Top 40: Brandon Panopoulos
Contributed - 9:42 am - People in Business

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

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


Brandon Panopoulos brings a distinctive approach to construction. Over the past 10 years, he has used his vision, and entrepreneurial and leadership skills to grow TKI Construction and invest in important projects that shape our community, including the Child Advocacy Centre, Central Okanagan Food Bank and Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Prior to co-founding TKI Construction in 2010, Panopoulos began his career with PCL in 2002 and worked on numerous projects that have become important landmarks throughout the Okanagan. Panopoulos joined TKI first as a partner and became the sole owner in 2017. He is recognized for creating a workplace that is supportive of women and diversity, the caring team culture encouraging constant development for staff and a sense of family and teamwork.

Panopoulos gives back to the community by sitting on the Southern Interior Construction Association board, where he is able to share his knowledge for the betterment of the industry, and has been invited to facilitate Construction 101 courses to those new to the industry. In addition, Panopoulos invests his time and resources to raise awareness for mental health within the construction industry. As a father of two, Panopoulos cares about this community. His passion is to build structures that help the community and make a better place for all to grow.

Panopoulos is passionate about partnering with organizations and agencies that advocate for the safety and well-being of others. Over the years TKI has had the privilege of working on projects for non-profit organizations such as Child Advocacy Centre and Central Okanagan Food Bank, forming relationships that move beyond client and contractor by connecting with the vision and passion these organizations bring to the community. Panopoulos gives back by donating material, labour and financial resources to help these organizations bring their projects to life.

Panopoulos completed his diploma of technology in building science from the British Columbia Institute of Technology in 2002 and holds a Gold Seal Certificate for project management through the Canadian Construction Association.

Panopoulos has received the following recognition for his leadership and contribution to the construction industry: BC Construction Association’s Construction Leadership Award in 2019 and the SICA Industry Awards of Excellence’s member of the year in 2019.

Q&A with Brandon Panopoulos

How are you currently approaching the current situation? 

We are taking COVID-19 very seriously and have from the very start of the pandemic. The safety of our team and clients is our first priority.

Where are you now? Are you still working, at home or at work?

We are currently open for business, and are working out of our office and construction sites. We have implemented many safety procedures and personal protective equipment policies to help ensure that we are keeping everyone as safe as possible while still being able to work. It’s been very important for us to support our team throughout this pandemic, and we did not want to entertain sending our people home if at all humanly possible. With our policy changes we have been able to continue to operate throughout these challenging times and are optimistic about the future.

What is your favourite quote?

One of our people gave me a piece of paper on my birthday a while ago with this quote written on it and I have kept it posted on my wall ever since. “What separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” — Steve Jobs. I find it very appropriate, as I always seem to choose the most difficult path if I believe it’s the right one, thus requiring the perseverance.

Chamber needs board members
Okanagan Edge Staff - Sep 16, 2020 - People in Business

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The Lake Country Chamber of Commerce is looking for four people to fill spots on its board of directors.

The chamber will be conducting its annual general meeting on Oct. 21 via Zoom, and it is hoping to have a full complement of board members by the end of that day.

New directors will have to get their hands dirty, as boards in smaller communities function more as a working board than an advisory one. Anyone interested in a board position is encouraged to call the chamber office at 250-766-5670 or send an email to [email protected].

The eight current members of the board are Jennifer Madsen (Oyama Zipline Adventure Park), Jeff Schall (Realtor), Oscar Barnes (D.Oscar Barnes law firm), Carla Carlson (Comfort Inn), Sam Sigal (Holiday Park), Melissa Cooney (associate member), Chris Lewis (Tourism Kelowna) and Blaine Rhymer (associate member).

Haddad returns to Penticton
Casey Richardson - Sep 16, 2020 - People in Business

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District of Summerland chief administrative officer Anthony Haddad is returning to the City of Penticton.

Hours after Summerland announced Haddad was stepping down for a “new career opportunity,” the City of Penticton disclosed that the new opportunity is with it.

Haddad, who previously held the position of director of development services in Penticton prior to taking the position of Summerland CAO in August 2019, will step into the new role of Penticton’s general manager of community services.

“With COVID-19 negatively impacting the city’s finances, it became important to have a streamlined and efficient senior management team,” Penticton chief administrative officer Donny van Dyk said. “Given Anthony’s strong track record of managing numerous files efficiently and effectively, as well as the respect he’s earned within the city and community, we’re delighted to see him return.”

“It’s great to be back working with Donny, council and the leadership team at the city; it’s an exciting time for the South Okanagan and Penticton’s role in its growth and development bodes well for a prosperous future,” Anthony Haddad said. He added, “I’ve had the opportunity to see my family grow up in Penticton and am grateful for all the opportunities that it has provided us. I look forward to working with the community and our partnership organizations to continue making it a great place to live, work and invest.”

Haddad joins one of three general manager roles, including the city’s current chief financial officer, Jim Bauer, who has been appointed to the new position of general manager of finance and administration. The city’s third and previously only general manager position—overseeing infrastructure—continues under the leadership of Mitch Moroziuk.

