Heska new HR director
Okanagan Edge Staff - Aug 14 - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

Linda Heska will soon be the new director of human resources at Okanagan College.

Heska, a post-secondary administrator with nearly 30 years of management and consulting experience in the public sector, will officially step into the role Sept. 18.

She originally hails from Port Moody, but recently moved to the Okanagan from the Lower Mainland.

According to Allan Coyle of Okanagan College, Heska brings “considerable expertise” to the position, boasting sound knowledge of collective agreement administration, collective bargaining, performance management, recruitment, onboarding and orientation.

She honed this expertise working in HR with Kwantlen Polytechnic University for the last 27 years.

Heska holds a Master of Arts in Leadership from Royal Roads University and a Management Certificate, major in Human Resources, from BCIT. She has also published a book on organizational practices that contribute to employee engagement.

“I’m looking forward to working with the Human Resources team to help create and enhance engagement across all our employee groups and every corner of the College community,” says Heska.

“We’re so pleased to have Linda’s depth of knowledge and experience in human resources in the B.C. post-secondary sector,” says Roy Daykin, Okanagan College’s vice president of employee and corporate services.

Accelerate Okanagan’s new EiR
Accelerate Okanagan - Aug 11 - Columnists

Image: Contributed

Although he just moved to Kelowna in January, Salmaan Ahmed is no stranger to the startup industry.

The Sudbury-raised Executive in Residence at Accelerate Okanagan has years of experience both as a successful entrepreneur and mentor for Communitech in the burgeoning Waterloo region.

Like many entrepreneurs who move to the Okanagan, it was the lifestyle that attracted Ahmed to the area.

“Kelowna stuck on me size-wise and lifestyle-wise, and I had been living in Seattle so I was used to the landscape,” he said. “So far it’s been great.”

Ahmed divides his time between here and Waterloo, and always enjoys returning to the mountains.

Before moving to the Okanagan, Ahmed spent the last few years as a program manager at Microsoft, after the software giant acquired his company in 2014. The startup he co-founded, Inception Mobile, was created in 2012 to allow developers to port iOS apps to different mobile platforms. The business received a round of seed funding from Samsung Ventures in 2013, and within a year there was significant interest from Microsoft.

“Our initial relationship with Microsoft was originally to study the feasibility for using our products to help us port to Windows Phone,” Ahmed said. “That relationship progressed really well and by August 2014 we completed the acquisition deal.”

The product lives on today as the Windows Bridge for iOS.

The Microsoft acquisition was not the only successful exit in which Ahmed was a part of. In 2006, Ahmed was a founding employee of SlipStream, a spinoff of research from the University of Waterloo that grew to about 44 employees until it was acquired by BlackBerry.

For the startups he works with at Accelerate Okanagan, Ahmed is clear about the primary objective he wants the founder to focus on: market validation.

“I think the most important thing is actually building a product and putting it in the hands of people other than yourself and your friends,” he said. “A lot of people I talk to, both here and in Ontario, sort of get fixated on fundraising. I try to quite delicately make a point that that raising capital is merely a tool to execute your larger strategy.”

One of the first things Ahmed advises founders is to talk with customers as much as possible.

“You need understanding of how your customers feel about your product or project; it is very easy for startups to believe their own bull, but you need to put it in people’s hands and get honest feedback,” he said, and added that these customers should clearly see where your product or service adds value.

For the budding CEO, Ahmed believes there is one character trait that is valued above all else: the ability to listen.

“You need to be willing to listen to your customers, your investors, your board or whoever is out there. It’s incredibly important,” he said.

Minister wants ALR overhaul
Trevor Nichols - Aug 10 - Biz Releases

Image: Trevor Nichols
Lana Popham says she believes the ALR should be revamped

The provincial government’s new Minister of Agriculture hunkered down in Kelowna today.

Lana Popham, who served as the NDP’s agriculture critic for for eight years before she was sworn in as minister, held several meetings with industry stakeholders, after what she called a “lull” in communication as the new NDP government was sworn in.

