks in the Shopping Centre in 1995 and was the assistant manager. He is now back at his old stomping grounds with the Chachi’s sandwich shop, which opened at the beginning of August.
“We were received extremely well and people were happy that there is something local, interesting and exciting in the food court,” said Cunningham.
Cunningham and one of his two business partners were both baristas at the Okanagan’s first Starbucks coffee shop, learning and understanding the business industry.
“We developed a great friendship and from there went into business and today we grow franchise brands across Western Canada and Chachi’s now has 24 locations,” explained Cunningham.
The Kelowna location is the first one in the B.C. Interior. Cunningham is now looking for a franchise partner to take over the Orchard Park location because they feel it’s important that the business is run locally and keeps a local connection.
“Our menu is based on ingredients from local producers, and we believe the best management is when people who own the business also live and work in the community,” said Cunningham. “No one cares like a franchise partner who has a vested interest in the business. Hopefully it blossoms into other locations in the Valley.”
Chachi’s uses ingredients from local supplies in Western Canada and hand picks certain butchers, bakeries, and cheese suppliers. In fact, they are currently looking for someone local to supply cookies for the Kelowna location.
During the Kelowna grand opening of the Chachi’s store, Cunningham says they raised $2,000 for BC Wildfire victims and were blown away by the generosity from the local community for their new business.
West Kelowna’s Bylands Garden Centre has been recognized by the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association as they have received the 2019 Garden Centre of the Year Award.
The National Awards of Landscape Excellence took place in Abbotsford on August 14 with more than 130 people in attendance. The best in the landscape horticulture profession came together for the night to celebrate the 2019 National Award winners.
Bylands was recognized for exceeding expectations for their significant contributions to the community and environment though special projects and store policies.
Open year-round, Bylands offers one of the most diverse and complete mixes of quality hardy plants available, as well as gardening accessories, home decor, jewellery and a full-service floral design centre.
The first major concrete pour has begun at the Brooklyn tower in downtown Kelowna as the long awaited project finally takes shape.
Ground was broken on the site, owned by Mission Group, in March 2019 and while work has been underway for a while, the pouring of concrete means the site will begin to look more like a residential tower than just a construction site.
According to Mission Group Project Manager Dan Martynov, 1,800 metres of concrete will be poured into the location at Bernard Avenue and St. Paul Street.
“They started pumping Monday morning at 6 a.m. and will be done by 1 o’clock. They will still be working on it until around 6 p.m.,” explained Martynov.
A total of 180 trucks will be moving back and forth in the area to drop off cement for the project. With 25 finishers, eight to 10 concrete drivers on hand, and several pump operators, it’s a large and noisy undertaking in the downtown core.
Once the pour is completed, the Mission Group’s next step will be to place verticals on the site and begin building upwards.
Brooklyn will feature 178 homes and a 25th-floor terrace, bringing densification to downtown Kelowna. Crews have been working on site for several months, with construction slated to be completed by 2021. According to Mission Group, Brooklyn is now 95% sold.
Skip the Dishes has been operating in the Okanagan for nearly two years and according to the delivery service, business is booming.
According to a Skip spokesperson, the most popular independent restaurants in 2019 so far this year are Bluetail Sushi Kitchen, Made in India, and Momo Sushi. Residents and visitors are enjoying the ease of the delivery service which offers quick and affordable service from popular restaurants in the Okanagan Valley.
Currently in Kelowna and West Kelowna there are 117 restaurants and fast food locations offering delivery service via the app. While the fast food options continue to be a fan favourite, people in our area can’t seem to get enough Asian and South Asian food.
The most ordered item so far this year is Miso soup, which has been ordered a whooping 8,000 times. This is followed closely by Butter chicken, which was ordered just over 7,000 times, and Junior chickens from MacDonalds, which were ordered nearly 6,500 times.
The biggest order ever in Kelowna cost a staggering $582 and included items such as seven baked apple pies, seven rotisserie chickens, five chocolate cakes, and plenty of sandwiches, pastas, and salads.