“Council met with our CAO to discuss these organizational and leadership changes, changes which follow months of budget and staff reductions,” Penticton mayor John Vassilaki said.

“It’s unreasonable to expect that, after so much disruption, the city’s leadership structure would continue forward as it was, pre COVID-19. The CAO’s appointment of Mr. Haddad and Mr. Bauer into general manager roles and the realignment of city services under their leadership, is a timely and wise step to take on our journey towards recovery.”

Willowstone hires ops director
Okanagan Edge Staff - Sep 15, 2020 - People in Business

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Kelowna’s Willowstone Academy has hired Lisa-Diane Fortier as its new director of operations.

Fortier spent 12 years in Vancouver at Fraser Institute, an economic think tank, before moving to Kelowna two years ago to prioritize spending more time together as a family. She was a teacher before joining Fraser Institute.

“Our new director of operations offers us strong expertise in team development, scaling systems and organizational development,” chief learning officer Karine Veldhoen said in a press release. “Education benefits from diverse professional expertise; children benefit. While right now Lisa-Diane is focused on ensuring we are a COVID-friendly school, we know, over time, her leadership will make a rich contribution to our Learn Forward model school.”

The faith-based independent school, which is located on Lakeshore Road, has been in operation for 25 years and rebranded as Willowstone Academy six years ago.

Top 40: Assetou Coulibaly
Contributed - Sep 15, 2020 - People in Business

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

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


Assetou Coulibaly was born in Mali and has travelled extensively. In 2018, she made the move to Kelowna with a degree in sociology and began working in the financial sector.

Coulibaly noticed that she didn’t see other people of colour at professional networking events, even though she knew that the Okanagan has a diverse business community. So she decided to start a not-for-profit called Societe Chiwara in the efforts to create an inclusive space for professionals in the community and provide a platform for people of colour.

Societe Chiwara’s goal is to start conversations and, in doing so, strengthen not just the Black or minority community within the Central Okanagan, but the entire community. Coulibaly believes that we can’t get better or promote a more inclusive community if the entire community isn’t involved. By addressing the lack of integration and minority representation in leadership roles, she amplifies minority voices.

In addition to her not-for-profit, Coulibaly’s professional experience in the Central Okanagan is focused around project management, ensuring the efficiency and success of the organizations with which she works. Her career experience includes Refresh Financial, where she was in charge of driving strategy to address customer feedback and leading the implementation of technical tools to improve the company’s performance. She now works with Accent Inns, where she manages multiple projects across the organization, working closely with the senior executive team to ensure their goals are exceeded.

As a young, Black, female entrepreneur, Coulibaly draws on her experience to lead Societe Chiwara. She passionately believes that experiential and collaborate leadership can drive positive, meaningful change in our community. Coulibaly believes she can empower others into action by sharing her story and helping them feel confident to share their own.

A recent digital conversation that Societe Chiwara hosted around Black Lives Matter welcomed more than 120 participants for a passionate, compassionate and emotional discussion. This event was so well received that they are currently in the process of expanding Societe Chiwara to a chapter model at the request of people who want to start their own chapters in various cities across Canada.

Coulibaly has a bachelor’s degree from Thompson Rivers University in sociology. While studying, Coulibaly was a part of various leadership programs. She was one of the key members of the intercultural council and started the chapter of Model United Nations in Kamloops and was honoured with the opportunity to be a part of TRU’s global campaign.

In addition to the requirements for her undergraduate degree, Coulibaly also received a TRU Global Competency certificate. This program recognizes knowledge, skills and attitudes of globally minded citizens. The Global Competency program fuelled the fire for her advocacy work that is creating positive change within British Columbia.

Q&A with Assetou Couilbaly

How are you currently approaching the current situation?  

We’ve moved all of our programs and events to a digital format. It’s been quite a great experience, and it’s great and very educational for both us and the niche that we work with.

Where are you now? Are you still working, at home or at work?

Currently working from home, but with all the digital platforms that are available and with all the different companies that are changing the way in which they do business and how they interact with each other, it’s actually been quite easy and very effective for us.

What is your favourite quote? 

“The best is yet to come.” I find that rings true in almost every life situation that I’ve been in, and it’s been even more true with how impactful this has been for the community that Chiwara is serving.

Top 40: Darren Kautz
Contributed - Sep 11, 2020 - 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 Under 40” program.

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


Darren Kautz graduated from the University of Calgary with a law degree in 2007, where he then articled and practised law briefly in Alberta.

Kautz’s wife’s family is one of the early farming families in Rutland, and she encouraged him to look for employment in the Okanagan. Growing up in a family of ranchers in eastern Alberta, the move to B.C. was different, but the beauty and lifestyle that the Okanagan affords its residents was too hard to pass up. Kautz and his wife purchased an acreage in Oyama, which gave them the country lifestyle they wanted yet was close to the city.