But during a short break between meetings, Popham also briefed reporters on what she plans to accomplish now that she’s on the other side of the aisle.

Popham has three main policy objectives in her new role, one of which will very likely include overhauling the Agricultural Land Reserve and the Agricultural Land Commission.

The government plans on consulting stakeholder groups and the public before making any decisions, but Popham said she believes the ALR should be returned to a single provincial zone, with one panel making decision on how the land is used.

That would mean undoing changes brought in by the Liberal government in 2014 that relaxed restrictions on development of protected farmland.

Undoing those changes would eliminate the regional panels that have been handing out decisions on land use and ALR exclusions, and re-tighten restrictions around the use of protected farmland across about 90 per cent of the province.

Popham said this would help combat “regional influence” of ALR land use decisions, such as exclusions for light industry.

“It’s very, very important to us to make sure the commission has absolute independence from government” and that there is “the least opportunity for political interference,” Popham said.

She also suggested her government would complete a boundary review of the ALR, making sure its boundaries are “more easily defensible.”

She said there have been “more” ALR exclusions than there “should be,” and that it’s causing competition between food production and development, which is driving up the price of farmland.

Popham also touched on what she said would be “one of the biggest shifts” in the province’s agriculture policy under the new government.

She said the government plans to institute a purchasing policy that would see 30 per cent of the food the province buys for its hospitals and extended care systems come directly from British Columbia.

Previous emphasis had been on international sales, she said, and her government believes that has left “a gap in domestic production.”

She said she’s also been mandated to revamp the “Buy BC” initiatives, to help local producers promote their products and increase consumer demand within the province.

Maple Pass honours Mom
Trevor Nichols - Aug 04 - Biz Releases

Image: Maple Pass
A local businessman’s fundraising initiative honours his late mother’s memory.

When Fabio Santana’s mother lost her battle with lung cancer three years ago, the local business owner vowed to honour her memory by giving back to the community.

Santana owns the shuttle company Let’s Go Transportation. Shortly after Fatima Santana’s death, he returned to Canada from Brazil, and attended an event at the Southern Interior Rotary Lodge.

The Lodge provides free accommodation for cancer patients and their families, who have traveled to Kelowna for treatment. Fabio was moved by the kindness and generosity or the organization, but saddened by the lack of reliable transportation for the lodge’s guests.

So he quietly started the “Let’s Go Together” campaign, putting $1 from every transaction at his business towards providing a free shuttle to and from the airport for lodge guests.

But recently he realized he wanted to do more, so he created the Maple Pass.

Maple Pass is a value card similar to the coupon books of old. Local businesses offer up exclusive discounts and deals on their services, and anyone who buys a pass gets access to them.

Each business pays $100 to take part in the project, and cards sell for $25. Profits from the project will be beef up the “Let’s Go Together” initiative, as well as help out a selection of other community groups supporting cancer patients.

Fabio Santana – Image Facebook

“It’s just a way for me to give back to the community,” Fabio says.

The passes haven’t gone on sale yet, but Fabio says interest in the project has already far surpassed his initial expectations.

A host of local ski hills, wineries and other businesses have already jumped on board, and Fabio says pre-orders of the Maple Pass cards are already into the thousands.

“I’m very excited, because we’re starting to get a lot of support in the community,” he says. That support will translate into very tangible good for the organizations Maple Pass supports, like the Southern Interior Rotary Lodge.

Fabio says he’s thrilled to be able to support an organization he sees doing incredible work in the community, and believes his mom would agree.

“Even before this whole thing my mother was such a special person for me,” he says. “She was the one who taught me actually how to help people—to always give back. She was such a special person.”

He explains how Fatima was always giving to under-privileged people and children, and how she was a Godmother to more than 50 children in her community.

He believes the Maple Pass can continue Fatima’s tradition of making the local community a better place, thanks in large part to all the organizations that have chipped in to make it a success.

