Top 40: Justin O’Connor
Okanagan Edge Staff - Oct 20 - 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 Justin O’Connor of Sothebys International Realty Canada.

Justin O’Connor realtor and former publisher hired by Sothebys International Realty Canada four years ago to launch their brand in Kelowna.

Since that time, he has progressed to operating his own Sothebys office in the city, and also sits as the current president of the Canadian Home Builder Association for the Central Okanagan.

O’Connor holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing from Okanagan University College, and is a certified Chartered Strategic Wealth Professional.

He also earned his real estate licence from the Sauder School Of Business.

Along with his work in the real estate market, O’Conner also owned and operated Okanagan HOME magazine for six years, prior to selling the publication to Black Press in 2016.

He ii also involved in the new publication Okanagan Home Boulevard, penning his own column called “Inspired Interiors.”

O’Connor also started the Ride to Reach charity 6 years ago. Ride to Reach is a motorcycle ride fundraiser aimed at helping various charities each year. So far, it has raised $70,000.

Kevin’s Konnections
Trevor Nichols - Oct 20 - Columnists

Netflix and KILL

Image: Contributed

If you are looking to celebrate Halloween (like an adult) then know Xchange is throwing a Netflix and Kill party. Get it Netflix and Chill.

There will be a live band, group costume contests, loads of decorations and lots of fun. There is $800 in prizes being given away so get your tickets quickly.

The cost is $30 per person which also includes passed canapés and happy hour drinks all night long.
Remember a couple weeks ago when I said the new owner was going to be doing some real cool things. Go check it out.

Get ’em while they’re hot and ready.

Jana Wendland and Angelika Schack have gone national with their energy bombs. You can order them online and ship anywhere across Canada as of last week. is a local family owned and operated company that uses only all natural, fine ingredients and traditional methods to produce exceptional all natural, gluten free, no added sugar granola snacks

These energy bombs can found in a few grocery stores like Nature’s Fare or Urban Fare and so many coffee shops around Kelowna.

If you haven’t tried them then get ordering. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
Have you heard of Doc Walks? Me neither, but listen to how cool this is.

You can join Dr. Krista Hennigar, Dr. David Hatton and Helix Integrative Health for a Doc Walk. This is an opportunity to hang out and ask the doctors questions while enjoying an Okanagan hike. Everyone is welcome.

Check out their event page for all the info.
Rob and Karen Horner of Treehouse Interiors deserve a huge congratulations because they have been carefully selecting distinctive, high quality and unique items for Kelowna for over 25 years.

Their store is known for the items unlike any other that speaks to quality, suburb taste and individuality that can be found around every corner.

Rob and Karen are currently holding a 25th anniversary sale, so if you like city and country, fresh and funky, classic and contemporary, you need to go and see their showroom near Spall and the highway.
Another big congratulations needs to go out to Total E’Clips because they hosted their 20th anniversary party yesterday at their location on Lakeshore Road.

Linda and her daughter, Kathie, opened the store together in 1993. They have won local awards and multiple style competitions including international up-do, ladies cut and ladies style competitions.
The biggest congratulations this week has to go to the Pearson Family because they have been operating Shady Rest Fish and Chips since 1967. That’s 70 years in Kelowna and they bought it from another who had been running it for who knows how long.

This is old time fish and chips. You know the one that comes wrapped in news paper and is served with homemade fries.

If their place isn’t a landmark in Kelowna yet it should be. Go and check it out. It’s Friday after all.

So you think you can make the best apple pie?

Well, head over to Kelowna’s Farmers and Crafters Market this Saturday because they are hosting their first Apple Daze Apple Pie Contest. Perfect idea for the Okanagan, isn’t it!

Pies are being judged by a celebrity panel as well as Farmer Bob. Visit their Facebook page to see what the winners will win.

Kevin Lavigne is a local advisor with Reid & Associates Financial Solutions. In 2014 he was nominated for Kelowna’s Top 40 Under 40 and in 2016 sat as the President of Junior Chamber International. Kevin also works with multiple non profits and is a mentor for the Canadian Youth Business Foundation.

