Faces of #OKGNtech
Kirk Penton - Jun 11, 2021 - People in Business

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.

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 Chris. Chris Stephens is the founder and CEO of Twirling Umbrellas. When he’s not building killer websites with friendly humans, you’ll find Stephens balancing his time between hiking, camping and taking his kids to their practices and games.

Where do you work in the Okanagan? 

I’m the founder and CEO of Twirling Umbrellas. Before that, I was in a variety of different sales jobs. When I first started Twirling Umbrellas, it was just freelancing. I was doing everything from customer acquisition to the actual work. But we have a pretty big team now, so my role is mostly account management, building relationships with clients, and supporting our team and culture.

What do you enjoy most about your role? 

It’s not the same every day. I like the creativity and being a part of things that are interesting and different. We work with a whole range of different clients and each one brings a new challenge, a new industry and an opportunity to learn something new about their business that I wouldn’t have otherwise learned.

How did you get into this kind of work?

I’ve always had this hobby of building websites for fun. When I was a sales rep my clients would often ask what my background was, and I would tell them about my hobby. They would typically ask if I could build them a website. After I heard that enough times, I decided to see if I could make it as a freelancer and build sites for a living. I quit my job in 2014 on April Fool’s Day, started working out of my basement, and Twirling Umbrellas has been growing steadily ever since.

What’s been your favourite part about growing Twirling Umbrellas?

I have a background in development, but I’m not a designer or a writer. As we’ve grown, it’s been exciting to hire people into these specific roles because, each time you do, you get this feeling that everything you’re producing as a company is that much better. Sometimes it’s embarrassing to look back at what we produced in the early days, but I still love that feeling. You get to see how much you’ve grown and evolved.

What advice would you give to someone interested in a job like yours? 

Focus on the product. There is a big demand from small businesses to create something really meaningful. So much of our business is built on referrals and word of mouth that comes from creating great products. Nothing else really matters in that respect. People often wonder what they’re going to do next to try and attract more customers, but you can’t go wrong with improving what you’ve got.

How were you first introduced to the OKGNtech community?

Shortly after deciding to get serious about freelancing, I stumbled across Accelerate Okanagan’s programs. There used to be something called Marketing and Design Nights, which I was really interested in. I didn’t have an agency background, so that was a way for me to learn more about what to do and how I should operate.

What do you enjoy about the community?

People here want to support companies that are operating in the community. I’m constantly shocked by where some of our referrals come from. You think it would be a direct connection between clients, but there’s often a few degrees of separation. If you have a good reputation and you do good work, that will come back to you.

Is there a piece of advice that you like to share with others? 

Focus on your own stuff, and do the best that you can. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. It doesn’t matter what your competition does. Nothing they’re doing is going to impact what you’re doing.

Top 40: Lucas Griffin
Contributed - Jun 11, 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.


Lucas Griffin, owner and founder of Secure-Rite Mobile Storage, was born and raised in Kelowna and launched his business in 2005.

The company arrived in Calgary in 2009 and then in Surrey in 2020. He has been closely involved in the startup of all five Secure-Rite locations in B.C. and Alberta, and is excited to establish more in the future. Griffin is passionate about business excellence, exceptional customer service, continuous improvement and known for his community involvement. He is also an advocate for innovative container modifications, and his team has created many unique container structures.

Griffin has led the company through significant growth over the past 16 years, starting with only a few staff members to more than 30 employees today. Griffin has strategized and facilitated the opening of five locations with no signs of slowing down and has become a recognized leader in the industry, speaking on a variety of panels, participating in case studies and being an active member of TEC Canada.

Community is a core value at Secure-Rite Mobile Storage. Griffin believes in giving back to the community through donations of time, products and finances. Secure-Rite holds many social issues near and dear, including ending homelessness by working towards an affordable housing solution, minimizing the carbon footprint on the environment, providing experiences and opportunities for students and younger generations to learn applied skills, and creating access to resources or commodities for those in need.

Secure-Rite works with countless values-based organizations to help them create smart space, including the Animal Food Bank, the Central Okanagan Food Bank, Salvation Army, United Way, Kelowna Women In Business, Calgary Humane Society and many more. Griffin also volunteers a lot of time in various children and youth programs through his church and plays a role in his church leadership.

Griffin received his bachelor of business administration degree and graduated with distinction in 2000 from Okanagan University College.