Every little discount or deal local businesses offer up, every organization that chips in to sell the cards or support the project, all that adds up to big change.

“A little bit from here, and a little bit from there, and it can make a big difference altogether,” he says.

Maple Passes will go on sale in September. They will be good for a year, and valid at a host of businesses across the Okanagan, and beyond.

For more information, as well as a list of the deals currently available, check out the passes online.

Insights from a VAP client
Accelerate Okanagan - Jul 31 - Columnists

Image: Accelerate Okanagan
The Venture Acceleration Program Client Spotlight highlights program client successes, challenges, and entrepreneurial insights.

It was Kathleen MacKinnon’s background in psychology and women and gender studies that helped her see something was missing.

While working with youth and young adults, she realized parents needed more tools to help their kids’ emotional development and health.

So she founded Nine Rising.

MacKinnon believes there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so she created an app that provides relevant and accessible tools and techniques to empower parents to effectively engage and openly communicate with their kids.

Here’s what she had to say about becoming an entrepreneur, the value of being involved in the tech community, and what advice she would give to aspiring entrepreneurs.

What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I wish very badly I had an inspiring ‘since childhood’ story here. Unfortunately, I was no lemonade stand wiz. I just live by the question: if not me, who?

Tell us about your product:

Our app–ekanary–makes hard conversations easy between parents and youth. We provide parents with educational resources, support from the parent community, and tools to take action in furthering conversations with your kids.

What problem do you solve for your customer?

We’re helping parents no longer feel so in the dark when it comes to how to support their kids during some of the most challenging and vulnerable times of their life.

As an entrepreneur, what keeps you up at night?

Everything used to keep me up at night in regards to my business, but now I feel like I’ve turned a page in the book and have found that often many solutions can come from a good nights sleep.

What’s the value of being involved in the tech community?

It would be near impossible to have learned as much as I have within tech if not for being involved in this community. Whether it’s a meeting over coffee, a panel discussion, or a workshop, there are always learning opportunities and ways to connect here.

Why did you choose the Okanagan to start your company?

I chose the Okanagan specifically for the community. In the tech sector and in our community as a whole I believe it’s something special with how we support our entrepreneurs here. I’m a big fan of collaboration and connection over competition, I believe our community embodies this.

How has Accelerate Okanagan helped your company?

Accelerate Okanagan has been a life line in so many ways within the start up process. From one-on-one meetings with my amazing advisor, to being in a room of diverse professionals during quarterly reviews. They have been able to foresee some of the pivots and hurdles, as well as celebrate the milestones within this whirlwind process of launching an app.

Image: Accelerate Okanagan

How has being an entrepreneur impacted your family, social life, and relationships?

My dad has learned about the app store, so that’s a new thing for my family, and I got a dog in the middle of the startup process (do I recommend it? Only if you’re a super big dog person and have the patience of a saint). I don’t have the patience of a saint, but I really love my dog.

My social life is thriving; I am in bed most days by 9 p.m. watching The Office and I like it that way. I just asked my roommate how she would describe my social life and she said “professional and/or particular.”

In my social life I don’t do things I don’t want to do. I don’t feel obligated to fit the stereotype of where my life should be at, or what my priorities should be. I have great priorities in my mind, and I’m happy. I like my life, I love my business and right now that’s number one. Hell will have frozen over before you find me elsewhere at the crack of dawn other than drooling on my pillow.

What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?

If you’re passionate about it, if it’s all you think about, if you can’t see yourself doing anything else: do it. Kick that bird out of the nest and see if it flies. And don’t let it be come your identity. You are far more than a passion, an idea, a job. You are you, and that is enough always. Your job is a job.

What are three attributes a successful entrepreneur needs?

1) Do something that lights you up. Don’t do it because it’s just a money grab because it’ll get boring (or at least I think so).
2) Be open: to advice, to pivots, to opportunities.
3) Knowledge is power, therefore educating yourself is key. You only know what you know. Bless your opinions, but when you got those juicy facts behind you you are unstoppable.

