Canada’s challenge at capacity
Special to Okanagan Edge - Aug 29 - Biz Profiles

Image: Contributed

Paul Ferley, assistant chief economist at RBC, will tell a Kelowna audience next month how red-hot economies on both sides of the 49th parallel can coexist in the time of Trump.

Ferley is scheduled to be keynote speaker during a noon-hour speech at the Urban Development Institute’s annual general meeting on Sept. 20.

The event is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. at the Coast Capri Hotel. Tickets are $45 for members and $65 for non-members.

The title of the event is the “Canadian economy at capacity and confronting challenges.”

While Canada’s unemployment rate is matching lows not seen since the 1970s, that’s also putting pressure on the Bank of Canada to keep gradually tightening policy in order to keep growth moderate.

Ferley is to also discuss how rising rates can have negative implications for the real estate market with residential investment particularly vulnerable on the downside given current high levels of activity.

A key challenge for the Bank of Canada is to set policy to help sustain some growth but not at too strong a pace that generates inflationary pressures.

However, the U.S. economy is also operating at capacity, which is expected to keep the Federal Reserve tightening policies there.

And while President Donald Trump’s tax reductions are keeping the U.S. economy growing, it might be too strong for too long, putting more pressure on inflation and resulting in further aggressive Fed policy.

Such implies even greater upward pressure on mortgage rates and borrowing costs.

Profess love elsewhere, please
Okanagan Edge Staff - Aug 08 - Biz Profiles

Photo: Contributed

Stephane and Beatrice Facon have a message for the person or people responsible for spray-painting the windows and walls of their downtown Kelowna business overnight Tuesday.

“We all know the reputation of the French lovers,” the owners of Bouchons Bistro wrote in an e-mail to the media. “We do encourage to love as much as we do but would appreciate it if you don’t share your love for each other on our walls.

“As business owners we were shocked to find some graffiti on our restaurant walls this morning. We believe in love as well as respecting private property.”

Stephane said they were able to clean a white heart off the window, but getting the initials M+M+T+Z off the window ledge and stone walls is not as easy. He plans to call the landlord to see what the options are, but it’s going to cost someone money and he doesn’t want to see it happen again.

“It’s a French bistro, OK,” Stephane said in his thick French accent, “but if they want to do it they can go to Paris.”

Big wins for Oliver winery
Colton Davies - Jul 23 - Biz Profiles


Oliver’s Covert Farms Family Estate has brought an impressive amount of hardware home from a wine competition in Germany.

The winery earned five gold medals and one silver at the International Organic Wine Award for several of its 100 per cent organic, estate-grown-and-produced wines.

Covert Farms was the only Canadian winery in the competition, which featured more than 1,000 organic wines from 28 countries.

“We are really proud of the results,” said Gene Covert, the estate’s winemaker and co-owner with his wife, Shelley. “This competition allows us to be measured against organic wineries around the world at a time when the international wine community continues to increase production of organically grown and produced wines.”

The winery’s red wines earned two gold medals for its 2015 Grand Reserve pinot noir and Grand Reserve cabernet sauvignon. Its 2015 Grand Reserve zinfandel earned a silver medal.

Gold was also awarded for its 2016 pinot blanc white wine, its Covert Farms rosé and its Ancestral pinot noir sparkling wine.

Covert Farms is located on a 650-acre property in Oliver, and the winery said it encourages “biodynamic growing” and using indigenous yeasts as often as possible.

Local earns Foodie of the Year nod
Okanagan Edge Staff - Jun 21 - Biz Profiles

Image: submitted

An Okanagan business owner has been named one of the top 10 foodies of the year by Western Living.

Christine Coletta, who founded Okanagan Crush Pad in Summerland, was announced as one of the honourees today. Coletta has been a leader in the B.C. wine industry, most notably creating a B.C. wine and Alberta food event recently in an effort to repair strained relations between the provinces.