Meanwhile in Penticton, the food ordering trends are much different as Miso soup didn’t even make the list. According to Skip the Dishes, the most ordered items for 2019 so far are Butter chicken, which was ordered about 3,200 times, followed by Vegetable samosas, with nearly 3,000 individual orders, and Jr. bacon cheeseburgers, with over 850 orders.
Penticton’s biggest order ever cost just over $375 and included four orders of ribs, four orders of wings, four different kinds of pizza, and three orders of calamari.
In both cities, it’s no surprise that the busiest time to order through the Skip app is dinnertime. Skip the Dishes launched in Kelowna in September 2017, while Penticton received the service in February 2018.
Summerland’s Detonate Brewing opens a brand new taproom and lounge on Thursday.
The craft brewery has been operating for about 2.5 years, previously with a 100-square-foot micro taproom that fit just a handful of people.
The new space features 28 seats and will also offer an assortment of snacks and wine and cider to go with 10 taps pouring Detonate beer.
The brewery was Summerland’s first. Owner Nathan Rosin says he never really expected the business to grow at the pace that it has.
“I didn’t really know what to expect… but it just kind of grew into it,” he said.
Rosin says he is grateful for the support of the community over the past 2.5 years. The brewery has not changed locations and simply took over the unit next door.
Hours for the lounge will be Thursday to Monday from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Detonate Brewing is located at 9503 Cedar Ave.
A Kelowna manufacturer has secured its first commercial client as demand grows for electric boats.
Tim Bieber, director of sales for Templar Marine, says Victoria will launch six of its zero-emission vessels.
The B.C. capital will have a new, environmentally friendly tourist attraction when the Victoria Electric Boat Company hits the water in 2020. The new company is a division of Gray Line Hop-On-Hop-Off tours and will offer patrons cruises of the Inner Harbour and Gorge Waterway.
With announcement of the deal, buzz has been growing locally and internationally, and it looks like Seattle may be next in line for a fleet of Templar’s electric boats.
“A team from Seattle came up and jumped on the same idea as the Victoria guys,” says Bieber. “They think it’s a perfect extension of their services as well. With so many waterways connected in the area, it’s logical for them to make the next step from hop-on-hop-off buses to waterway tours.”
The 29-foot boats can carry 12 passengers and include an electric flush toilet, sink, onboard central heat, and a fridge. The boats can travel up to 10 hours on a single charge and can reach a maximum speed of 6.5 knots.
“The Victoria guys will have the opportunity in the evenings to offer a wine tour, as they can get a wine licence, thanks to the facilities,” said Bieber. “This gives them a big advantage over a pontoon boat or smaller boats.”
Bieber says interest has been coming in from all over the world, including Botswana, Zambia, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, and Amsterdam.
The buzz is growing in the Okanagan as well, but the boats’ slow speed may be a hurdle.
“This idea is foreign to lake boaters. They have speedboats, surf boats, that’s all that’s ever happened on lakes,” added Bieber. “Speed! Power! Pulling, cruising, sports! But on the ocean it’s the exact opposite.”
Bieber says there’s interest in running a water taxi service in Kelowna, but there are drawbacks.
“With summer being so short in the Okanagan, trying to support any kind of tourist-based business is really difficult. But we are trying to assess whether someone will be interested in operating (the business) or whether we grab the bull by the horns and operate something as a test that we would run beyond just the summer months.”
Bieber says there is interest from the Eldorado Resort and Downtown Marina, both of which currently have the boats at their operations. He adds there is also interest from the Summerland Waterfront Resort and Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association.
“Whether we run a taxi service from the Delta Grand to the Downtown Marina, all the way around to the Eldorado, it’s something we’re entertaining. We have to see if there is interest to support something like that. Then we can look at Summerland and run from the Waterfront Resort to the Penticton Lakeside Resort,” said Bieber
Templar Marine uses a lithium battery-powered Torqeedo propulsion system, which has a running cost of about 10 cents an hour. The lithium cells are the same as in BMW’s i3 electric vehicles.
Bieber attributes Templar’s success to the surge in interest in electric cars.