How would you describe the work culture and environment at Nine Rising?

Always evolving and always authentic.

What have been some of your challenges and what have you learned from them?

The biggest challenge has been learning to let it go. I have a tendency to only want to release things when they are perfect and I feel they are ready. That’s the complete opposite of how things work in a tech start up, so it’s been a large shift, forcing me to learn and just kick the product out even though I could spend forever on the details.

What roles are you looking to add to your growing team?

We aren’t looking to add to our team right now, but are hoping to bring on some fresh faces in the fall. If your background is in marketing hit us up.

What’s next for your company?

Getting our ekanary app out into the community, MC’ing lululemon athletica’s half-marathon: SeaWheeze, hanging out at Okanagan Pride for their Pride March and Festival in the Park with Okanagan Lifestyle (come find us at the gazebo for some rad conversation), and gearing up for our in-school programs in the fall.

Who do you look to for mentorship and advice. Why?

Alison Yesilcimen, the other amazing EiRs at Accelerate Okanagan, tech entrepreneurs in the community, and Kelly Taverner.

In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.


From chamber to EOS
Colin Dacre - Jul 31 - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

The Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce’s outgoing executive director says she will be staying right here in Penticton.

“I have sincerely enjoyed my two years working with the board of directors, staff and members of the Penticton Chamber. But, after careful consideration, I have signed on with the RDOS as the emergency services supervisor,” Brandy Maslowki said in a short statement Friday.

“This is very much in line with my previous 15-year career in the fire service before moving to B.C. My new position starts on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017,” she added.

The previous RDOS emergency services supervisor, Dale Kronebusch, resigned in June after holding the position since 2009. His resignation raised some eyebrows, given that the region was dealing with significant flooding and high water at the time.

“I will work diligently with the chamber board and staff team to make the transition to a new executive director as smooth as possible,” Maslowki said.

Top 40 in North America
Okanagan Edge Staff - Jul 28 - Biz Releases

Image: Woodworking Network

A Kelowna business owner has been named to the Woodworking Network’s 2017 Wood Industry 40 Under 40.

Marty Berman, the owner of Amber Millwork Ltd., has made the list, alongside some of the brightest and most innovative minds in North America’s woodworking industry.

The 40 Under 40 program honours the next generation of “leaders” in North America’s woodworking industry—the kind of people who are “destined to make an impact.”

“The 40 Under 40 program is really designed to encourage disrupters,” says Carroll Henning, the director of marketing at Woodworking Network. “Even those who have broken the rules and especially people who work out of the box.”

“Many of these individuals are already having a profound impact on the wood manufacturing business. They are showing the way,” adds Tim Fixmer, CEO of CCI Media, which owns the Woodworking Network.

Almost 100 names were submitted during the nomination period, and the winners hail from as far and wide as Punta Gorda, Florida;  Elkhart, Indiana; and Edmonton, Alberta.

Berman is originally from St. Catharines, Ontario, where he studied Woodworking Technology at Conestoga College.

When he graduated he became a CAD designer for an architectural wood window and door manufacturer, and, after spending a number of years in the door and hardware business, he moved on to selling lumber and building materials across Canada.

He then spent a couple of years working as a site supervisor for a high-end custom home builder in the Okanagan, before opening Amber Millwork.

New exec at BCICF
Okanagan Edge Staff - Jul 25 - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

The BC Interior Community Foundation has a new executive director.

Robert (Elyas) Miller has accepted the top job at the organization, taking over for Nicole Trudell, the previous executive director who resigned earlier this spring.

“The BCICF board is very pleased that Robert has accepted this position,” BCICF Board Chair Hugh Fallis said in a recent statement.

Fallis called Miller a “strategic thinker with a record of partnership-based successes,” and said his 20 years working in the not-for-profit sector will help him continue to grow BCICF’s brand.