Landing a job out of school
Accelerate Okanagan - Oct 18 - Columnists

Image: Contribute

Graduating from University is an exciting time that’s full of possibilities. The real world is finally upon you and it’s time to start figuring out what you’re going to do next with your life. If you are considering a career in the tech industry, here are a few ways to ensure that you land the job of your dreams.

1. Start working before you graduate

Putting in some work before you finish school is a great way to ensure you will be at the top of the list when recruiters are looking to hire. A co-op position at a tech company, or even a part-time role will help you gain valuable real-world experience, give you the opportunity to see the different type of roles available in the industry, and open opportunities for mentorship and networking.

Co-op and part-time positions will also allow you to experience and understand the pace at which companies work and provide you with great work examples for your resume. Arguably one of the biggest benefits of working before you graduate is that if you’re good at what you do and show your potential to your employer, they may offer you a full-time gig.

What you need to know about co-op and part-time positions with a tech company:

  • They aren’t just for technical roles. You can find opportunities in marketing, sales, customer success, operations, etc.;
  • Spend some time researching and talking to people in the industry to find a role that you would like to try;
  • Contact the UBCO Coop or the Okanagan College Coop department to see if they can help find you a placement;
  • If a co-op/part-time role is not something that you can do, a volunteer position with a non-profit (or smaller organization) in a technical or non-technical role is a great way to learn and gain experience.
2. Take some initiative and do some self-taught learning
Don’t fret if you aren’t able to do a co-op term, or can’t find a part-time job in the area that interests you. You can still make yourself a desirable hire by showing some initiative and doing some self-taught learning. Employers love to see that a prospective candidate has proactively gone above and beyond to expand their skills and knowledge in preparation for a job.
Depending on the type of role that you are going for, self-learning can include learning how to code online, doing online courses in your desired field, and getting certifications that benefit your career. Did you know that the Okanagan Regional Library offers its members free E-learning through
Show off what you’ve learned:

  • Developers: Once you’ve mastered some code, work on your own side projects or contribute to open source projects. These will be great examples that you can show to potential employers. Stay up to date with new tech and learn the latest languages and frameworks that are being used by your dream company. Ensure you’re on GitHub;
  • Designers: Create a portfolio and show how you’ve iterated and improved your designs. This will help recruiters who may not be design-savvy understand your process and see how you work;
  • Marketing: Create and maintain a personal website with projects that you’ve worked on in school. This is a great way to brand yourself.

3. Network and then network some more

Last, but certainly not least, to landing your first tech job is to network.

Networking is super essential to landing a job in most industries these days—as the old saying goes: it’s not what you know but who you know that will determine whether or not you land your dream tech job. Plus, it’s a great skill to develop early.

The key to great networking is to build quality relationships. When attending an event make sure to spend time getting to know a few people rather than trying to meet everyone in the room. Another way to stand out from the crowd is to follow-up. A quick email or message letting the person you met know that you enjoyed speaking to them is a great way to stay top of mind when a role opens up at their company.

The networking tips that you need to know:

  • There are a ton of meetup groups available and there are always events happening around town to help new grads learn more about tech and their areas of interest. Our next Startup Drinks or the next TechBrew in Penticton would be a great place to start;
  • Recruiters at career fairs are great resources—they can tell you what you need to do in order to land your dream job in tech. Chatting with recruiters is also a great way of having them recognize you when submitting a resume;
  • Take initiative and reach out to people on LinkedIn for informational interviews. People are pretty happy to help those who are looking to learn. Buy them a coffee and don’t focus on asking them for a job, rather try to learn more about what they do, how they got there and what their company is like. They might be able to direct you towards opportunities that could be a fit for you, or you could come to mind whenever a job opens up.

For more tips on landing a job in tech, bookmark the Accelerate Okanagan job board, the BCtech Associaion’s Aspire to Tech page, or come and one of our networking events and plug into the #OKGNtech community.