The magazine noted “with a successful career in the B.C. wine industry, Coletta is a prime example of how talents in the industry have worked tirelessly to advocate for and to improve the Canadian culinary scene.”

Coletta helped numerous B.C. wineries establish their businesses earlier in her career, and then she launched her own wine, Haywire, along with Okanagan Crush Pad, which was Canada’s first purpose-built custom crush wine making facility.

“I am thankful to Western Living for shining a light on those who work hard to elevate and inspire with their food and wine efforts,” Coletta said in a press release. “Also, I am very thankful to the local restaurants, who bought B.C. wine when it was an unknown and for helping make the industry what it is today.”

Time to Do Some Good
Kirk Penton - Jun 19 - Biz Profiles

Image: Kirk Penton

A local tech startup has a new name, a new app, and several new initiatives that will make it easier for people to help their communities.

Do Some Good, formerly known as Volinspire, held a relaunch party on Monday night at the Okanagan Centre for Innovation to unveil its new look and its new features.

“Anyone can make an impact in the community simply by using their smart phone,” Do Some Good operations manager Jeff Hoffart said.

Not only can users of the app find volunteer opportunities throughout their community, but they can also identify and support the businesses that give money back to the community through Do Some Good. The consumer can also choose which charity receives the rebate.

“What I’ve learned is that people want to give back,” said Jeremy Lugowy, the United Way Central and South Okanagan Similkameen’s community engagement co-ordinator. “You just have to give them a platform to do that and give them options and an easy way.

“This is an exceptionally easy way with a great team, and I know the businesses I’m talking to are excited that something like this is out there. It’s unique, it’s local, and that’s important.”

Added Mamas for Mamas founder and CEO Shannon Christensen: “You get to give back simply by being a conscious consumer. I was born and raised here in Kelowna, and it is so important to me that we keep local money local.”

The app features a filter that allows users to find charities that champion issues important to them. There is also a community events database that can be added easily to a smartphone user’s calendar. The data is available to users as well.

“It allows you to track your impact, to record and log how you’re helping the community, whether it’s volunteerism, donations or organizations supported,” Hoffart said. “This is great for employees. It’s great for students. It’s kind of a community resume.”

Sheldon Gardiner, who founded Volinspire in December 2015 and oversaw its relaunch, believes the Do Some Good app will encourage local shopping, but more importantly strengthen the community.

“I grew up in a small town in Saskatchewan,” Gardiner said, “and my mom and dad pretty much taught me the values of community.”

Taking the food truck floral
Trevor Nichols - May 22 - Biz Profiles

Image: Contributed

A short time ago, Diane Herron left her business, sold all her stuff, and made her way to the Okanagan Valley.

Now, less than a year after she first landed, Herron is making an impact in Kelowna, crisscrossing the city in a tiny, fragrant, pink truck.

Herron’s new business, Sweet Dee’s Flowers, takes the food truck concept floral. From her Japanese micro truck Herron operates a kind of “flower bar” where she creates custom bouquets for passersby.

She only took the novel concept to the streets a little over a month ago, but people have already begun to take notice.

Herron got her start through Futurpreneur Canada’s start-up financing program, which helped her refine her business plan so she could secure a loan.

Image: Contributed

Normally, participants have access to a $30,000 loan through the program, but Herron had to make do with much less after the bank chose not to back her thanks to her previous career running her own boudoir photography studio.

“I just thought that was so funny,” she said. “It did kind of change a lot of things, though.”

Now, she had to make do with half the capital she initially expected, making the whole enterprise much more “scary.”

“Every day was just a different problem to solve, and there was no answer some days, and that was really frustrating,” she said.

But entrepreneurs make it work. Sweet Dee’s is named for Herron’s alter ego, a sugar-stuffed superhero with a sidekick cat living in her hair.

Herron created Sweet Dee when she was 21 and living on her own for the first time. The character helped her get through some tough times and has stuck with Herron ever since.