Secure-Rite Mobile Storage achieved the 2007 Rising Star Business Excellence Award from the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce. In 2013, it won Small Business of the Year after being competitively judged by the same organization. In 2018, Secure-Rite received the Corporate Community of the Year Award. In 2019, it received the City of Kelowna’s Corporate Citizen of the Year Award. In 2020, Secure-Rite was awarded Mid-Sized Business of the Year and the Social Leadership Awards.

Secure-Rite has received countless nominations for the Best of Kelowna competition, and is the title sponsor for the second year in a row.

Rid your mind of trauma
Tom Kernaghan - Jun 09, 2021 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

Awaken from your past, release yourself from limiting beliefs and begin a journey toward the happy and healthy life you deserve. The path of healing and self-acceptance can be difficult and painful, but you are not alone. Tricia Veltri, the owner of Core Level Healing Therapy, gets you, and she also gets that taking control of one’s inner world requires a commitment to change and a willingness to work. Veltri holds a master’s degree in counselling, is a registered psychotherapist and certified EMDR practitioner, and she is here to get you beyond your barriers to better relationships—starting with the one you have with yourself.

Veltri specializes in the struggles that keep women imprisoned within—trauma, anxiety, stress and relationship challenges—and treats her clients the way she would want to be treated: “keep it real” to help you heal. For Veltri, it’s not about meditating on a mountaintop. It’s about fully and skillfully engaging those who are ready to go to the core, root out old patterns and form new habits. Veltri understands this process on a professional level and on a personal one: she has walked her own road to recovery and reclamation.

Tell me a bit about your story. What brought you to your work, and what has your personal journey taught you about the needs of the heart and psyche?

My story began when I was little girl. I was a highly sensitive, empathic child, and due to life circumstances I was very shy, withdrawn and felt like I didn’t belong. And I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up, so I feel like this career path found me. When I was young, I never believed I had any special talents, but the one thing I noticed was that people were drawn to me. I would often have random strangers telling me deep and personal things about themselves. I could connect with people.

Thirteen years ago, I was working at a soul-sucking job. A friend and I decided to visit a psychic for fun, as I had never done that before. I did not have high expectations, but she said something profound that changed my life and guided me to the path of where I am today. She told me that I was unhappy because I was not living my purpose. I was a bit dumbfounded and asked her to please explain what my purpose was. She kept repeating these words: “You know, you know.” I remember getting frustrated and telling her that I obviously did not know and to please tell me, and in a quiet voice she continued: “Counselling.” It sent chills down my spine. I had always had a dream to be a counsellor and thought about pursuing it many times, but I always told myself I wasn’t good enough.

That incident made me realize that I had been hiding behind my story of “I’m not good enough” for long enough, and I decided to take the leap and study to become a counsellor, and the rest is history. Along the way I discovered that the only way to help heal others’ traumas was to heal myself first.

I have learned that humans have five things in common: we want to be heard, we want to be seen, we want to belong, we want to be loved, and we want to feel safe. Everyone has their own personal trauma stories, and the way to finding peace and happiness is to look at the aspects of ourselves that we hide, deny or shame, and bring them to light and love ourselves despite them. Healing ourselves is a journey, not a destination. I am not perfect by any means, but it is a path I am committed to for the rest of my time here on Earth.

It strikes me that hiding is a common human condition. How and how often have you seen people adhering to their old stories, unaware of the unhealthy patterns they’re creating? 

It’s a tale as old as time. Again and again my clients tell me ‘I’m not good enough. I’m not lovable. I’m not worthy. I’m not in control. I’m permanently damaged.’ The list goes on and on. Trauma has a way of fundamentally changing our stories of how we view ourselves and the world. For example, someone can go from believing the world is safe place to believing the world is an unsafe place in an instant.

A lot of people repress the negative emotions and memories of trauma they have experienced and tuck them away deep inside the subconscious. I often use the analogy of hiding dead bodies in the basement. As with real dead bodies in a basement, the nasty fumes eventually begin to spread up and throughout the rest of house. The fumes come in the form of self-defeating behaviours, mental illness and physical illness: addictions, co-dependency, people pleasing, dissociating, anger, busyness, isolation, anxiety, depression, somatic pain disorders, autoimmune disorders, et cetera. Only when we deal with those “bodies” in the basement will those nasty odours go away.

Relationships can be roller-coasters; wonderful but woeful, life-affirming but hurtful, empowering but heartbreaking! How we find the right ride for ourselves?  

Most of us did not have a course on relationships in school, although we should! We learned how to do relationships by observing those of our family. We learned from our parents, who learned from their parents, and so on. Therefore, a lot of how we deal with major issues in a relationship, such as communication, conflict, intimacy, finances and gender roles, were inherited from the way our family dealt with these issues.