“There’s no way we could be where we are today if it wasn’t for the push by Tesla,” he said.
Bieber says the water taxi service will depend on consumer demand and whether or not it is feasible year round.
More businesses have been announced for The District on Bernard as construction chugs along at the old Towne Centre Mall location.
The mall, which is located on Bernard Avenue in downtown Kelowna, was purchased by MKK Property Corp. for $8.55 million in February 2017. Only a handful of stores continue to operate in the two-storey building, but construction is well underway in the vacant shops.
In early June, new tenant Fossellos opened their doors along the Bernard Avenue, and in May Optimiiize Kelowna opened for business. Original tenants Amni Apparel, MacDermott’s, and Annegret’s continue to operate during construction.
Shoppers will soon be able to enjoy drinks, art and books as Pulp Fiction Coffee House moves into its second location by the end of summer 2019.
Cosmetic Culture will be moving into the District on Bernard by early 2020. They will offer services from IV vitamin therapy, infrared sauna sessions, cryotherapy, and the latest in aesthetic medicine.
Cubanos Fine Cigars and Coffee will be opening in the mall sometime in the fall of 2019. The specialty store will feature cigars from around the globe, including Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Europe, and Philippines. They will also specialize in aged cigars from Havana, Cuba. The store will not only be inviting for cigar connoisseurs, but also for those looking to enjoy a cup of coffee and purchase textiles.
Also opening soon will be 1000 Palms, a resort and swimsuit boutique set to open in the fall of 2019.
With opening weekend behind them, the owners of Kelowna’s newest restaurant are breathing a sigh of relief as things at Skinny Duke’s Glorious Emporium went off without a hitch.
Downtown’s newest establishment is a sight to behold as the 70’s themed restaurant and bar drew in crowds of eager patrons wanting to take in the food, drinks, and decor. According to General Manager Spencer Fraipoint, the opening weekend had the team feeling nervous, but excited to showcase all of the hard work that went into transforming the old Sturgeon Hall location.
“The reaction from guests when they first walk-in was really cool to see,” said Fraipoint. “Many old Sturgeon Hall regulars came in to check it out and they had positive feedback. We really enjoyed hearing that because Sturgeon Hall was a second home for a lot of those people.”
Skinny Duke’s is described as “a space that will transport you to the most rad house party that there ever was.” A mission that was accomplished as on Saturday night the place was packed with people of all ages enjoying the unique playlist that included everything from the Bee Gees to Saturday Night Fever. Groups of people joined in to belt out the tunes and laugh the night away while sipping carefully crafted cocktails on retro furniture.
“There has been a lot of heart and soul put in to the design of the building and food/beverage. It’s a very gratifying feeling seeing people come in for the second or third time in your first week of operation,” added Fraipoint. “We are so grateful for the support that we have had in our opening week.”
The new established is the brainchild of the group at BNA Brewing. According to Fraipoint, the team wanted to provide a funky/eclectic dining and bar experience that is one of a kind.
Skinny Duke’s is located in the old brick building that housed the Sturgeon Hall Pub and Bordello’s Italian Pizzaria. The team has stayed true to the original use of the building offering a variety of unique pizzas, Roman style on a thin, crispy crust. The new restaurant also features tapas type plates perfect for sharing such as Pork Rib Tips, Sichuan Chicken Wings, and Burrata on Toast. With a full supper menu that features a variety of pastas, sandwiches, and seafood, there’s sure to be something for everyone on the menu.
According to the reviews on social media, the place is a hit with those who ventured downtown to check out the new hotspot.
“Loved everything from the decor, the atmosphere to the food. The service is good and a lovely wine list,” said Susan on Facebook.
“BEST NEW RESTAURANT IN KELOWNA HANDS DOWN! Your sensory journey starts the moment you walk in the door, from the 1970’s decor, beautiful and engaging staff and the subtle diffusion of incense the air, this is only the beginning!” exclaimed Amy.
It’s safe to say that the BNA team has smashed another out of the park with Skinny Duke’s.