Rental furor: Part 3
Mark Ameerali - Oct 17 - Columnists

The tourism impact of short-term rentals (STRs)

Image: The Canadian Press

In 2016, Tourism Kelowna commissioned a survey of the visitors to Kelowna and compared the results from 2011.

Here are the highlights:

  • 1.9 million total visitors to Kelowna;
  • 8,350 direct jobs linked to tourism;
  • $240 million in earnings from those jobs;
  • $810 million in total economic output;
  • $142 million in tax revenue.

At the same time, Tourism Kelowna conducted an intercept survey of visitors and found that 9.7 per cent of visitors used STRs and 6.1 per cent listed bed and breakfasts (which were likely listed on STR sites) as their primary accommodation while in Kelowna.

This means that nearly 16 per cent of the figures above are driven by STRs.

When a visitor stays with an STR host, the money spent by that visitor goes directly into the community.

Any accommodation fee is paid directly to a member of the community and the dollars spent by the host are spent back into the community, multiplying the effect of the spending many times over.

Compare this model to the corporate or franchise model hotels follow. The profits from hotel chains in Kelowna are siphoned out of the city and re-distributed to hotel executives, shareholders, and/or a very small group of franchisees.

I’m not suggesting this shouldn’t happen; I’m simply suggesting the sharing economy introduces another, more egalitarian, option to the mix and this is a good thing.

How are STRs impacting hotels

Since 2011, the number of people staying in hotels has increased 11.4 per cent from 42.8 per cent of visitors to 47.7 per cent of visitors. Hotel revenue per available room has increased over the period from 2011–16, yet according to the Tourism Kelowna study, the average visitor has spent less money on accommodation.

This strongly indicates that the STR market is bringing new types of visitors to the city by creating a new more affordable accommodation category.

This is supported by a study conducted jointly between Boston University and fUSC, which showed that a one per cent increase in Airbnb bookings only resulted in a .05 per cent decrease in hotel revenues.

That would indicate that for every 100 Airbnb listings created, five fewer hotel rooms are booked. (The rise of the sharing economy: Estimating the impact of airbnb on the hotel industry. Boston University and University of Southern California, Nov 2016)

While this data was U.S. based, the same findings are reflected here in our local data. It suggests that Airbnb seems to be more of a complement than a competitor.

When the hotels seem to reach a healthy occupancy rate is where STR become sort of a secondary market.

With a local economic impact between $80-$128 million, STR is the fastest growing slice of the accommodation pie and the only slice growing besides the hotel industry.

So who really are the victims of STR?

  • Is it the host who has more money to support their own living costs and rent it back to the community?
  • Is it the vacationers who can better afford to visit Kelowna and spend more of their dollars on enjoying their vacation instead of on accommodation?
  • Is it the tourism industry or the local restaurants and shops that are seeing more visitors than ever before?
  • Is it the students, who have more options when trying desperately to find a place they can live for eight months of the year?
  • Is it the government that sees an increase in tax revenue from all of the above?
  • Is it the evacuee that has thankfully been setup with free accommodation through Airbnb emergency services?

All these groups benefit greatly from the increase in economic activity driven by STR.

The unfortunate fact is we simply don’t have enough long-term rental stock at this point in time, so vacancy is down, rents have increased and it’s bad press for the city.

But let’s not cut off our nose to spite our face.

Let’s recognize the blessing we have in the STR opportunity and be thankful for it.

The Experience Economy
James Grieve - Oct 16 - Columnists

Journey Mapping

Image: Contributed

In our previous two articles, we have described the importance of the “Understanding” phase of “Customer Experience.” The “Understanding” phase is a three-step process that underpins the “Customer Experience” strategy for an organization.

The first two elements of the “Understanding” phase–conducting research in the forms of surveys and in-personal contextual research–are essential for organizations to gain insight into their “Customer Experience” from the perspective of its three key stakeholder groups: customers, employees and leaders.

These research methods create a solid foundation for the final component of the “Understanding” phase: journey mapping.

Journey mapping is a collaborative, visual and graphic interpretation of the overall story, from a customer’s perspective, of their relationship with an organization, service, product or brand, over time and across channels.