Many of us have inherited some emotional wounding patterns from our families. As a result, we tend to attract relationship partners who wound us in the same way as the parent who wounded us the most. For example, if someone had an absent father, they may continue to attract partners who are emotionally unavailable and distant.

The way to break this repeating compulsion cycle is to go back and work through the feelings and emotions of the old trauma and learn new, healthy relationship patterns.

Your description of relived trauma as a “living nightmare” is a powerful one. Why is EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) even more powerful at breaking the spell of the past?

This is a very simplified version, but imagine our brain as a big filing system. When we have regular experiences, our brain files them away in long-term memory. However, when we have a traumatic experience, it is so charged with intense emotions, it’s as though the memory file it too big to be filed away, so it just sits in our inbox, our working memory.

This incorrect storage can lead to memories feeling like they are happening in the present moment, when related or unrelated triggers cause us to react as they did at the time of trauma. EMDR therapy corrects this mis-storage so that the painful memories associated with the trauma lose their charge. We can now react to stimuli in the present without the past interfering.

And when we can heal from the past, we can create new stories, with new a belief system associated with the traumatic memory. That is powerful.

I think it’s safe to say that this past 15 months have been challenging for most of us in many ways and to varying degrees. What particular trend have you observed?

I think the pandemic has affected all of us in various ways, and I have never been busier as a therapist supporting my clients. The trend that I have observed is that it is not COVID itself that people find stressful, but it is the unresolved trauma and issues that this pandemic has brought up for them. I believe that the pandemic has caused us to slow down, and we are not used to that. We are so used to being busy all the time that most people do not have time to sit with their emotions and feelings. For better or for worse, COVID has given people the opportunity to deal with traumas, beliefs and behaviours they have tried to suppress for years.

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

I used to have a massive phobia of moths and would freak out every time I saw one. I could not even be in the same room as a moth. If there was one in my house, I would have to call a friend to come dispose of it for me or put on my version of a hazmat suit to get rid of it. EMDR cured my moth phobia, and I still can’t believe it! I can remember the first time seeing a moth after doing EMDR and wanting to freak out because that is what I always did, but my body was not reacting in fear anymore. I wouldn’t say that I love the ugly little creatures, but I can definitely tolerate them now.

Tricia Veltri owns Core Level Healing Therapy in Kelowna

This column was submitted as part of BWB Wednesdays

Top 40: Christine McWillis
Contributed - Jun 07, 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.


Christine McWillis had the honour of serving within the Personnel Support Program with the Department of National Defence for more than a decade, holding the positions of fitness instructor, health promotions manager and fitness, sports and recreation director.

She spent the next several years working with the City of Cold Lake, Alta., as the general manager of community services before making Kelowna her family’s forever home. Upon arriving in Kelowna, she supported Project Literacy Kelowna Society as its executive director, where she worked collectively with other literacy organizations in development of a community literacy plan.

However, her passion for work in the public service eventually won and she joined the City of Kelowna in late 2017. These days, she has the privilege of supporting the development of the creative sector of Kelowna on a daily basis. As cultural services manager, along with the creative community, she launched and is now working hard on the implementation of the 2020-2025 cultural plan.

McWillis considers her leadership to be in service to the community and to others. Throughout her career and personal life she seeks out opportunities to learn, to grow and support the development of herself and her community. She believes that the role of leader is earned through hard work, consistency and commitment to doing the right thing—even if it’s not the easy thing.

Every day McWillis says she is honoured to be able to serve the numerous artists, organizations and community members who are working tirelessly to make the community an amazing place of which everyone can be proud.

Kelowna writer earns Netflix deal
Nicholas Johansen - Jun 07, 2021 - People in Business

Photo: The Canadian Press

A man who grew up in Kelowna has signed a deal with Netflix to produce a movie based off a story he recently wrote on Reddit.

After graduating from Kelowna Christian School in 2011, 28-year-old Marcus Kliewer has been working semi-professionally as a stop-motion animator in the Lower Mainland. But like many others, his work slowed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Kliewer found himself with plenty of free time once he started receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

“I should use this time to really hone what I want to do, because writing is the thing that I’ve always enjoyed the most,” Kliewer told Castanet.

“I just started writing every single day, seven days a week, which I don’t recommend even to aspiring writers, but I had nothing else going on and it was COVID so I was super isolated.”

Kliewer has been writing on and off since his high school days in Kelowna. He stopped writing for about four years while he pursued his animation career, but the pandemic brought him back to his main passion: writing.

