Top 40: Kray Mitchell
Contributed - Apr 16, 2021 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

Okanagan Edge and the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce are partnering to showcase some of the region’s most exciting entrepreneurs through the “Top 40 Over 40” program.

Sponsored by BDO, the “Top 40 Over 40” recognizes high-achieving professionals in our community and showcases their accomplishments. This marks the seventh year the chamber has conducted a “Top 40” showcase. Honourees will be featured throughout the year on Okanagan Edge.


Kray Mitchell works for Shopify in Kelowna, helping build community around entrepreneurship while also providing free business coaching and consulting services. Those services help launch, grow or scale a business, whether or not one which is situated on Shopify.

Mitchell defines his goal as helping local merchants succeed in their business; to help guide people down the right path to success and to raise awareness for “support local” campaigns.

He was an IT manager for five years in the film and TV industry, and was a member of several business groups in Calgary, including Ladies Learning Code and Chic Geek.

In 2017, Mitchel was volunteer of the year with the Kelowna Women’s Shelter and has played Santa at its annual Christmas party for the past five years. When not dressing up as Saint Nick, he continues to offer guidance in regards to online technology.

Mitchell has also helped other local organizations such as Hope Outreach—he built its first website at no cost—and Special Olympics Okanagan.

Mitchell studied multimedia design and communications.

Brooker hopes to grow Flowr
Okanagan Edge Staff - Apr 16, 2021 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

Darryl Brooker is moving from wine to weed.

The Mission Hill Family Estate president has quit to become the chief executive officer of Flowr, the publicly traded cannabis company whose operations are based in Kelowna.

Brooker spent the last three-plus years as Mission Hill’s president but had been with the West Kelowna winery since 2015. Before that, he was the vice-president of winemaking and operations at Kelowna’s CedarCreek Estate Winery.

“We are very excited to have a seasoned (consumer-packaged goods) executive like Darryl joining our company,” Flowr board chair Steve Klein said in a press release. “Darryl has an extensive track record of building regulated CPG businesses in Canada with a hands-on approach to management.

“In 2021, we expect Flowr to become focused keenly on maintaining its reputation as a leading premium cannabis brand as it progresses to profitability. Darryl will bring fiscal discipline, leadership and the type of mindset needed to succeed in the cannabis industry.”

Klein said the parallels between the wine and cannabis business are many, which he said gives Brooker a “unique set of skills” to grow Flowr.

Flowr has also added Noel Biderman to its board. He is an international CEO, founder, author, speaker and lecturer.

Brooker is replacing Lance Emanuel, who has resigned as president and interim CEO. Former Flowr CEO Vinay Tolia has resigned from the board as well.

Carrot, egg or coffee beans?
Contributed - Apr 14, 2021 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

By Tricia Veltri

Life can be challenging, especially during these uncertain times. In the year since the pandemic began, I have noticed the number of referrals grow exponentially in my clinical counselling practice. It appears that isolation, uncertainty, fear and frustration have brought up many people’s issues and past traumas to the surface.

How are you coping right now?

People tend to cope with stressful situations in a variety of ways. Some people become angry and bitter, pointing fingers and wanting to blame others. Other people try their best to ignore their issues and just hope it goes away. Then there are those who seem to rise to the occasion with focus and clarity, and try to learn from the situation and grow.

There is a story by an unknown author called “The Carrot, The Egg, and The Coffee Bean” that I came across a few years ago that sums up perfectly about the choices we make when faced with difficulty or adversity. So, I ask you, when you face challenges in your life, which one are you: a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.

Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see.”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma the daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.

The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its insides became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?”

Sending you all courage and strength to get through any challenges you may be facing right now!

Tricia Veltri is a clinical counsellor and owner of Core Level Healing Therapy. She specializes in helping individuals heal from past trauma and relationship issues. You can visit her website at for more information on how she can help you with any challenges you are facing.

This column was submitted as part of BWB Wednesdays

New super for Vernon SD22
Victoria Femia - Apr 13, 2021 - People in Business

Photo: UBC Okanagan

Vernon’s School District 22 will have a new superintendent at the end of the school year.

The board of education has appointed Dr. Christine Perkins to the position, effective Aug. 1.

