Faces of #OKGNtech
Accelerate Okanagan - Jan 10 - Columnists

Image: 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.

Introducing “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 Kelly. Kelly Hoey is the author of ‘Build your Dream Network.’ When Kelly isn’t traveling the world sharing and networking, you’ll find her at home in New York City, where she loves to take meditation walks through City Park or hit the public theatres. We recently caught up with Kelly to learn more about why she chose to write her book and her passion for networking.

[Editor’s note: Kelly Hoey spoke at our OKGNtech LIVE event in October. If you missed it, here are some places you can find her Wisdom. Her WebsiteHer BookHer Podcast.Her BlogHer Speaking Reel.]

What inspired you to make the move from Victoria to New York?

“I attended law school at the University of British Columbia, and then I worked in Toronto for seven years before falling in love and moving to the States. I would like to say there was a career reason and greater ambition than that, but back in 1998 I can’t tell you there was.”

When did you decide that you wanted to write a book?

“Everything that I did in my career led me to this point (the benefit of hindsight!). But the tipping point for writing a book was being sought out for my specific expertise by other authors. I thought to myself, ‘OK, hello … why am I not writing the book on networking?’ It was like getting hit on the head and that kind of ‘If I am the expert’s expert and people are seeking my advice because they see it as unique and helpful and they want to include it in their books on this topic, why am I not writing the book?’”

[Editor’s note: Before becoming an author and speaker, Kelly practised law for 11 years. ]

Did you always know you were a writer?

“I had never considered myself a writer. Sometimes we can put our own lens on a skill set, and it might be because of a comment from a parent or teacher. You know, like, if you had a bad mark on an essay you get this impression of your skill level that may not be accurate, ya know? Things like that may prevent you from pursuing something that is actually, at the end of the day, a strength. It’s important to be able to look past these insecurities.”

You talk a lot about the importance of trusting your gut. Is this something you’ve always been good at?

“Trusting your gut comes with the accumulation of experiences. You’ve got to give yourself the chance to learn, try things out and fully live those experiences to strengthen that trust. Eventually, knowledge and information just gets embedded in us, and, at some point, there is pattern recognition, and you start to feel it in your gut before you think it.”

If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?

“Who knows what you know is ultimately what matters most at the end of the day. You could have the best credentials, but if nobody likes you you’re dead in the water. On the other hand, you could have all the contacts you could ever need, but you’re an idiot, well, that’s not going to get you anywhere either. Life is all about thoughtful relationships.”

What inspired you to write a book about networking?

“Everything in my life truly is explained by networks and relationships. I didn’t think how I was building these relationships and networks was unique. I was just always thinking about ways I could be helpful to other people. I never did anything big or dramatic. It was always just these tiny incremental observations and actions that built these relationships. It’s kind of like maintaining a healthy diet—a series of small actions will just snowball.”

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were first starting out?

“Remember that you have a network and the actions you take ‘Every. Single. Day.’—from how you answer an e-mail to how you greet people at your job—have an impact on that network. That’s networking! Try and focus on being kind to the people you already know and build your network from that core.”

What is your power song?

“My power song is Gloria Gainer’s ‘I Will Survive.’ That song was actually on the B side of the 45, and it wasn’t even supposed to be released, which is part of why I love the song so much. When I think about it, the ‘other side’ is often what takes us to where we really want to go.”

Vancouver aids local market
Bill Hubbard - Jan 08 - Columnists

Photo: The Canadian Press

Many people think that we follow Vancouver’s real estate market, and sometimes that is true. Vancouver always affects the market in the Okanagan Shuswap, but sometimes it pushes us in the opposite direction.

Vancouver right now is in a bit of a tailspin. Sales are down around 30 per cent, and prices have started to drop as well. There are many reasons for this: the speculation tax, the foreign buyer’s tax, the stress test on interest rates and rising interest rates.

However, what this is doing is pushing people from the coast to the Interior. Five years ago the percentage of our buyers in the Okanagan Shuswap coming from the coast was about nine per cent. Going into 2019, that figure is now at 19 per cent. People are selling their small modest houses for millions in Vancouver and coming to the Okanagan Shuswap.