He began writing stories on Reddit’s r/nosleep page, where users write their scary stories one part at a time, giving readers a chance to provide feedback and theories on the fly. Last summer, another Reddit user sold their story to Netflix after it gained popularity on Reddit.

“Their story of selling the other one a year ago was kind of what inspired me to start writing on Reddit again,” Kliewer said. “In the very back corner of my mind I thought, wouldn’t it be funny if these guys reached out. Like a one-in-a-billion shot in my mind, and then that’s actually what happened. When it happened, I thought I was being pranked.”

While he had the story “pretty meticulously” planned from the start, he says posting it piece by piece on Reddit provides a unique publishing experience.

“It’s really nice on Reddit just getting immediate feedback from fans, and people theorizing and people freaking out when something happens to a certain character; it’s really rewarding,” he said.

After his stories began gaining popularity on Reddit, producers reached out to Kliewar about selling one of his stories. And last week, he signed a deal with Netflix, allowing them to produce a film based off his story We Used to Live Here.

Trade publication Deadline reports Blake Lively is set to star in the Netflix adaptation. The online magazine says the screen rights deal was in the six figures.

“Having this will give me a lot of breathing space and give me more time to keep doing writing, which is great,” Kliewar said. The story is also currently being shopped around to book publishers.”

Those looking for a spook can check out the first part of We Used to Live Here on Reddit.

Rural recovery agent hired
Sydney Chisholm - Jun 04, 2021 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

Community Futures Thompson Country has hired for a new position intended to support businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in rural areas of the Thompson region.

Julie Kimmel was announced as the agency’s new rural recovery co-ordinator. The paid position is being funded by The Economic Trust of the Southern Interior.

“We are delighted to provide this assistance in our region with support from the province of British Columbia as it delivers on its StrongerBC Plan,” ETSI-BC CEO Laurel Douglas said in a news release.

In her newly created position, Kimmel will act as a business advisor, working one-on-one with business owners to start up or expand their operations.

Kimmel will also connect entrepreneurs with local resources and training.

Faces of #OKGNtech
Accelerate Okanagan - Jun 03, 2021 - People in Business

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.

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 Angie. Angie Schick is the executive director of New Ventures BC in Vancouver. When she’s not raising the profile of entrepreneurs in B.C., you’ll find Schick spending time with her family, testing out a new recipe in the kitchen or eating at all of the best restaurants she can find.

Where do you work? 

I’m the executive director at New Ventures BC in Vancouver. We’re a not-for-profit that’s probably most recognized for our annual New Ventures BC competition, which looks for the top tech startups in the province. We’re part of the BC Acceleration Network—a group of 10 organizations partially funded by Innovate BC. As a result of that, I get to be a part of a great group of people from across the province.

What do you enjoy most about your role? 

Every day brings something new, and every year we meet so many different entrepreneurs that have so many new ideas it’s impossible to feel complacent. The ideas and the energy of the entrepreneurs really keep you going. It’s part of what makes B.C. special. There is entrepreneurship and expertise all over the province, and it’s up to us to tap into it. I’ve really tried over the last while to get to know everyone in the network—get to know where they’re from—and they are always exceeding expectations. The level of talent in B.C. is really impressive.

How did you get into this kind of work?

I’ve always been interested in the tech sector and how technology influences people. I worked with New Ventures BC on and off during my time as a student. My master’s degree professor at SFU, his wife, was the founding executive director at New Ventures BC. I worked for her and have had the chance to learn from her over the years. When an opportunity came up to return to New Ventures BC full time, I took it.

What advice would you give to someone interested in a job like yours? 

If you want to have your hands in everything and learn really quickly, working for a not-for-profit that services the tech industry and entrepreneurs is a great opportunity. We’re not a big team, but we take a lot of pride in serving our community as best as we can. If you’re looking for something with a lot of variety and a good purpose, then it’s a good place to be. That’s why I love working at New Ventures BC. We have no ulterior motive.

What do you enjoy about the OKGNtech community?

I think the Okanagan is one of the strongest tech communities in the province. I was there for the 2020 OKGN Angel Summit, which happened right before everything shut down due to the pandemic, and I was struck by a few things. It was very welcoming, very community-based, (and) everyone had a lot to say about the support system and how much they enjoyed being there. The community has created a great hub in the Innovation Centre; it’s a comfortable and beautiful place. It’s vibrant, collaborative and always willing to share its efforts to help level each other up.

Is there something you’d like to see more of from tech communities in B.C.?