Perkins is currently superintendent of the Kootenay Lake School District. She previously served as assistant superintendent in School District 58, which is in the Nicola-Similkameen region.

She holds a doctorate of educational leadership and policy from UBC and a masters in curriculum and instruction from Gonzaga University.

“I am honoured to be coming to work and learn on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the Syilx people,” Perkins said.

“I am committed to improving literacy (all forms) and numeracy K-12, as well as increasing graduation rates for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students alike.”

The board noted its appreciation of outgoing Supt. Joe Rogers, who is retiring.

Faces of #OKGNtech
Accelerate Okanagan - Apr 12, 2021 - People in Business

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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.

This is “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 Jason. Jason Richards is the founder and CEO of Minga. When he’s not working to bring community back into the education system, you’ll find Minga out on the mountain biking, skiing or a combination of the two with snow biking.

Where do you work in the Okanagan?

I’m the founder and CEO of Minga, a digital social learning platform that connects school communities together, creating a positive school culture. In education, there is a positive correlation between communication and engagement. Kids often complain that they don’t like school, but what if there was an opportunity to make school more enjoyable?

How has Minga been impacted by COVID-19?

We had a lot of interest in our service this time last year, but that was kind of a panic move from the schools. When it came down to the implementation, most schools stuck with Zoom and Google Classroom. Teachers were just too emotionally, physically and functionally overwhelmed to adjust to anything more.

Did you go through any team changes at Minga this past year?

Some people had to go down to part-time, or no time, for a few months to accommodate child care, but our team generally stayed the same. We experimented with hiring a fully remote team member, which didn’t work out too well. It was a challenge to have the skills to develop relationships or build a community for the team remotely. At the end of the day, I like having people in the office and talking with them around the boardroom.

Are you cautious about changing the platform too much to align with the pandemic?

Now I am. Looking back, there was a period where I was taking us down too much of a COVID-centric path. In talking to teachers and administrators, we’re finding that they’re already thinking about going back to normal. We’re trying to shift our focus and get back to what our platform was originally designed for. I don’t think we’re too COVID-focused anymore. We’re still moving towards bringing community back into schools like we were a little over a year ago.

How has the investment from winning the 2020 OKGN Angel Summit supported you?

Outside of the Angel Summit, we weren’t looking to raise a lot during that period. The capital wasn’t the big thing. It helps take some of the pressure off, but building those connections with investors and founders who I can regularly talk to is the sustaining piece I was after. The money gets spent, but the relationships and encouraging words have been really helpful, especially during so much change.

How were you first introduced to the OKGNtech community?

I graduated from Okanagan University College (now Okanagan College) in ’99 and started with a tech company in Kelowna called Workfire. About a year later, we got acquired by Packeteer, a Silicon Valley company. That was my intro to the OKGNtech community. I didn’t know anything about tech before that. It was a great opportunity that offered me a lot of growth—I got to work out of San Francisco, get some mentorship and meet a lot of incredible people. In 2008, I came back to Canada looking to make a startup with the same people who I had worked with at Workfire and Packeteer. That venture became Vineyard Networks.

Did that fuel you to start Minga?

After we sold Vineyard Networks in 2013 I took five years off, which was just what I needed. I was a firefighter for a while on the Westside, and after that I started to put the idea for Minga together. What motivated me, though? I love putting together the team and the vision. Building a company is a love-hate relationship. It’s sort of like: Why am I doing this to myself again? But there is something inside you that drives you back. As humans, we have a fascination with innovation. If we think back to some of the most influential people, they were all innovators. Political, religious or social—all of it was innovation.

Do you think there is anything missing from the community here?

We need to continue developing our capital infrastructure. There’s a lot of money in Kelowna, and that capital is so fundamental to building a thriving tech community. We’ve had some big acquisitions and exits over the years, which helps put talent and money back into the community, but we need more of that. Additionally, we still need capital to come from within the community, which is why the OKGN Angel Summit is so important. It lowers the barrier of entry for people to get involved in investing in tech—and it makes it fun.

Top 40: Melissa Hunt
Contributed - Apr 08, 2021 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

Okanagan Edge and the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce are partnering to showcase some of the region’s most exciting entrepreneurs through the “Top 40 Over 40” program.