The market forces are putting downward pressure on our market, but migration from Vancouver and Alberta continues to moderate that downward pressure.

Bill Hubbard is a real estate broker and the owner and broker of a four-office real estate firm in the Okanagan-Shuswap. He has been in real estate for 28 years and has been an owner and broker in Vernon for 20 years. At almost 60 years old he is just as passionate about real estate as the day he started.

Bull market all but over
Contributed - Jan 02 - Columnists

Photo: The Canadian Press

Kenneth Kacskowsski
Troy Media

While the western world celebrated the Christmas season, the stock markets showed signs of distress.

Investors saw two historic events: the largest point drop of the Dow Jones industrial average ever on Christmas Eve, followed by the largest one-day gain—1,086 points—on Dec. 26.

One would expect that after this historic rally of the Dow and other U.S. indices, traders and investors would be joyous. But many investors are increasingly wary as fears mount for what 2019 may have in store.

The last year has been very challenging for investors. At the beginning of the year, markets were at all-time highs and believe to be headed higher. Despite a downturn in February, due to a spike in the volatility index, markets continued to edge higher until the beginning of October. That’s when things started heading south.

Downturns in the market are to be expected. In fact, key observers have been calling for such a turn for two years.

An in-depth look at the markets shows numerous recent issues—valuations, debt levels and global macro problems—that have been building over time. As physicist Sir Isaac Newton said, what goes up must come down. This principle also holds true in the market.

The market downturn of the past month could be the start of a down cycle and the early stage of a recession. But it shouldn’t be a surprise to investors: the signs were everywhere that the longest bull market in history was coming to an end.

Wall Street had a great run over the past nine years: the longest bull market in history started in March 2009 and ran through to the end of September 2018. During this period, the Dow Jones industrial average quadrupled.

The new year will be very challenging for investors. Fundamentals start to matter again since the buy-anything rally is over.

This was evident when the world’s largest-ever biotech initial public offering (IPO), Moderna Therapeutics, went public on Dec. 7. It raised more than $600 million with a valuation of $7 billion. Then, on the first day of trading, the stock fell more than 20 per cent. It’s currently down 41.2 per cent.

This demonstrates that investors might finally be questioning what they’re buying.

In the new year, we should expect lower markets and increased volatility. And the downturn could be substantial, since many first-time investors, especially in exchange-traded funds (ETFs), can sell their holdings at the click of a button.

Beyond that, algorithms are driving the market down even further.

Long-time investors suggest that nothing in the market right now makes sense. I think they’re right insofar as it’s important to really understand the role of fluid world events in determining investment opportunities and problems.

In the meantime, investors should consider holding more cash.

During a bear market, things might not always make sense. But as long as proper due diligence is done, and the risks are thoroughly evaluated, performance can still be positive.

Kenneth Kaczkowski is an investment analyst in Munich.

Low-ball offers backfire
Bill Hubbard - Dec 31 - Columnists

Photo: The Canadian Press

There were approximately 5,000 home sales in the Okanagan Shuswap Real Estate market in the last 12 months.

The average difference between the list prices and the sale prices of those sales was approximately three per cent, which brings up an interesting question.

What is the best price to offer based on the list price? Many people believe that making a low-ball offer is the best way to get the home for the best price. However, studies have shown that it is not. When a seller receives an offer that he or she considers a low-ball, two things happen. First, it makes the seller angry and they often will not counter the offer at all. Second, the listing realtor uses it as an opportunity to protect his seller. He or she will usually describe the inexperience of the buyer’s realtor and refer to the offer as ridiculous.

Studies have shown that an offer that is two to four per cent below list price is considered by most sellers to be a good start and they will look at it seriously. Also, many times the listing realtor will encourage his seller to strongly consider the offer rather than make it seem ridiculous.

Of course, these are simply tendencies and each buyer should consult with their realtor before deciding on what to offer.