Taking on this new challenge, Herron revised her plans things started falling into place. It was cost restrictions that lead her to settle for the Japanese micro truck that houses Sweet Dee’s, and that truck has already gained the business some notoriety.

Herron says when she gets delivery orders her customers will often ask for a heads up just as she’s arriving so they get the visual impact of the truck—resplendant with flowers—rumbling up.

Image: Contributed

“It’s such a happy business. Everybody who comes up to the truck is always like ‘it’s so cute, everything’s so cute’ and they’re so happy to see the truck,” Herron said.

And really, she says, the truck is essentially the entire Sweet Dee’s brand. Herron said that, while people are often overjoyed when they see the truck fully stocked with flowers, take away the truck and the reception is decidedly more muted.

She says she’s left flowers for retailers to sell in the past, but “that hasn’t gone over so well.”

She says she’ll likely avoid a storefront for that reason, however, eventually she’d like to add more trucks to her fleet.

“I would love to have more trucks. I would love to have a truck in each neighbourhood. Just an army of flower trucks, I think that would be wonderful,” she says.

Right now, Herron sets up shop at various business and markets around town and appears every week at the East Kelowna Sunday Community Artisan Market. For news on her latest location, check out Sweet Dee’s online.

Tourist org ‘bullying’ members?
Trevor Nichols - May 14 - Biz Profiles

Image: Google Maps

After being barred from board meetings, asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and “ignored” for years, Luke Weller is speaking out against Tourism Kelowna.

The owner of Ogopogo Parasail is spearheading a small group of Tourism Kelowna members who say the marketing organization’s new information centre will cripple their businesses.

The new building will open at the foot of Queensway Avenue this year. One of its services will see staff book activities for visitors through an online system (and collect commissions for each booking it finalizes).

Weller says that will put the centre in direct competition with its neighbours, who sell tickets out of a waterfront kiosk right next to the new centre. That’s a problem, he says, because those businesses are Tourism Kelowna members.

Weller explains that having an information centre booking activities right next door will cut into his businesses dramatically, as people who have just blown their budgets booking tours will pass him and his colleagues by.

Fifty-five per cent of his business comes from foot traffic, and he says Tourism Kelowna is “effectively bringing the entire valley to our doorstep to compete with us.”

“I think competing against your own stakeholders… it just shouldn’t be happening.”

Weller and others—like ail, Kelowna Cruises, HydroFly Kelowna, and Okanagan Adventures—are also angry at what they feel has been poor treatment by the organization, after they have spent years asking it to scrap its booking plans.

Not at the table

At its last meeting, the Tourism Kelowna board reviewed the group’s concerns and voted to move ahead with its booking plans.

No representatives from the complaining businesses were there, and it’s still unclear exactly how their concerns were represented.

Image: Ogopogo Parasail

Tom Killingsworth, the chairman of the Tourism Kelowna board, met with Weller after the meeting to go over the decision, but the board has so far continued to refuse Weller’s request to speak to them personally.

Weller is incensed by this, and says he is “amazed” the board showed no interest in hearing directly from the people its decisions stand to considerably affect.

Killingsworth says the issue simply isn’t as big a deal as Weller is making it out to be.

“I understand how upset Luke is getting… I understand what his approach is… but what is there to talk about?” he said.

Killingsworth said the information centre will actually help the next-door businesses. The board has already made up its mind on that “so bringing him to the board meeting is not really going to change anything.”

He said he’s “not opposed” to hearing from Weller personally if it’s that important to him, but that he doesn’t “understand what it’s going to do.”

The few vs. the many

Ayn Lexi of Okanagan Adventures says Tourism Kelowna is being “extremely combative” and “not listening to our concerns,” but Killingsworth says it’s not fair to “do for one what we aren’t prepared to do for all.”

“We represent 380 businesses, and we need to be fair to all of them… we can’t just treat these businesses that are going to be next door to us now any differently,” he said.