It is an effective exercise for revealing key insights that shape the decision making that solves an organization’s “Customer Experience”

The best journey mapping sessions involve a mix of stakeholder participants from many areas of the organization, as well as people of varying levels of seniority.

Journey maps are also helpful to gain internal consensus on how customers should be treated across distinct channels. Holding collaborative workshops with cross-disciplinary teams, mixing people who otherwise never communicate with each other, can be extremely valuable in organizations of various sizes.

Journey mapping is a valuable and strategic exercise because, despite best intentions and mountains of data, many organizations continue to offer lackluster experiences for their customers.

Many organizations function with an internal focus, and that becomes apparent when customers interact with their various products, services and employees.

Every interaction a customer has with an organization influences satisfaction, loyalty, and the bottom line. Plotting out a customer’s emotional landscape by way of a customer journey map along their path sheds light on key opportunities for deepening those relationships.

Customer engagement is not simply a series of interactions, or getting people to visit a website, like something on Facebook, or download a mobile app.  Genuine engagement centers on compatibility, and identifying how and where individuals and organizations can exist harmoniously together.

Giving thought to how your organization/product/service/brand fits into customers’ lives is crucial. Illustrating or describing how the customer experience could be brought to life across channels allows all stakeholders from all areas of the business to better understand the essence of the whole experience from the customer’s perspective.

How do they want to be spoken to; what are they thinking, feeling, seeing, hearing, and doing? Journey maps help us explore answers to the “what ifs” that arise during research and conceptual design.

During the journey mapping session, all the pieces: personas, timeline, touch points, channels, customer emotional highs and lows, and all the wonderful new ideas the team generated for how to improve the future customer journey are put together.

On the surface, journey mapping sessions don’t appear to be a sophisticated deliverable— they involve sticky notes on craft paper. However, when organizations go through the activities to arrive at a solid customer journey map, the finished polished digitized version is an essential tool intended to be shared with colleagues across an organization and used to leverage strategic objectives.

Journey mapping is a strategic imperative for organizations committed to designing and delivering better customer experiences.

All organizations have business goals but leveraging customer journeys as a supporting component of an experience strategy keeps customers at the forefront when making design decisions. They can be used in both current state review and future state visioning to examine the present, highlight pain
points and uncover the most significant opportunities for building a better experience for customers, and can serve as a backbone for strategic recommendations and more tactical initiatives.

James Grieve is a certified management consultant and partner in Nucleus Strategies, a Kelowna-based consulting firm that specializes in working with businesses in a variety of industries to design great service experiences that delight customers and improve business performance. He can be reached at 778.214.6010, or [email protected]

Top 40: William Walczak
Okanagan Edge Staff - Oct 13 - 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 serial entrepreneur William Walczak, who currently works as the CEO and director of Hiilite, among many other things.

Image: Contributed

William Walczak has been an entrepreneur since he was a teenager 19, and can already claim several successful businesses.

He cut his teeth at the University of British Columbia, where he graduated with an MBA. He also has an engineering degree from Simon Fraser University, and a series of IT certifications and diploma.

Since moving to Kelowna in 2009 he has worked with or supported several organizations, but he currently runs a 20-person team at Hiilite Web + Marketing, as the company’s director and CEO.

He also acts as CEO and director at RepairExpress and Fix My Touch, where he oversees another 12-person team.

Walczak has sat as a board member for Opera Kelowna, an organization he is also proud to have supported financially for the past three years.

He’s also supported other community organizations like United Way, Kelowna Arts Council, Food Bank, and others. ‘

Walczak  has mentored, and continues to support, several young and aspiring entrepreneurs, and teaches a digital marketing course at Community Futures, a venue he says he will use to “help guide the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

Walczak says he is “proud to be part of the Kelowna business community,” and hopes to continue to help the city become the “creative and cultural destination of Canada.”

Kevin’s Konnections
Kevin Lavigne - Oct 13 - Columnists

Things happen in 3s

Image: Contributed

Have you driven on the highway past downtown and seen the Hyper Hippo in bright blue letters on the side of a new building?  Just like me you must have wondered what that is.

