Faces of #OKNTech
Accelerate Okanagan - Mar 21 - Columnists

Image: Accelerate Okanagan

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 connection through a period of growth like this can be a challenge. Nobody panic, we’ve got a plan.

Introducing, The Faces of #OKGNtech (@OKGNtech). It’s 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 @okgntech) to learn more about our growing community and what makes them awesome.

Meet Max. Max Colls is the director of marketing at DataNerds. We recently caught up with him to learn more about his role at Data Nerds and where he fits into our growing #OKGNtech community.

What do you enjoy about your role at Data Nerds?

“I come from a sales background, but Data Nerds has given me a chance to use my skills for more than just sales. Right now, I’m working in marketing communication, product marketing, business development, direct sales… the list goes on and on”.

What’s it like to work at Data Nerds? 

“The people I work with at Data Nerds are awesome, the work is challenging, and celebrating success is becoming a regular thing. Not a bad problem to have.”

What do you love about #OKGNtech?

“I love how tight-knit the #OKGNtech community is. There are opportunities everywhere here if you’re willing to find them and work hard for them.”

What do you want to be remembered for?

 “Our work in the US is really exciting… and disrupting. Our goal is to turn Estated into a household name and I love being a part of that [Editor’s Note: Estated is a Data Nerds product that provides property data solutions for buyers and sellers in the U.S.]

What’s the best piece of advice you can give us?

“The idea is really the easy part. I think it’s really important to commit to that idea and see it through. Ideas without follow through will always just be ideas.”

Who inspires you?

“The CEO of Data NerdsJosh Fraser is hugely inspiring for me. He’s so driven and passionate about what he does. There are so many ideas being thrown around and so much potential – I guess I just feel lucky to be a part of it.” #bossgoals

Who helped you get to where you are?

”My UBCO education was a game changer.  The Management Faculty and Management Student Association at UBCO really helped me establish my work ethic and think big picture.”

Connect with Max. Learn more about Data Nerds. Hungry for more? Meet Bri and Kris.

OK companies pegged for blastoff
Accelerate Okanagan - Mar 20 - Columnists

Photo: Accelerate Okanagan

A dozen local companies are predicted to experience significant growth, investment or acquisition by the 2018 Ready to Rocket Lists.

The lists were recently released by the business recognition program, and provide predictions of private companies that will likely experience significant growth, venture capital investment, or acquisition by a major player in the coming year.

Each year, based on analysis of trends that will drive growth in the technology sector, Rocket Builders identifies the top private companies that are best positioned to capitalize on the trends for growth

This year, seven Okanagan companies found a place on the “emerging rocket” lists, and five were named to the “ready to rocket” lists.

The local companies who made this years’ list include:

Emerging Rocket in Information and Communication Tech

Change Gamers



Hummingbird Network 

Ready to Rocket in Information and Communication Tech


Two Hat Security 


Street Text 

Emerging Rocket in Digital Health


Perfit Dental Solutions 


Ready to Rocket Digital Health

Core Health Technologies 

Several of the companies on this year’s list—including Bananatag, Change Gamers, Perfit Dental Solutions, Two Hat Security, and others—also appeared on the 2017 Ready to Rocket lists.

To learn more about Ready To Rocket and to see the 2018 lists, visit the organization online.

Biz 1on1: Kyle Green
Visland Media - Mar 20 - Columnists

Produced by Kelowna’s Visland MediaBiz 1on1 is an interview series that explores the lives of some of the most interesting business people in North America.

Host Randy Lennon sits down with CEOs and founders of a diverse selection of businesses, talking with them about their vision, passion, and experiences building and running their company.

The show covers a wide array of stories and, although Lennon interviews business leaders from across the continent, he puts a particular focus on people from Okanagan Valley.

Originally broadcast on national television, Biz 1on1 has found a new home on Okanagan Edge, adapted for an online audience.

This week, Randy Lennon sits down with Kyle Green of the Green Mortgage Team.

Image: Visland Media


The experience economy
Sean Shepherd - Mar 19 - Columnists

Why you should manage your customers

Image: Contributed

In a previous article we shared the importance of reliability and consistency of customer experience, and how progressive business leaders need to care about operational activities that influence customers to stay, leave, buy more, and recommend their organization to others.

Progressive organizations understand that great service begins with great people, systems, and processes. Creating a work environment with the infrastructure and tools that empower employees to deliver the moments of truth is critical for delivering memorable customer experiences.

Unfortunately, this is not always as easy as it seems, and one of the main reasons is that customers are difficult to manage.

Customers can increase the cost and reduce the quality of whatever service you are providing, often without warning and with very little regret.