I try to avoid recreating something or developing something new. Instead, I’ll try and find out what some of our partners have done and leverage that experience—iterating that into something better. I want to know how our network of accelerators can collaborate and learn from each other more. What are ways that we can easily share resources and keep each other accountable for making improvements? We always want to work together, but sometimes things can feel a little siloed.

The best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Or can share? 

Always think about the audience. Your audience and your customers should be the first points of view you consider when building something new. Look at the big picture, see how everything connects and figure out the best path through that customer-focused lens. If it creates a better experience for your audience, then it’s worth it.

Who inspires you?

Jeanette Jackson, who is the CEO of Foresight, or Karri LaMotte, the managing director of [email protected] Both inspire me because they have very clear points of view and big visions. That’s what we need more of in our ecosystem. They’re both very giving of their time and have a clear understanding of what they want to accomplish. They’re great inspirations and examples of great leaders that we need more of.

New fire chief takes reins
Colin Dacre - Jun 03, 2021 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

There is a new man in charge of the North Westside Fire Department.

Alex Van Bruksvoort, an experienced firefighting professional, will take over as fire chief at the small, volunteer, paid-on-call department on June 14.

The department provides coverage to the communities of Killiney Beach, Westshore Estates, Fintry Delta, Valley of the Sun and La Casa resort.

Van Bruksvoort is a Vernon-area resident and served 26 years with the City of Richmond fire department, starting as a firefighter and working his way up the ranks to retire as captain. Along with his practical training and expertise, he’s a certified fire investigator and has lengthy service in both fire prevention and inspections.

“We’re pleased to have a person with Alex’s professional credentials take on the administrative leadership and management of the North Westside department. His fire inspection, investigation and prevention expertise will definitely complement the fire suppression experience of North Westside fire members. He’s ready to act as a mentor and build the department skills even further,” RDCO Fire Services manager Ross Kotscherofski said.

Kotscherofski thanked acting deputy chiefs Graeme Headley and Shawn Barnes, who led the department over the past year while a permanent leader was found. The pair steered the ship after the previous fire chief was removed by the regional district, sparking some controversy.

“Residents across the fire service area can take comfort knowing that they have a fantastic crew of members who’ve stepped up to serve with the department. And each remains committed to the rigorous training requirements and are ready to answer the call for help when their pagers go off, responding to their neighbours fire and medical needs,” Kotscherofski said.

EFT tapping brings peace
Contributed - Jun 02, 2021 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

By Sherry Lukey

May on the acreage can be a little overwhelming, because there’s a lot of grass to cut, planting, weeding and watering. I love being outside and doing all those things. However, keeping up with the spring growth takes extra time, and in the past, it would trigger guilt for me.


Before I discovered EFT tapping, we moved to the acreage, and I felt so guilty because I didn’t feel worthy of having such a beautiful piece of property. I didn’t really feel deserving of much, actually, and I had no idea how much my low-self worth negatively impacted me and my life.

Self-worth and success

The definition of self-worth is an internal sense of being good enough and believing that you are a good person who deserves good things. Up until a few short years ago, I was almost the exact opposite of that definition. Nothing I did was ever good enough. I subconsciously believed that I was a bad person, ashamed of mistakes and choices I had made in the past, and therefore didn’t deserve good things. The results of these beliefs were that I did a lot of self-sabotaging to prove those subconscious and conscious beliefs true.

Excited about spring

Fast forward to now, and I feel very differently about myself. I feel deserving of our acreage, and I get excited about spring. I am so grateful for the success I’ve achieved so far and the beautiful experiences that continue to come my way. My self worth work is not done by any means, but I know by the peacefulness I feel and the results that I’m getting that my self-worth is so much better than before EFT tapping.

Your results

If you’re not feeling peaceful and excited about your life, I encourage you to increase your self-worth using EFT tapping. My YouTube channel has more than 70 tapping audios and videos to help you, and you can check them out here.

Living a life you love!

And if you, or someone you know, need support or want faster results, please share and connect with me to find out how we can work together so you can start living a life you love.

Sherry Lukey is a personal and business coach

This column was submitted as part of BWB Wednesdays

New face at Lake Country chamber
Okanagan Edge Staff - Jun 01, 2021 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

Lake Country Chamber of Commerce has welcomed a new business engagement advisor.

Tony Pallas is now in charge of consulting with Lake Country businesses and helping them in their COVID-19 recoveries.

Pallas has worked in development, retention and marketing. He has also navigated the inner economic aspects of the B.C. Interior and Lower Mainland, and has national and international experience.

Pallas is a Lake Country resident who enjoys the Okanagan lifestyle.

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