Bill Hubbard is a real estate broker and the owner and broker of a four-office real estate firm in the Okanagan-Shuswap. He has been in real estate for 28 years and has been an owner and broker in Vernon for 20 years. At almost 60 years old he is just as passionate about real estate as the day he started.

Home buyers will love 2019
Bill Hubbard - Dec 28 - Columnists

Photo: Sean Kilpatrick

The year in real estate basically followed what was predicted in December 2017.

When we compare the first 11 months of this year to last year, the yearly average median price rose seven to 10 per cent, depending on the zone. Absorption dropped to 15 to 25 per cent, and inventory rose. These are all indications of a market that is in a soft correction.

The most important statistic to watch is the absorption. This stat is described as the percentage of total residential inventory that sells on a monthly basis. Therefore, if there are 1,000 houses on the market in December and 100 of them sell in December, the absorption for that month is 10 per cent.

The reason this stat is so important is that it is a statistical representation of the two main driving forces in the market: supply and demand. The average absorption in all three zones for 2018 is between 18 and 20 per cent. If we look back to the period between 2008 and 2013, we were into the single digits for absorption. That is still much lower than we have now.

What this means is that we are still in a good market and we will remain in a good, balanced market for 2019. It doesn’t look like a good market because we compare it to 2016 and 2017. However, these years were not normal years. They were boom years.

Buyers are going to love 2019. There will be more inventory to look at, and they will not be competing with other buyers as much. In 2019 prices will be flat or rise slightly. Absorption will inch down to an average of about 11 to 14 per cent, and inventory will continue to rise.

The reason we will remain relatively strong is that as Alberta and the Lower Mainland continue to correct. They will continue to push people into the interior of B.C. In 2009 the average percentage of our total buyers from the Lower Mainland was between nine and 12 per cent. This year that figure is 15 to 20 per cent. This trend will continue. We are also seeing more developers looking at Okanagan-Shuswap than we have in years.

The sky is not falling. The sky is a nice, clear and blue with a couple of scattered clouds.

Bill Hubbard is a real estate broker and the owner and broker of a four-office real estate firm in the Okanagan-Shuswap. He has been in real estate for 28 years and has been an owner and broker in Vernon for 20 years. At almost 60 years old he is just as passionate about real estate as the day he started.

Faces of #OKGNtech
Accelerate Okanagan - Dec 21 - Columnists

Image: 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.

Introducing “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 Angela. Angela Nagy is the founder of GreenStep Solutions, a sustainability consulting business based in Kelowna. When Angela isn’t busy saving the world, you’ll find her hanging out with her husband and her two children, singing folk music or at the Hot Box Yoga on Bernard. We recently caught up with Angela to learn more about her passion for sustainability and why she started her business.

What is your role at Green Step Solutions, and what do you enjoy most about it?

“As the CEO of a small business, I have to be a bit of everything. When I really think about it, what I enjoy doing most, and what I see myself being able to do as my company grows, is really being the visionary. Developing new programs and services to solve the small and medium-sized business sustainability conundrum is really what I love to do because I understand it first hand being a small business owner myself. You are so busy just trying to run your own businesses that sometimes it’s difficult to focus on the sustainability stuff. But it is so important from a pure cost perspective and profitability perspective.”

What advice would you share with someone interested in a job like yours?

“I stepped into an industry where there aren’t a lot of examples of ‘here’s how to be successful in this space.’ For me, it’s been a lot of just learning as I go. In my 20s I attended as many sustainability-related conferences as I could and read a ton of books that really helped me to understand how to communicate sustainability from a business perspective. I also had the opportunity to get trained by Al Gore, and that was really the ultimate.”

[Editor’s Note: Two of the books that Angela read when learning about sustainability and business were “The Ecology of Commerce” and “Business Case for Sustainability”]

What’s something people don’t know about you?

“I like to play guitar and write songs. If I go to a bar and there is a band I will ask if I can sing a song with them almost every time. My purpose in life is to save the world through business, politics and music. I’ve got the business and politics part figured out, but I’m still working on the music part of it. My friend has been working on a musical recently, and I have been thinking that maybe a musical is the answer. It could bring art and science together in a cool way.”