Sponsored by BDO, the “Top 40 Over 40” recognizes high-achieving professionals in our community and showcases their accomplishments. This marks the seventh year the chamber has conducted a “Top 40” showcase. Honourees will be featured throughout the year on Okanagan Edge.


Melissa Hunt has been executive director of Childhood Connections Okanagan Family & Childcare Society for three years. She supports the organization as it continues to offer high quality referral services, training, early childhood developmental support, and guidance to families and childcare providers in the Central Okanagan.

She chairs three community tables to do with early childhood education, literacy and poverty reduction. The tables’ grassroots work helps ensure community members and agencies work together. She is passionate about early years education and ending the stigma around mental health.

Hunt managed and co-ordinated projects in an adult literacy organization in northern Alberta, where she was an executive director. She also held a senior position in the Community Learning Network there. She’s a leader with her volunteer service clubs, serving this year as West Kelowna Daybreak Rotary president.

In addition, she has been a Rotarian since 2009, holding several leadership roles. In her spare time, Hunt is a volunteer coach for her children’s soccer teams and has been a volunteer tutor and board member for Project Literacy Central Okanagan. She currently sits on the Central Okanagan Partners for Literacy board as well.

She holds a master’s in education from UNBC. Her greatest achievement so far is raising her children in a blended family that boasts four children all within three years of one another. She also holds a first-degree black belt in taekwondo and is active in sports, fitness and nutrition.

Skin care goes long way
Tom Kernaghan - Apr 07, 2021 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

Beauty is skin deep. For Odette Baumgartner, the owner of Odette’s Skincare & Medi Spa, the beauty we bring to the world goes deeper than we may think. It requires a holistic approach of ongoing care from the outside and sustained health on the inside. Baumgartner’s spas—one in Kelowna, the other in Lake Country—specialize in Endermologie and LumiLift, and provide a comprehensive array of non-invasive treatments for the many skin conditions that can arise due to dietary, hormonal and energy imbalances.

Baumgartner and her team of certified, talented and compassionate professionals provide everything from laser to lymphatic drainage, from micro-needling to microscopy, from Botox to blood analysis and so much more. With 27 years of experience, they know that the stress and strain of our lives can show on the surface in the form of rashes, blemishes, spots, sags and wrinkles. While Baumgartner takes your skin seriously, her website is sprinkled with a series of playfully encouraging quotations, like “Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art” and “As soon as you feel too old to do a thing, do it.” Both are fitting examples, as the philosophy underpinning her work is “pushing back on assumptions about beauty and aging.”

Another clear perspective of Baumgartner’s spas is that being oneself and living one’s best life is foundational to beauty and health.

What drew you to this work? What’s beneath your desire to help people look their best and live their best?

Actually, I cannot specifically say how or why it happened, as my business today is literally the past thirty years of my life and my passion to share knowledge so that as many people as possible can benefit from my learnings. I have such a vast colleague and client collection that there is no end to the shared, proven solutions and ideas.

This Ralph Waldo Emerson quote sums up my existence: “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

I remember learning that skin is our biggest organ. Yet so often we take it for granted. In your experience, what is one of the most overlooked aspects of this big protective organ of ours?

Well, we all know it’s water. If you are not a water drinker, this is the least appreciated and followed recommendation. Personally, as a water drinker, SPF (sunblock, not sunscreen) is probably the number one most important factor for facial preservation. Skin in general? Water and veggies. Sorry, can’t get away from the water. Good water. Kangen, or the like, comes to mind.

You and your team offer a wide variety of treatments and services, all wonderfully explained on your website. But how would you summarize Endermologie and the work you do?

Endermologie is absolutely in a category of its own. There is no one treatment in the world with as many health and beauty benefits. The beauty of this technology is that if you are coming in for cosmetic results, you still gain therapeutic results and health benefits. If you are using it for therapeutic benefits, you may get to enjoy the cosmetic aspects of it also. It simply makes your body work better at every level. With each treatment, your skin, facia, muscles, ligaments and tendons are all stimulated. Then we can boast the incredible three hundred percent increase in lymphatic drainage. Bringing this technology into our practice has certainly changed many lives.