Unlike your employees that are contractually bound to work on behalf of your firm, customers work under no such constraints. Because customers are rightfully looking out for number one, they tend to be erratic, unskilled, and entitled, with interests that regularly diverge from the interests of your organization.

Until recently, many organizations saw a clear distinction between themselves and their customers.

Customers were often seen beyond an organization’s direct control. As a result, organizations wasted considerable amounts of time and money on market research without directly involving their customers.

This lead to costly unmet expectations for both the organization and their customers, and ultimately lead to the erosion of customer confidence and the demise of the organization’s performance.

There’s a lot to be gained by empowering customers to play a greater role in meeting their own service needs, and success begins with understanding your customers’ differences.

Variability is a fact of life with customers, and their experiences can take many different forms, including:

Timing – not all customers want your services at the same time or at times that are convenient for your organization;
Requests – not every customer orders the same thing. Organizations must be nimble and able to adjust to different customer needs;
Capability – customers have different knowledge, skill, abilities, and resources. This means that some customers perform tasks easily while others need hand-holding;
Effort – customers decide for themselves how much effort to invest in your organization. It is important to make your services as effortless as possible to meet their needs and expectations;
Preference – customers have different definitions of quality. A good practice is to always seek to provide greater value to avoid buyers’ remorse.

Managing customers’ expectations is critical to achieving customer experience excellence. Understanding the chaos of your customers’ subjectivity helps you manage the variability more effectively without having to force you into a stark trade-off between cost and quality.

Reducing customer effort increases efficiency while improving the consistency of your organization’s offering, and this can be achieved without wreaking havoc on operations.

Optimal customer experiences strike a delicate balance between the needs of the organization and the needs of the customer. Operational performance can’t be sustained by placing customers on a pedestal and indulging their every desire.

To create a system in which excellence is the norm, you need to manage your customers every bit as much as you manage your employees.

To achieve optimal customer experience balance, organizations can benefit by carefully selecting the right customers to ensure fit from an operational perspective, training their customers on how to interact with the organization in ways that feel good for customers and suit their needs, and designing experiences that reduce the burden on customers so that they can achieve their objectives in ways that align with the organization’s value proposition.

Customers play a defining role in your organization’s ability to deliver great service at a sustainable cost. The greater your expectations of your customers, the more time is needed to devote to choosing the right customers and providing them with great experiences that are consistent, reliable and worthy of referral.

Sean Shepherd is a certified usability expert, award-winning designer, and partner in Nucleus Strategies, a Kelowna-based experience design firm that specializes in designing memorable customer experiences that attract and retain customers for businesses in a variety of industries. He can be reached at [email protected].

Pitching the Dragon’s Den
Colin Dacre - Mar 17 - Biz Releases

Image: Tyson Still

A Penticton-based business will be venturing into the den next month.

WineCrush is heading to Toronto at the end of April to participate in an episode of CBC’s Dragons’ Den program.

Co-founder Tyson Still said they pitched the producers of the show in Kelowna last week, and received the invite to Toronto on Friday.

“It’s so exciting. We’ve been doing this all on our own, with no food or grocery industry training and we’ve gotten this far. All three of us are really excited for this opportunity.”

The company takes the seeds and skins left over when wineries crush their grapes and infuses them into meats, cheese, and bread.

“We just say what we always say about our products, and our passion behind it,” Still said about their pitch in Kelowna last week, explaining they would like to expand into Ontario.

Still said the possibility of strong mentorship from one of the Dragons’ is the most exciting for him.

Another Penticton business, the People’s Crafthouse Soda Company, appeared on the Dragons’ Den last year, striking a deal with Manjit Minhas, a Canadian craft brewery magnate.

Faces of #OKGNTech
Accelerate Okanagan - Mar 16 - 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 connection through a period of growth like this can be a challenge. Nobody panic, we’ve got a plan.

Introducing, The Faces of #OKGNtech (@OKGNtech). It’s 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 @okgntech) to learn more about our growing community and what makes them awesome.

Meet Kristian de Pont and Bri Sproule. Bri was born and raised in Kelowna and Kristian is a recent transplant from a place called Titirangi, New Zealand. Never heard of it? You’re not alone. Most people need him to spell it out. We recently caught up with the power couple, Bri Sproule and Kristian de Pont to learn more about their thoughts on #OKGNtech and how Kristian is settling into Kelowna.

What do you love about #OKGNtech?

Kristian “I am fairly new to Okanagan tech. I’ve actually only been here for just over four weeks, but the energy at #NYKO2018 was unreal and I’m excited about what’s to come.”

How does your company service the Okanagan? 

Bri “I am a kindergarten teacher at Glenrosa and I’ve been using Fresh Grade to do my assessments for three years now. Our school district is really intentional about how we incorporate and use technology. As teachers, we are responsible for educating a new generation on the responsibility of global citizenship, and technology definitely plays a role in that.”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? 