He reiterated that the board actually believes having the centre next door will benefit the businesses in the kiosk, becuase staff will be pointing visitors in their direction.

“We’re all concerned every time a stakeholder is concerned… but when we reviewed this we don’t see that we’re going to have a negative impact on his business,” he said.

Tourism Kelowna has also offered the next-door businesses a marketing package for the first year, to try and show it’s being a “good neighbour.”

Weller called the package “insulting.”

“That package is worth about $400 to other members. I stand to lose $400 a day easily,” he said.

Commission, or cost recovery?

Weller and Ayn both claim the organization plans to use the money it collects through the commissions to help fund the new information centre.

The organization is putting up the $2.8 million building without financial help from the City of Kelowna, but did receive a $500,000 grant for construction costs from the provincial government.

Image: Contributed

Killingsworth says tickets sold at the new centre are more “cost recovery” than “commissions.”

“It’s not really a business, we’re just going to cover the cost of having people stand there and talk about a business on behalf of our stakeholders,” he says. “We’re not making money off this thing.”

Staff at the new centre have always booked guests for their clients, and at the new centre will expand that service to start booking for them directly over the internet.

Killingsworth said the centre will charge a fee for the service, but that it will just be to cover the cost of credit card transactions and the booking software.

The matter of the NDA

Weller questions this, and has asked Tourism Kelowna for the minutes from its last meeting so he can both review the numbers and more broadly see how his and others’ concerns were represented to the board.

Tourism Kelowna has been cagey about the request.

In an email, Killingsworth told Weller he would have to get the minutes approved by the board before he can release them. He also said Weller would have to sign a non-disclosure agreement if he wants to see them.

Lexi called the email, which also tells Weller Tourism Kelowna staff will no longer respond to Weller’s emails, calls, or in-person visits “horrible” and “bullying,” and says she was shocked when Weller shared it with her.

Killingsworth says Weller has been very vocal and very persistent in his interactions with Tourism Kelowna staff, and the NDA is a kind of precautionary measure.

“When someone starts to elevate their level of anxiety and I end up having to talk to people in the news about it, instead of having a conversation, I need to understand what their intent is,” Killingsworth says. “It’s becoming so intense that now I have to watch everything I say.”

He adds that the NDA will explain what the purpose of the meeting minutes is.

“It’s a matter of we’ve got work to do… and so I guess it (the NDA) is to try and keep moving things forward in a way that’s comfortable,” he says.

At Tourism Kelowna’s next board meeting is later this month the board will vote to approve the minutes. Weller says he’s waiting to see what will happen next.

Kelowna’s wildest ride
Trevor Nichols - May 04 - Biz Profiles

Image: Contributed

If you’ve spent an evening in downtown Kelowna recently, you might have seen a somewhat strange sight: a lad (or lady) pulling passengers down the street, almost like a horse in bridle, in a bright red, two-wheeled contraption.

The contraption is a rickshaw, and the runner will have been from Last of the Old Kind, a newly arrived rickshaw company in the city.

Dyand Sagar and Franziska Fischer are the couple at the head of the business.

LATOK is already a staple on the east coast, having operated in Halifax for about five years. Now, the pair have brought the idea to the streets of Kelowna and are in the process of building a team of rickshaw runners to hit the streets this summer.

Image: LOTOK

“Usually when people jump in a rickshaw the first thing they do is pull out Snapchat or Instagram,” Sagar says.

That novelty and uniqueness that LOTOK is selling.

LOTOK was born in a city famous for its busking culture, and much of the business reflects that fact.

While a rickshaw ride will get you from Point A to Point B, Fischer points out that just getting around really isn’t the point.

“It’s about making it an experience. How you get there doesn’t matter, as long as everyone has a really good time,” she says.

Depending on which LOTOK runner picks you up, that experience can change significantly.