Miller recently moved to Kamloops, and has previously worked in the Nicola region with the federally sponsored Community Futures program.

He holds a Master’s degree from the University of Calgary, and has received several awards for his work, including the Travel Alberta Innovative Marketing Award for The Cowboy Trail Tourism Association, and the Best Global Tourism Partnership Award from the International Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus.

Miller says he’s a strong believer in community foundations, because pooling donor funds ultimately allows more money to go back into the community.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute in this region and support community development through the activities of the BC Interior Community Foundation,” he said.

The BC Interior Community Foundation (originally known as the Kamloops Foundation), was created in 1984 with the mission to contribute to the quality of life in the Thompson Nicola and South Cariboo regions through endowments and community grants.

It has since distributed more than $1.5 million in grant throughout the region.

Kaleden couple gives back
Deborah Pfeiffer - Jul 21 - Get Involved

Image: Contributed

Giving back to the community just comes naturally to Sue and Tom Kelly.

The Kaleden couple have mirrored their lengthy support of nonprofit organizations by donating $30,000 to the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation’s campaign to provide medical equipment for the Penticton Regional Hospital expansion.

Sue worked for 32 years as a financial planner with Investors Group before retiring last year.

Tom enjoyed a successful business career, being a co-owner of the former Canwood Furniture plant and then Timmins Street Storage in Penticton.

“We’ve both built our businesses here, so we like to give back to the community,” Sue said. “Both our boys were born at PRH and their grandmother passed away there.

“We are grateful to have a good hospital here, particularly at life’s most important moments. The Medical Foundation has been great to work with, enabling us to gift our donation over three years.”

Sue has long been involved in local charity work – serving for the past 10 years on the board to the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan/Similkameen, including five years as chair.

She also served on the OSNS Child Development Centre board and chaired Kaleden Parks and Recreation, as well as the community’s Centennial Committee in 2009.

Sue grew up near the small town of Caledonia, Ontario and moved to the Okanagan in her 20s. “I was driving across Canada and it was love at first sight,” she recalled. “I just knew this was home.”

Sue’s grandfather provided another link to the Valley, working on the construction of the Kettle Valley Railway more than a century ago.

“I never knew him, but apparently he used to talk all the time that if he was only younger, he’d pick up roots and move to the Okanagan because he just loved it. So I think I was sort of fulfilling his dream.”

Sue later met Tom and moved to Kaleden where the couple have lived for the past 34 years.

Tom was born in Montreal, before moving to Toronto and Vancouver during his school years, prior to settling in the Okanagan.

The SOS Medical Foundation has so far raised almost $14 million towards its $20-million goal.

Construction of the new six-storey patient tower at PRH is well underway and should be ready for patients in 2019. Work will then begin on a major expansion of the hospital’s emergency department.

Father of craft brew shortlisted
Okanagan Edge Staff - Jul 19 - BC Biz

Image: Facebook

Craft beer pioneer Frank Appleton has been named a finalist in the Taste Canada Awards.

Appleton, who wrote the 2016 memoir Brewing Revolution: Pioneering the Craft Beer Movement, hails from Edgewood, British Columbia.

Appleton is an English-trained brewmaster who has been called “the father of craft beer” in Canada.

Brewing Revolution chronicles his decades in the brewing business, from his early years working a major brewery, to his part establishing the first cottage brewery in Canada, to a forward look at the craft beer industry in an ever more competitive market.

Appleton has been a consultant brewmaster to twenty brewing operations, advising in aspects such as brewery design, start-up and brewer training. In 2009, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Leadership in Craft Brewing from CAMRA Victoria Chapter.

The Taste Canada Awards recognize the best culinary books published in Canada each year. Appleton has been shortlisted in the Culinary Narratives category, which includes titles that explore culinary history, politics, social awareness and memoirs or biographies relating to food or beverages.

The winners of this year’s Taste Canada Awards will be announced on October 30, 2017 at a gala in Toronto.

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