Bri “I try to not to let others sway my philosophy. I am clear about who I am and what I believe. Different is good.”

Who inspires you?

Kris “I am so inspired by the real go-getters out there. It’s cool to see young entrepreneurs running with an idea without holding back. They don’t care about what others have to say. They go for it. They take risks.”

What’s your favourite thing about the Okanagan? 

Bri “People in the Okanagan really value work-life balance and I love that. Kelowna is a playground and I feel really lucky that I am able to carve out time to really enjoy it.”

Kristian “Other than the girl I moved here for?! What I love about the Okanagan (so far) is having four clear seasons. I’m a keen snowboarder so being able to enjoy Big White 5 months of the year and then wake surf and boat in the summer is really spectacular.”

Top 40: Michael Buffett
Contributed - Mar 16 - Columnists

Image: Contributed

This year, Okanagan Edge and the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce have partnered to showcase some of the Okanagan’s most exciting entrepreneurs, through the Top 40 Under 40 program.

Sponsored by BDO, the Top 40 Under 40 recognizes innovative young professionals in our community and showcases their accomplishments.

Okanagan Edge will feature a new honouree each week, so check back often.

This week we recognize Michael Buffett, a read-seal chef who runs the social enterprise Start Fresh Kitchen.

Image: Contributed

By trade, Buffett is a red-seal chef, be he says by nature a he’s a “teacher and community leader.”

After spending 14 years behind the scenes in kitchens across Canada, in 2015 Buffett landed in the Okanagan, a place he thought could help him “regain personal balance.”

“As I fell in love with the area, my passion for people and vision for a healthier community led me to volunteer in school classrooms and at local social agencies, teaching cooking skills to those who needed it most,” he explains.

From that work, a non-profit organization called the Start Fresh Project Society eventually emerged.

Buffett began developing programming and securing spots throughout Kelowna to teach culinary arts and farming education to community members in need of employable skills.

That charity work lead Buffett to open a for-profit social enterprise called the Start Fresh Kitchen.

The cooking school and catering company creates awareness and provides support directly to the Start Fresh Project’s programs.

Th Kitchen opened in June of last year, and during this very same month, the Start Fresh Project began the first year-long certification courses through the non-profit.

Local housing market cushioned
Bill Hubbard - Mar 15 - Columnists

Image: The Canadian Press

Not long ago I predicted that, even though January came out with a bang, we would likely see the housing market stabilize as we got into the first quarter of the year.

That is exactly what we are seeing.

The market is still strong in all zones: Central Okanagan, North Okanagan, and the Shuswap. However, you can see a slight leveling off in the statistics.

We are lucky in the Okanagan-Shuswap because we have two strong additional forces working in our favour: migration to our area from Vancouver and Alberta.

The two major economies in the country, Toronto and Vancouver, are definitely seeing a slight slowdown in their markets caused by the changes in interest rates and mortgage qualifying.

Vancouver residential sales saw a 9 per cent drop in February this year compared to February of 2017. Sales were 14 per cent below the 10-year average and inventory was up 3 per cent.

Toronto speaks the same. Sales are down, inventory is up slightly, and prices seem to have stabilized.

However, there is a big “but” to this whole conversation.

First, this is exactly what the provincial governments were trying to do; they wanted to slow the two largest economies in Canada down. Hopefully, they are satisfied with this level of slowdown.

But let me put it into perspective.

To say that Toronto and Vancouver’s markets are slowing down is like saying Team Canada stinks because they lost the gold medal in overtime.

Even though they lost, they were still split-seconds away from the best in the world. Toronto and Vancouver may not be atop the podium, but markets there are still very good.

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 - Mar 15 - Columnists

Image: Accelerate Okanagan

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 connection through a period of growth like this can be a challenge. Nobody panic, we’ve got a plan.

Introducing, The Faces of #OKGNtech (@OKGNtech). It’s 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 @okgntech) to learn more about our growing community and what makes them awesome.

Meet Carly Malchuck. Carly is an account executive for Bananatag, but you may also recognize her for her (low key famous) food and fashion blog and Instagram account. We recently caught up with Carly to learn more about her passion for blogging and where she fits into our remarkable #OKGNtech community.

What do you love about #OKGNtech? 

“#OKGNtech has grown so much and the opportunities it has created are unbelievable. If y ou were living in another community this size, I’m not sure you’d see the same kinds of opportunity. What we have here is really unique.”

What’s your mantra? 

“I really believe that you just have faith in the best decisions you make and know that everything you do is for a reason. Seriously, I have an  ‘everything happens for a reason’ tattoo. That’s commitment.”

Who inspires you? 