Sagar likes to flirt and joke with his passengers; Fischer, who appears small in stature, often ends up dragging two or three giant dudes through the streets; another of their runners just blazes through the streets, running as fast as he can.

The runners are all in tip-top shape, and the most adventurous of them will pull their passengers along as they run up walls, do giant lifts, or even walk on their hands. Usually, there’s also music, some playful banter, and shouts from people on the street.

“It’s entertainment. It’s not so much transportation as an event in itself,” Fischer says.

Image: Facebook

The runners all rent the rickshaws from LOTOK, and make their money off donations from their passengers.

That model, Sagar says, actually ends up working a lot better than a set rate (like you would see in a taxi) because passengers wowed by the experience of a rickshaw ride are usually happy to shell out a little extra.

Saar explains that when he tells his passengers he works by donations they usually immediately think of a number in their head.

“Then I get them in, and I tell some jokes, and they’re laughing. Then I lift up the rickshaw. Then I put on their favourite song, so now their song is playing. Now I go and run up the wall…and they’re super excited. So you drop them off and they think, that was worth way more than I thought.”

At the end of the day, however, Sagar says he’s not really in it for the money.

“I don’t really do it for the money, I just do it because it’s a lot of fun,” he says.

Right now, LOTOK works primarily at night, catering to the bar scene. However, they say they will soon start running in the daytime as well.

Along with traditional place-to-place runs, they are also putting together several different rickshaw tours of the city. More information is available on LOTOK’s website.

Kings of the mountains
Trevor Nichols - Apr 17 - Biz Profiles

Image: Contributed

Because they’re located a little out of the way, and because their customers are mostly military and police institutions, many in the Okanagan know little or nothing about HNZ Topflight.

But the helicopter training facility is one of the oldest businesses in the Okanagan Valley, and has quietly become recognized as one of the best mountain helicopter training schools in the world.

Although it’s now slickly branded and operating out of a world-class new facility, HNZ Topflight can trace its existence back to Aug. 9, 1947, when an open-roofed helicopter flew from Yakima, Washington to the Okanagan Valley.

Image: Contributed

Back then, a company called Okanagan Air Services used the craft—which was the first commercially licensed helicopter in Canada—to spray insecticides on local fruit tree orchards.

The fledgling company would eventually become Canadian Helicopters, and in 1951 begin teaching mountain flying techniques to Canadian Air Force pilots out of its Penticton facility.

Canadian Helicopters has since grown into a national, multi-faceted company. Through it all, however, the Penticton base has remained one of the premier mountain training operations in the entire world.

“Everything started right here, and the company has turned into a worldwide company,” Dave Schwartzenberger said last month as he gazed at a framed photo of the craft on HNZ’s wall.

Schwartzenberger is a former RCMP pilot and flight instructor who now works as the general manager of HNZ Topflight.

In 2012 the Penticton team moved into its new facility, which is an impressive structure filled with cozy classrooms and sunlit common spaces.

“The whole idea was for it to be a world-class facility, and match the training we do here,” Schwartzenberger explained.

Image: Contributed

Today, a team of nine instructor/pilots train helicopter pilots from around the world, who come to the centre for advanced training in how to fly in the mountains.

The flight school runs monthly mountain flying courses, and any given course’s pupils might include pilots from the Canadian Air Force, the German Army, the Norwegian Air Force, the RCMP, U.S. government agencies, or others.

In the school’s main classroom an instructor sat in conversation with an American pilot. Lining the walls were small models of canyons, mountains, hills, and plateaus, marked with coloured arrows indicating how air moves around them.

Schwartzenberger explained that many of their students are highly experienced pilots, but that it takes a special kind of training to be able to comfortably and safely take a helicopter through mountainous terrain.

“What we teach is we teach about terrain airflow,” he said, gesturing his hands around one of the models. “Any time you put a building or a large object like a mountain in the way, that air vectors up and down and around the feature.”