As a clinic, the work we do has evolved over the years to have an open mind, use modalities new and centuries old. There is no one person who will respond to one treatment, one diet, one philosophy. Our recommendations respect each client’s beliefs and expectations. Our network of health, wellness and healing colleagues has given us an arsenal of successful solutions. In speaking to literally thousands of clients, we hear concerns of all kinds and severities. With one big sharing network, the answers find their way to those who ask for them.

A mechanic once told me that he can often tell what’s off in a car by the sound it makes, even before he lifts the hood. How often can you tell what’s ailing someone by looking at their skin? And how do these first impressions shape your initial consultation and next steps?

It’s actually an interesting question. It’s pretty easy. We can often even tell you what blood type you are by how you look, what you eat and what ailments you have. One’s eyes, body confirmation and skin are all indicators of a person’s health. Sometimes a client comes in for corrective skin care and ends up doing a bit of work on their health to ensure better cosmetic results. We make sure to do our footwork, as we are a results clinic and it’s just as important for us to see results as it is for the client. Sometimes the foundation of success has to happen from the inside; otherwise, outward results may be compromised. Taking into consideration people’s budgets is always high on our list, so making a plan for success is imperative.

I’m fascinated by the internal work you and your team do. Tell me about Certified Nutritional Microscopy and what you learn from this analysis.

Microscopy, or live blood analysis, is an internal selfie. It’s a direct, real-time snapshot indicating how your diet and lifestyle are affecting your health, good or bad. With over fifty factors that can show up in the blood, you can see for yourself if what you are eating is actually beneficial or harming your health. Your blood can’t lie. The terms are from medical text books, and what you see during a session may not be present in a traditional lab blood test. It is a great way to guarantee that you are giving your body what it needs as opposed to what you think it does!

“Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.” The honesty and self-acceptance beneath this line is deeply moving. How important is authenticity in enjoying balance, well-being, life and healthy skin?

This question lends itself to who we are. Our business mission and philosophy is this: Be yourself, as naturally and healthily as possible. We understand that each individual has different ideas on how to be their best self. We respect and enjoy being diverse in our recommendations. A client’s motivation to seek out our services is important, as we are here to hep you love what you love about yourself and accept or improve what you don’t. Being realistic and gentle to oneself is always encouraged. Happy aging lines are always more attractive than the alternative. We try to inspire balance and self-fulfillment to everyone whose path we cross.

“What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.” This line seems more crucial now than ever. Have you seen more stress-related skin issues over the past year? And what might help people maintain their well-being inside and out?

Stress, diet and lifestyle have brought forward many more rashes, rosacea, fungal and other skin complaints than ever over the past few years. Delving into which of the body’s systems the condition is stemming from is the solution to success here. Many mainstream options are to suppress the condition. To us this is ignoring the body, which is trying to tell us something is not right on the inside. For the past twenty-five years, we have been testing remedies, and the solutions are pretty simple. There are specific immune and hormonal system products and a few topicals that have made the cut. Again, we love results as much as those seeking relief!

Tell us something about yourself that most wouldn’t know—a fun fact, an interesting perspective or an engaging story.

I grew up in a small town with no electricity, paved roads or telephone. My parents owned a hotel, where I worked in the kitchen and cleaned rooms from the time I was eight years old. I love people. If I were not in this industry, I would have been a geologist, biologist, camp cook or a logging truck driver. Or maybe something to do with horses. I’m taking a month off this summer to work at a fly-in-only retreat/lodge near the Yukon border.

If I had more time I would open a restaurant or operate a small boutique ecotourism resort in Mexico or Costa Rica.

I have had my stock broker’s licence. I hate economics!

Odette Baumgartner operates Odette’s Skincare & Medi Spa and is a certified holistic health counsellor and live blood analysis practitioner and licensed aesthetician

This column was submitted as part of BWB Wednesdays

New trades dean at OC
Okanagan Edge Staff - Apr 01, 2021 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

Okanagan College has hired a new dean for its trades and apprenticeship program.

Stephen Speers is taking over for Steve Moores, who is retiring this month after serving as dean for the last eight years.

“It’s challenging to put into words just how excited I am to be joining Okanagan College, with its strong reputation and nearly 60-year history of providing trades and apprenticeship training in the region,” Speers said in a press release.

“I’m looking forward to working with the great team of people in trades, colleagues across our campuses and centres, and our industry partners. I’m honoured to play a role in sustaining and developing the programs that open doors for students and see them go on to become the highly skilled tradespeople we need in our society.”