“I’m so inspired by my friend Jessica Cote, owner of ObviouslyChic. She created an online clothing company from the ground up. She has worked every position in the company so she knows her company inside and out. Basically, she’s a BADASS boss babe.”

Why did you start your blog?

“I love writing and managing my blog Carlydaily.com because it gives me the freedom to explore all my creative interests. It started as a hobby but now it’s grown into its own animal”

What’s a big goal of yours?

“A big crazy goal?! I have always wanted my own HGTV show. Hosting my own show would be INCREDIBLE.”

What do you like about working at Bananatag?

“My job at Bananatag allows me to go around the world in one day all from my desk. I’ll start my day talking to someone in Dubai and then England and then Toronto and then end my day with Australia – so that’s pretty cool.”

“I really enjoy working for Corey Wagner. When you start here at Bananatag you do a personality test – and we got the same results. We didn’t need a test to tell us that though – we just get each other!”

Who’s in and who’s out? 
Denise Mullen and Kristine St-Laurent - Mar 14 - Columnists

Image: Contributed

Continuing our series in honour of International Women’s Day, Okanagan Edge presents the latest in a series of blogs examining the place of British Columbian women in the workplace.

Penned by authors at the Business Council of B.C., the six-part series explores issues such as the gender pay gap; women’s labour force participation; the link between education, child care, and missed opportunities; and women’s entrepreneurship and self-employment.

Last week, authors Denise Mullen and Kristine St-Laurent explored the gender gap and why it matters. In part two of the series, they dig into labour force participation and why there’s been a stable gender gap since the early 1990s.

Part 2:  The Participation Rate

Image: Statistics Canada

The term “labour force participation” has a specific meaning. It includes both full-time and part-time workers, as well as those who are not currently working but are looking for a job. All of these individuals are participating “in” the labour market.

Full-time students and retirees, stay-at-home parents and people with disabilities who are not actively engaged in looking for work are considered to be “out” of the labour force. So are other individuals who have stopped looking for a job for one reason or another.

In terms of women’s labour force participation, a woman on maternity leave is still considered in the labour force if a return to her job is anticipated and/or her position is protected (regardless of whether her leave is paid or not).

If she formally quits her job to take care of a child or other dependent, she is no longer in the labour force.

Sometimes, labour force participation rates can fall for demographic reasons, such as a rising share of retirees exiting the workforce or a significant increase in the population of students enrolled in post-secondary education. But there is cause for concern when labour force participation rates fluctuate for what Statistics Canada refers to as “prime-age” workers—those between 25 and 54 years.

Such variations can have wider economic consequences.

Lower labour force participation may lead to slower economic growth, sluggish productivity, reduced consumption, and fewer public tax dollars to pay for social services, health, infrastructure and other types of government spending.

In terms of human capital, long breaks from the labour force make it more likely that a person’s skills will depreciate or, at the very least, that their skills don’t fit with what employers may be looking for.

For individuals with prolonged periods of absence from employment, returning to work can mean more precarious and lower-paid work, fewer employer-paid benefits, and less seniority.

BC Context: Who’s In, Who’s Out?

Image: Statistics Canada

Participation rate statistics for British Columbia start in 1976. The slope of the trend lines and the rates of change mirror overall national trends in Canada. As of 2016, total labour force participation rates for women and men over 15 were 60% and 69%, respectively.

The key takeaway from this chart starts around the early 1990s. Since then, women’s participation rates have remained constant, and there has been a stable gender gap.

Why is this so? It’s a bit of puzzle.

Women and men enter the labour market in almost equal proportions, but there is a drop-off rate for women in their prime working years.

At the beginning, young women between the ages of 15 and 19 may participate even more than men do in paid work, as indeed they did in 2016.

The drop-off begins in the 20 to 24-year age group and reaches a peak between 35 and 49 years.

The gap is only partially explainable by child rearing (which will be discussed in an upcoming blog). It is not because of a lack of education, skills, or ambition; rather, the explanation may lie in policy and organizational human resource practices.

Reasons for labour force non-participation matter. The consequence of fewer women working is not just a women’s issue; it is an economic issue. A decline in the number of labour force participants–particularly of an increasingly better-educated cohort–acts as a brake on the provincial economy.

We need to do more to understand the reasons why some women choose to opt out of work. Only then will we be in a position to devise strategies to fully tap into and apply the talents of the women who make up over half of British Columbia’s population and potential workforce.

The Business Council of British Columbia aims to produce timely and exceptional public-policy research and advice on issues to enhance B.C.’s competitiveness and prosperity. As a collaborative, non-partisan organization, the council strives to be a venue where members, policy experts, elected officials, and government decision-makers can address problems and form solutions together. 

All Columnists Stories