Well, Hyper Hippo was highlighted this week by Accelerate Okanagan.

Hyper Hippo is a game design studio right here in Kelowna, whose games are played by millions around the world. Hyper Hippo uses a lean approach to game design.

They have a creative and experienced team that releases a new game every month. Their Adventure Capitalist is an award winning and record breaking game.

Hyper Hippo is the leading independent game studio thanks to its endless pursuit of fun and innovation.
Things happen in threes, so you shouldn’t be surprised that Deb Dunnigan and Karyn Mackenzie have opened the third Dunnenzie’s Pizza at Airport Landing.

Dunnenzie’s Pizza is known for great pizza and calzones, but yesterday I was told I needed to try their white pizzas. After reading their menu they are absolutely right, I need to try their white pizzas and so should you!

Their new location is eat in or take out and offers different lunch combo’s every day. See you there.

Motovida Cycle is turning three tomorrow and they are celebrating all day.

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., they will have special pricing, food and beverages plus test rides on their Motto Guzzis and Aprilias. They will also be introducing their REV’IT motorcycle clothing and gear.

From 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. join them for the birthday party with Devon Coyote playing live music in the back. Go and share this experience with others that love a life on two wheels.

The third three is the announcement of the third annual Brewphoria at the Tree Beer Institute.

Twelve breweries and 12 casks under one roof happening next Thursday from 5 p.m. to close.

Cross your fingers there are still tickets left.

Cineplex is celebrating Community Day on Saturday. You can enjoy free movies and $2.50 snacks with all the proceeds going to WE.

WE believes that every person, everyday can better the world. They are a worldwide organization that has provided millions of volunteer hours, helped millions of people and they have built over a thousand schools overseas.

The WE movement isn’t complete without YOU.  Visit them at

Congratulations to Christina Marcano because she has just launched I Dress Myself.

I Dress Myself is a unique kids clothing company that provides all kinds of styles for kids. I wish they had the Rock and Roar Tee in my size.

Christina has been on Dragon’s Den twice and it seems like entrepreneurship runs in the family because her mom started a clothing company called Silver Icing when she was small.

I Dress Myself has stylists right across Canada and they are always looking for more people who like to be their own boss too. Visit their website to find out more.

Kevin Lavigne is a local advisor with Reid & Associates Financial Solutions. In 2014 he was nominated for Kelowna’s Top 40 Under 40 and in 2016 sat as the President of Junior Chamber International. Kevin also works with multiple non profits and is a mentor for the Canadian Youth Business Foundation.

Spotlight: Hyper Hippo
Accelerate Okanagan - Oct 11 - Columnists

Image: Contributed

Hyper Hippo is a game design studio located right here in Kelowna. The company’s lean approach to game design, coupled with a talented and experienced team of creatives, ensures it can release a new game every month.

Hyper Hippo has released more than 50 games since 2014, including the award-winning and record-breaking title, AdVenture Capitalist.

So what’s it like to be a Hippo? Well, they design games (obviously) and they like ideas (the unusual, the weird, and the bold). They also like the freedom to work with minimal direction, tinker, and try new things.The culture at Hyper Hippo supports this experimental approach by ensuring the environment is fun, collaborative, and feedback friendly.

FUN: Sure they have foosball, ping pong, and free snacks in the office at all times–but better than that, this energetic crew actually like each other, and want to hang out and play games.

COLLABORATION: This is a team that truly values collaboration. The startup vibe of this workplace gives hippo’s the autonomy to produce and create games in a studio that oozes “creative crazy.”

FEEDBACK: Hippo’s depend on feedback from players (the good and the bad) to help them create a better player experience.

The endless pursuit of fun and innovation means constantly experimenting and testing and that can get tiring. The Hyper Hippo team offers its employees three weeks of vacation, health benefits, and ten personal days a year to ensure no one gets burnt out. It also offers a profit-sharing program and self-development support so their hippo’s can continue to learn and grow.