Speers comes to the Okanagan from Guelph, Ont., where he spent the last 16 years as Conestoga College’s chair of workforce development and partnerships in its school of trades and apprenticeship.

“His depth and breadth of experience will no doubt be a benefit around our leadership team table, and support the ongoing enhancement of trades education and training at the college,” Okanagan College provost and academic vice-president Dr. Andrew Hay said.

TOTA boasts energy champion
Okanagan Edge Staff - Apr 01, 2021 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association is all about sustainability, and Thivya Viswanathan is a big reason why the region keeps winning awards due to its Earth-friendly initiatives.

Viswanathan, who is TOTA’s eco-efficiency analyst, has been named one of Efficiency Canada’s 13 “energy champions.” She works closely with more than 400 tourism and hospitality businesses to help owners and facility managers understand their energy consumption patterns and provide opportunities for cost savings.

“I always felt this connection with nature, and the environment, even as a kid,” Viswanathan, who grew up in India, said in a press release. “I believe living close to nature in my early childhood transformed me into a person who appreciates sustainability and resource conservation.”

Viswanathan, whose role was created thanks to a unique partnership with FortisBC, collaborates with tourism businesses, helping owners and facility managers understand their energy consumption patterns, and informing them on how to get the most bang for their buck.

She also runs an energy assessment program, where she analyzes a business’s equipment virtually and provides them with a summary of energy and cost-saving recommendations, informing them about local energy efficiency rebates as well.

Homeopathy helps in many ways
Contributed - Mar 31, 2021 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

By Mona Niebergall

Homeopathy is a natural medicine that is based on the philosophy of “like cures like,” or the law of similars. It is the strongest energy medicine known to man. Homeopathy has been in practice for more than 200 years and is gaining in popularity as people search for something that does not create side effects and is effective in treating all types of different health issues.

In homeopathy we treat the person and not the “disease” and so with that perspective we believe any disease and anyone can be helped with homeopathy. Homeopathy’s effectiveness lies in the body’s ability to cure itself. Many people use remedies for ailments without any knowledge of homeopathy, but for chronic issues you should always seek the guidance of a professionally trained homeopath.

Here are the top 10 reasons to use homeopathy:

1. Natural Action: Homeopathy works by stimulating the body’s own natural defence mechanism to promote health and to resist infection and susceptibility to disease. Although gentle, the results can be powerful and long-lasting.

2. Health and Well-Being: Homeopathy improves health generally, rather than merely alleviating localized symptoms. It treats the whole individual, acting on the mental and emotional level as well as the physical level, providing a balance in overall health and an increased sense of well-being and quality of life.

3. Effective Medicine: When used correctly, homeopathy can be an extremely effective system of medicine, providing long lasting relief from many acute and chronic conditions and illnesses.

4. No Harmful Side Effects: Homeopathic treatment offers a gentle and non-invasive approach to health, producing no toxic side effects, no dependency or addiction, and no withdrawal.

5. Cost Effective: Homeopathic medicines are surprisingly inexpensive when compared to over-the-counter and prescription drugs.

6. Fast-Acting First Aid Relief: Homeopathy can be safely used at home or in the workplace to provide rapid relief for minor problems such as bruises, simple burns, sprains, insect bites, gastric upsets and more. However, more serious or long-lasting complaints should be treated by a qualified homeopath.

7. Not Tested on Animals: Homeopathic medicines are tested only on healthy humans in order to determine the range of action of each remedy.

8. Complementary Medicine: Homeopathic medicines may be used independently or along with conventional drugs and other therapies with the full knowledge of your health-care providers. It can often alleviate side effects of conventional treatments, like chemotherapy.

9. Environmentally Friendly: Homeopathy has no adverse impact on the environment. There is no waste of energy or natural resources in the manufacturing process and no pollution of the water supply, oceans and dump sites when used. Homeopathy is the ultimate Green Medicine!!!

10. Medicine of the Future: Homeopathy is the second most widely used system of medicine of the world. It is available in most countries and is gaining in popularity as an alternative to conventional medicine.

Mona Niebergall owns Kelowna’s Stepping Stones Homeopathy

This column was submitted as part of BWB Wednesdays

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