[Editor’s Note: Where can I get a ticket?!]

What’s the best piece of advice you can share with entrepreneurs?

“Having borrowed money to finance the growth of my company, my piece of advice to entrepreneurs would be that until you have a money making system in place don’t borrow money. It’s so important to have a system where you’ve got the data, and you know that if you put $100 into this system, you’ll get out $100 or whatever your ROI is. I’m not necessarily saying don’t borrow money, but just be mindful of how much you’re borrowing and what you’re using it for.”

Can you speak to the importance of mentorship?

“I have always had mentors. Even when I was in my early 20s, I went out and sought mentorship. At one point in my life, I thought that I would start a chain of organic grocery stores, so I called up the CEO of a grocery store chain in California and I took him for lunch when I was down there for a conference. Being able to sit with someone who is doing the thing that you want to do and just asking them how they did it can be really helpful. Mentorship can also be so valuable when you’ve gotten yourself into a tough spot and knowing that you have somebody to call on makes a big difference. It can be a lonely place as an entrepreneur, and having a good mentor or mentors makes the journey at least easier.”

What is one word that describes you and why?

“Passionate. I am passionate and fully determined to figure out how to make a huge difference. I haven’t saved the world yet, but I’m going to die trying.”

What inspired you to get involved in sustainability?

“When I was 18 I got hired by the City of Kelowna as the grants co-ordinator for the Mission Creek Greenway project. In that role, I had to do a bunch of research into how human behaviour was affecting the ecosystem of our creek and why it was important to build this interpretive greenway to educate people but also to protect the habitat along the creek. It was at that time that I started realizing that government and policy—things that I just assumed were naturally in place to protect the environment—weren’t actually in place and didn’t exist. The fact that we knew that there were these problems but nobody was doing anything about them really made me angry. I remember I was camping with my dad that summer, and I was like ‘I need to do something about this. Maybe I can go work for Greenpeace, and I can become a professional activist. Or what if I could use my public speaking skills, my writing skills, and my research skills to start a business?’ And that’s when I had this epiphany that my purpose in life was to save the world through business, politics and music, and I knew from that moment on that I would start a company.”

Did you always know you’d start a business?

“I had a boss ask me one time ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ and I said, ‘I will be leaving to start a company that will save the world.’ I really was lucky to find my purpose. Knowing your purpose is a real gift.”

Growing companies wanted
Accelerate Okanagan - Dec 11 - Columnists

Photo: Contributed

One of the biggest challenges facing entrepreneurs is money. Accessing growth capital, securing investments, and generating revenue are issues that plague startup and growth-stage businesses alike. Is your revenue limiting your growth rate? Are you in the process of preparing to raise capital? We’ve got just the thing for you!

The OKGN Angel Summit is an investor-led program designed to expose accredited investors to the world of angel investing through a guided, hands-on process where a small venture capital fund is raised, deals are screened and an actual investment in a startup is made. Participating investors and companies will go through an 11-week series of structured meetings including company reviews, founder pitches and due diligence.

The culmination is a public event (Thursday, April 11) where six finalists make their pitch to an audience of community members, and the winner is awarded an investment of up to $200,000 from the fund. That’s right, $200,000.

THE COST

The cost to participate in the OKGN Angel Summit as a company is $99. OKGN Angel Summit uses Gust to securely and privately collect your company information, business plan, and due diligence information. Entrepreneurs who are seeking growth capital and meet the criteria below can apply by completing the application form. The deadline to apply is Jan. 18.

 THE CRITERIA

  • Early stage companies seeking investment of $100,000 to $1 million
  • Eligible companies should be within a half-day drive of Kelowna
  • Must be able to attend and participate in pitch sessions and the finale on April 11
  • Ability and willingness to accept and use an investment up to $200,000
  • Prototype (MVP) working towards product/market fit
  • Passionate and capable founding team
  • Identified early adopters in a large addressable market
  • A plan to scale with potential for a 10x return in five years
  • Deck and information must be uploaded to Gust.