To learn more about this local design studio, find them online or connect with them at Accelerate Okanagan’s next Startup drinks.

Top 40: Andrew Brunton
Okanagan Edge Staff - Oct 06 - 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 Andrew Brunton, a real estate lawyer at Pushor Mitchell LLP.

Image: Contributed

Andrew Brunton moved to Kelowna  2008, when he first joined Pushor Mitchell; by 2014 he had become a partner at the firm.

Prior to starting with Pushor Mitchell, Brunton earned a Bachelor of Commerce from Queen’s University, along with a law degree from Osgoode Hall.

According to Paul Mitchell, Brunton is “a leader within our firm and in the community.”

At Pushor Mitchell, Brunton served on the management committee, and is the chair of the solicitors group. He’s the past president of the Downtown Kelowna Association, and served on its board for six years. He is also a past director of the United Way.

Mitchell says Brunton encouraged the firm to take part in the United Way Day of Caring, closing the offices for the afternoon so employees could volunteer in the community.

Brunton is also an entrepreneur. As a partner at Pushor Mitchell, he is part owner of a business with more than 100 employees. He chairs the firm’s business development committee, and has led efforts to expand its geographic reach.

If anyone deserves to be the in the Top 40 Under 40, Mitchell says, it’s Andrew Brunton.


Kevin’s Konnections
Kevin Lavigne - Oct 06 - Columnists

Global leaders coming here

Image: Contributed

The Global Leadership Summit tickets have gone on sale this week.

If you’re interested in bettering yourself our being a better leader for work or personal reasons, this is the event for you. You will get a unique blend of vision, inspiration, and practical skills you can use immediately.

Everyone has influence, so if this is an area you would like to focus, don’t let cost get in the way. Please contact the organizers to make it happen.

Leverage the summit as a resource to transform yourself and your community.

Visit their website for a list of speakers, and to purchase tickets.
CREW Marketing Partners is heading to Ontario.

Congratulations to Josh Cairns and Braden Douglas for growing their company even further.

CREW Marketing Partners is a professional marketing services firm that is serving consumer goods, real estate, manufacturing and the professional services market.

Their mission is simple — Help Organizations WIN with marketing. Visit their website to see if they are a fit for your company.
Three Wishes Clothing Boutique has returned to Kelowna’s Pandosy retail corridor after a 10-year hiatus.

Owner Pat Currie has two other locations in Penticton and decided to close the store because it was so difficult travelling from Penticton, due to the construction in Summerland and Peachland back in 2007.

It was her customer’s constant requests for her to re-open in Kelowna and the opportunity to thrive on Pandosy that made her jump at the chance to bring casual, career and special occasion fashion back to Kelowna.

Three Wishes has been run by Pat for 23 years, so go visit her and she was what she has to offer.
The Harvest Classic Hunter/Jumper Show has started and will be running all weekend at the Kelowna Riding Club.

This is the last show of 2017 at the Kelowna Riding Club and they have revamped the entire line up of classes and events to make it extra special this year.

Go and check it out.
Maxine DeHart’s United Way Drive Thru Breakfast is happening Thursday.

I’m sure you know that you can drive, bike or run through, make your donation and pick up your breakfast bag filled with goodies and surprises.
The 30th Annual Business Excellence Awards will be happening this coming Thursday.

This is the Chamber’s biggest event of the year and one you don’t want to miss.

Good luck to all nominees! This has been a long road for you.
Land Rover Kelowna is launching the Range Rover Velar this Thursday evening at Tantalus Vineyards in East Kelowna.

Be one of the first to see the newest Range Rover while enjoying some great wines and appies.

Visit their Facebook page to see the prizes you can win, and also to RSVP.
There is not too many events planned this Sunday and Monday, so make sure to take in all the friends, family and turkey as you can.

Make it a great week!

Kevin Lavigne is a local advisor with Reid & Associates Financial Solutions. In 2014 he was nominated for Kelowna’s Top 40 Under 40 and in 2016 sat as the President of Junior Chamber International. Kevin also works with multiple non profits and is a mentor for the Canadian Youth Business Foundation.

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