You need to “know the wind” and be able to identify visual illusions to keep safe, he added, and that’s what they teach at the school.

Schwartzenberger said he’s surprised that many people in the Okanagan don’t really know what HNZ Topflight does, or in many cases that it’s even there.

Image: Conributed

That’s a shame, he says, because the school’s been bringing a steady stream of international visitors through Penticton for decades.

“It’s amazing what our clients do,” he said with a chuckle. “They do wine tastings, ATV tours, all the tourist stuff—more than I do in a year.”

Along with that, the school is also the biggest tenant at the Penticton airport.

The facility’s pilots also frequently fly on search and rescue missions and help fight forest fires. Thankfully for those pilots, Schwartzenberger said, the school has come a long way from its open-cockpit days.

Landing in wine country
Contributed - Mar 30 - Biz Profiles

Image: Contributed

In partnership with South Okanagan Immigrant Community Services, Castanet Penticton is publishing the stories of 14 local multicultural champions from 10 countries over the next year, once a month. Today we feature one of those stories on Okanagan Edge.

Michal and Martina Mosny reached a crossroads in their homeland of Slovakia. They were operating a small boutique winery and Michal also had another full time job working at a major winery. They were overwhelmed by the workload and had to make a decision about what direction to take with their careers.

“We both decided that we should try something crazy because maybe when we get older we might regret not doing it,” explains Michal. That something crazy turned out to be migrating from Slovakia to Canada. “It has been crazy. From the beginning, everything has gone by so fast. But we’re taking advantage of the opportunity here and going with the flow.”

Having worked in the wine industry, the Okanagan seemed like a logical place for the couple to settle. “We saw a documentary on tv about ‘Wineries Around The World’ and it featured wineries in the Okanagan. We did some research online and saw that the climate was favourable here and there’s wine. So, why not check it out.”

They started a vineyard management company and began consulting and managing vineyards in the Penticton area. Eventually, they connected with a group of investors who wanted to start a vineyard and winery in Summerland.

The Mosnys have experienced some negative sentiments from Canadians who are upset that they’re taking jobs away. But they feel that reaction is normal. “If I was back home and foreigners were taking jobs in Slovakia I would feel the same way too. But it’s never been our intention just to make money and go back home. We want to live here and start a family.”

Michal feels he has something unique to offer Canada in relation to his expertise in vineyards and winemaking. “Here in Canada, I think there is an opportunity to make wines with art and better understanding vineyards and unique wines that represent the Okanagan. The difference is making wines using only what mother-nature gives you. Not using additives.”

Michal was also fortunate to share his expertise in honey wines that are really popular in Slovakia. “I never expected to find honey wines here. So, to get the opportunity to work with them here was very exciting.” The couple believe their biggest success has been the launch of their own label; Winemaker’s CUT, producing a Syrah and a Sauvignon Blanc using Slovakian barrels.

Martina was an elementary school teacher, in Slovakia, teaching gifted students. But because her English wasn’t up to par she worked as a nanny. She also worked with the boys and girls club and as a child care worker with South Okanagan Immigrant Society.

After taking a bookkeeping course at Okanagan College, Martina landed a job as bookkeeper at the winery Michal was managing. But her responsibilities grew beyond bookkeeping. She started answering phones, hosting wine-tastings and other tasks. “After a couple of years, I realized what a great opportunity this was. I could do something very interesting and still grow. I didn’t have to worry about whether I would be able to teach in Canada. That was very important to me.”

The one big feature Michal and Martina like about Canada is the friendliness. “When you walk down the street or sit on a bench by the lake, people will say hi and talk to you. You don’t get that same reception back home in Slovakia. There is so much stress and competition there.

Our main goal here is to be happy and enjoy life…and that’s what we’re doing,” extols Michal.

“Coming here and starting from zero and having nothing. I will remember for the rest of my life. I realize I had nothing so I had nothing to lose and I and I find myself being very happy,” says Martina.

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