THE CALENDAR

Jan. 18: Application deadline
Feb. 4: Companies selected for quarter-finals
Feb. 11: Quarter-finalist three-minute pitches
Feb. 12:Quarter-finalist three-minute pitches
Feb. 19: Companies selected for semifinals
Feb. 25: Semifinalist 10-minute pitches
Feb. 26: Semifinalist 10-minute pitches
March 4: Companies selected for finale
March 11: Due diligence kickoff with investors
April 10: Mixer with investors and finalists
April 11: Finale

The OKGN Angel Summit is based on the successful Seattle Angel Conference model. The goal of the summit is to raise awareness about angel investing, its benefits and opportunities, and to educate accredited investors in a participatory manner.

Entrepreneurs seeking growth capital can apply today.

It’s time to open borders
Contributed - Dec 07 - Columnists

Photo: Contributed

By Sen. Jane Cordy and Sen. Diane Bellemare
Troy Media

Canada’s framework for interprovincial trade is patchy at best. While Canada has signed on to free trade agreements with countries around the world, there are significant barriers to the free flow of goods and services within our own borders.

Studies have suggested that these interprovincial trade constraints cost the Canadian economy up to $130 billion every year and may negatively impact international trade relations.

Removing barriers to interprovincial trade will be the focus of this week’s first ministers’ meeting, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has flagged the issue as “a massive priority.”

While federal, provincial and territorial governments signed on to the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) in April 2017 with the aim of mitigating interprovincial barriers, almost half of the agreement’s 345 pages are filled with exceptions to the agreement and opt-out measures.

So have interprovincial trade barriers really improved? And what measures should be taken to further eliminate barriers to trade, investment and labour mobility to keep the Canadian economy robust?

At a recent Senate open caucus forum on the topic, we asked stakeholders for their views. We got an earful. One thing became clear across sectors: interprovincial trade is a national embarrassment.

Examples of Canadian companies finding it easier to import goods and services internationally than trading with neighbouring provinces are far too plentiful—and frequently absurd. Why should imported wines be frequently easier to buy in Canada than out-of-province Canadian vintages, for example?

The barriers to interprovincial trade are many and complex, but they are not intractable problems. They are resolvable with political will and federal leadership.

Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, told the forum that it’s “now more important than ever for Canada to ‘get our house in order’ in light of the global trading and competitiveness challenges facing our economy.” We couldn’t agree more.

He cited the “cautious optimism” in the business community for the CFTA. Cautious because many believe the deal is contingent upon the success of the new Regulatory Reconciliation and Co-operation Table (RCT) at the heart of the deal, a federal/provincial/territorial body that will help to advance regulatory alignment across jurisdictions.

According to Beatty, most of the trade barriers are regulatory differences, “divergent sets of rules and processes between provinces that have created a tyranny of small differences for businesses.” The need to harmonize regulations is critical. Unfortunately, progress under the RCT has been slow so far, he told the forum.

Monique Moreau, vice-president for national affairs for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), noted that it should be “at least as easy to trade within Canada as it is with another country,” but that’s often not the reality.

A recent CFIB survey of Canadian businesses flagged that regulatory and administrative barriers were the “most prominent barriers to trade.” Close on the heels are the differences in tax rules across jurisdictions. Moreau noted these “can be a significant investment in both time and money, especially for the smallest businesses.”

Imagine the paperwork alone associated with different workers’ compensation boards or the varying rules across health and safety boards when moving employees across provincial lines. Imagine now how much more seamlessly trade would flourish if, at the very least, safety and transport measures were shared across the country, the forum heard.

Lawyer Ian Blue, senior counsel and adviser from Gardiner Roberts LLP, took a challenge of interprovincial trade barriers to the Supreme Court of Canada and lost. He pointed out that the issue of interprovincial trade is not likely to be fought in the courts but rests now in the hands of elected officials.

So what needs to happen to see improvement?

The 2016 Senate report Tear Down These Walls offers many solutions and several were echoed by forum participants. Beatty and Moreau called for regulatory alignment through “mutual recognition”—as is the case for internal markets in the European Union and Australia. With mutual recognition, a good or service legally provided in one region is permitted in another even if they have differing regulations.

Moreau also supported the “negative list approach,” used in the CFTA, which allows all cross-border trade to occur unless otherwise explicitly prohibited, and the need for a more streamlined, speedy and effective dispute resolution with the governing body when disagreements arise.

Blue floated a novel idea: an interprovincial trade commissioner with real teeth.

One thing is clear: We can’t continue as we’ve always done. The time is ripe to make the Canadian economy competitive, free-flowing and robust. Beatty was right when he urged that we need provincial and federal counterparts to tackle internal trade barriers with the “same urgency” they demonstrated with the recently negotiated United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

As one forum attendee put it: We need to give CFTA a chance but we also need to “give it a push.” Let’s hope the prime minister does just that at the first ministers’ meeting on interprovincial trade.

Sen. Jane Cordy is from Nova Scotia. She is vice-chair of the Human Rights Committee and is also a member of the Energy Committee and the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee in the Senate. Diane Bellemare, Ph.D., is a non-affiliated senator of Quebec; she is the legislative deputy to the government representative in the Senate and an ex-officio member of all committees.

Faces of #OKGNtech
Accelerate Okanagan - Dec 06 - Columnists

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.

Introducing “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 Colin. Colin Basran is the Mayor of Kelowna, BC. When Colin isn’t #mayoring, you’ll find him shuttling his kids to after-school activities (hockey, ballet, dance and soccer), running (even though he hates it!) or playing hockey.

We recently caught up with Colin to learn more about what he loves about OKGNtech and what he is most proud of.

Do you have any advice for someone interested in a job like yours?

“One of the most frequent questions I get asked by kids is what kinds of schooling they need to become the mayor.  My answer is always the same. I believe there is no schooling that can prepare you for this job. What you need is a love for your community. At the end of the day, you just have to love what you do and make decisions based on what you believe in your heart and what is in the best interest for the community. There is no amount of schooling that is going to prepare you for that.”

What do you love about OKGNtech?

“It’s the people that we’re attracting here because of the tech community that is so amazing. These people are educated, locally minded, and they’ve got a big appetite for vibrant art and culture. The tech community is really good at embracing disruptive technology, and that’s helping us build a more vibrant and progressive city. I love this vibe that OKGNtech is creating here, and I like the people it is bringing to our community. I want to see this industry grow.”

What is your motto?

“I was a summer student in the City of Kelowna Parks Department in my early 20s. It was one of my first summer jobs. In the greenhouse in the parks department yard was this sign—and I don’t know how or why it ended up there—but it said, ‘He who lives for tomorrow sure missed a good effing time tonight.’ I have always kind of lived by that saying. Have fun, and things will work themselves out, and that’s kind of been a motto that I have lived by. Everything will work out, so just go for it.”

Where does your passion for diversity and inclusion stem from?

“I was fortunate to have been raised by parents and grandparents that were very welcoming. My grandparents actually had a really big impact on my life. To me, they embodied what Canada was meant to be. They came from another country and loved sharing their culture, but they were also open to trying new things and were accepting of other people. I think that my passion for diversity and inclusion comes from my upbringing and that I was part of a family who embraced multiculturalism and difference. At the end of the day, I hope that the work that I have done on the council has made Kelowna a place where everybody feels accepted and welcome regardless of how much money they have, their religion, sexual orientation or the colour of their skin.”

What are some of the things you are most proud of?

“I am most proud of my kids for sure and just seeing how they are growing and the little people that they are becoming. Professionally, I would say seeing the type of community we are becoming. We are more progressive, more inclusive, more diverse than ever.”

What is the best piece of advice you can share?

“Do what you love. Where this really became evident for me was when I was going to school for broadcast journalism, because I was floundering for a number of years, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. And then I got into broadcast journalism at BCIT, and it was two of the best years of my life. I didn’t want to leave school because I was enjoying it so much! If you are stuck in a position that feels like work, and you don’t enjoy it, life is going to be pretty damn miserable, but find something you are passionate about it won’t even feel like work.”

What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a public figure?

“Nothing could have prepared me for the negativity and criticism I face as mayor. People say that you should just develop a thick skin and get past it, but I think that’s easier said than done. What I try to remember is, at the end of the day, I’m in a role that very few people will ever have the opportunity to have, and I love that I get to make a difference in the lives of Kelowna residents every single day. One of our challenges as a municipality is to do a better job of telling that story, communicating our impact and really showcasing the positive changes we are making.”

Why Kelowna?

“I was born and raised in Kelowna, and there is no other place in the world I would rather live. That’s really the reason I do what I do. I have always thought if you are going to be a part of something you might as well get involved and try and make it the best you can. Kelowna was the best place to grow up, and I want to make sure it is an awesome place for my kids to grow up, too.”

Faces of #OKGNtech
Accelerate Okanagan - Nov 19 - Columnists

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.

Introducing “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 Nicole. Nicole Rustad is the founder of Vortovia, which is a social impact consulting firm, and she is also the founding chair of Mamawapowin Technology Society, a member of the Accelerate Okanagan Board and co-founder of a new tech startup. When Nicole is not busy making moves and inspiring change, you’ll find her boarding a plane or on the porch with her pup.

We recently caught up with Nicole to learn more about what she has been working on and what drives her passion for social impact.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

“I would definitely say that I am cause agnostic. If there is a cause, I probably love it. Everything that I touch has some form of social impact piece to it. I’m pretty excited about the projects that I am working on right now!”

Were you always passionate about social impact?

“I was that kid who would stand up for anyone being bullied in school. I grew up in a family that was very compassionate. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but my mom always found time to fight for the underdog and my father is also a very kind man. I think that really influenced me and helped me find my true north.”

Do you have any advice for someone interested in a job like yours?

“If you’re interested in social impact, I suggest that you start with a cause you care about and start by doing simple volunteering. When I started out I was stuffing envelopes, which gave me the opportunity to do some other really great things. When getting involved in social impact, you can’t expect to start at the top, but you can expect that if you have perseverance, you’re going to be given opportunities to do more.” #justshowup

When were you first introduced to OKGNtech?

“I was introduced to the tech community in the Okanagan through Disney and the founders of Club Penguin: Lance Priebe, Dave Krysko and Lane Merrifield. These three men are visionary leaders, and they really forged a path forward for the tech community here. They have made a mark on this community in a way that has helped so many people succeed.”

What’s one thing most people wouldn’t know about you?

 “I am a risk taker. I love trying new things. I started my glider pilot license a couple of years ago, and it’s something I definitely want to finish when I have time. I love that kind of thing.” #notafraid #fearless

[Editor’s note: Being a glider pilot means that you can fly without the supervision of a flight instructor. So yeah, if you already thought Nicole was a bad ass for all of her social impact work, look at her now!]

Who inspires you?

“I’m really inspired by the people who will never be famous, people that quietly do things for their community. Those unsung heroes keep me motivated to give back and do more. I feel like it’s a responsibility of mine to make sure that their stories are told, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to do that.”

What are your five-year goals?

“Over the next five years I would like to see Mamawapowin Technology Society be self-sustaining, I would like to work my butt off with my friends to get our startup off the ground, and I would like to continue to work on causes that are important to me. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I want to move the needle on all of it.”

[Editor’s note: Mamawapowin Technology Society, is a non-profit, Indigenous-owned organization that provides Internet access to the community of Maskwacis in Alberta. Nicole connected with founder Bruce Buffalo after watching a documentary about him on English Al Jazeera. After hearing his story Nicole knew she wanted to get involved, so she messaged him on Facebook and the rest is history.]

Why have you chosen to call the Okanagan home?

“I used to be the corporate citizen program director at Disney, and during my last six years I was based in Los Angeles. I spent a lot of time commuting to L.A. and traveling all over North America. I’ve been to pretty much every province and territory in Canada and many of the states down south. In total, I have travelled to over 40 countries, and I can honestly say that we live in the best place on the planet.”

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