Upon moving to the Okanagan, Kautz joined Nixon Wenger LLP in Vernon in September 2008 and worked as an associate until 2015. In 2016 he ventured out to become associate counsel in Kelowna to focus his practice and devote more time to his two sons and volunteering in their many activities. In 2020 Kautz made partner with one of the oldest law firms in the Okanagan, FH&P Lawyers LLP. His legal practice has always involved mentoring younger lawyers and being the lawyer who was willing to step up in difficult cases or circumstances.

Kautz’s goal has always been to try and build a positive experience for those he works with, volunteers with or coaches. He has been involved in sports, specifically coaching hockey and baseball, since 2005. Kautz has completed the first level of competitive baseball coaching and has his developmental hockey coaching certification. When Kautz moved to the Okanagan, he coached the Vernon AA bantam hockey team in 2008-09 and sat on the Greater Vernon Minor Hockey Association board for two more years.

When not coaching sports, Kautz spends his time volunteering all over the Okanagan to try and make his community the very best it can be. Kautz supports Ducks Unlimited, sat on the Brain Trust board from 2013 to 2018 and has been a director with Restorative Justice from 2009 to present. In 2013 he also assisted the provincial court guidelines board.

Kautz has his bachelor of arts in anthropology and his law degree, both from the University of Calgary. In his undergrad he received the Jason Lang Scholarship and was admitted to the First Nations Field Studies program. And in law school he took part in a semester abroad at U of C’s sister school in Copenhagen and received the Alberta Environmental Appeals Board Prize.

Kautz attributes some of his achievements to growing up on a ranch, which permitted him to grow as a person in many ways. Not only was he able to learn to ride horses and herd cattle, but he completed The Royal Conservatory piano education to Grade 6 and achieved his student pilot certificate in 1998.

Q&A with Darren Kautz

How are you currently approaching the current situation? 

I am approaching the pandemic with optimism. I am optimistic that from the current struggles we will adapt new policies that will permit the business world to become stronger and better able to provide services in a fast and efficient fashion.

Where are you now? Are you still working at home or at work?

I am working from home 75% of the time and in the office the remaining time. Our law firm, FH&P Lawyers, has adapted technologies to permit remote access, and I am proud of our firm’s lawyers and staff in their utilization of the technology to provide the same great service to our clients from the office, home or wherever.  Our firm has been assisting Kelowna, the Okanagan and B.C. for over 100 years, and the pandemic has brought about new, innovative ways for our law firm to assist our clients.

What is your favourite quote? 

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” — Winston Churchill

New boss at family centre
Jon Manchester - Sep 11, 2020 - People in Business

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Vernon’s Family Resource Centre has a new executive director.

Jim Swingle is taking over the helm from Scott Manjak, who is retiring after more than five years of service.

Swingle brings extensive business and leadership experience to the role. He was previously vice-president of project management and operations for Reuters Consulting in New York City.

Thirteen years ago, he moved to Canada when he married a Vernon woman. Since then, he has taught in the undergraduate and MBA business programs at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, where he was twice voted MBA teacher of the year by students.

Most recently, he was executive director at the Okanagan Science Centre.

“The Family Resource Centre is a wonderful organization, which does such important work in the community,” Swingle said. “I look forward to working with everyone here to continue to serve the community, and to continue to grow our programming and our impact.”

“The time comes in every organization when there is a need for change and moving into new directions,” board chair Barbara Keith said. “This need has been made even greater with the current challenges of COVID and the economy. It is with deep gratitude that we say goodbye to Scott Manjak as he retires. After a very thorough search, the board of directors is excited to welcome Jim Swingle.”

The Family Resource Centre located in the Vernon People Place, provides counselling and support group services to nearly 1,300 clients every year.

Get to know new UBCO boss
Contributed - Sep 10, 2020 - People in Business

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As students head back to school this week at UBC Okanagan, albeit virtually for most, the campus’ new deputy vice-chancellor and principal Lesley Cormack will be among their ranks as she oversees her first full term at UBC.

Cormack arrives at UBCO after having served as dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta since 2010 and as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Simon Fraser University before that.

She was appointed in February but didn’t arrive in the Okanagan and begin her the new role until the summer. As she prepares to welcome her very first UBCO incoming class, she says that she feels like a first-year student again—just getting to know a new campus full of new people.

Cormack also reflects on the challenges and opportunities the coming year will bring.

What are your first impressions of UBC Okanagan and the region?

These past few weeks have been exciting, and I’m thrilled to be a part of this young and dynamic learning community. UBC Okanagan has a wonderful reputation as an intimate, innovative and entrepreneurial campus, and I can’t wait to see how this year shapes up. Everyone has been very kind and welcoming, and having the privilege of living in this most extraordinary region has been a treat.

What challenges do you expect to face as you head into your first fall term at UBCO?

I’m honoured to be welcoming UBCO’s latest incoming class of 2020, but I’m also conscious that back to school this year is not what many had in mind. There’s no doubt that it has been difficult for everyone over these last months, stepping away from our previous day-to-day routines and having to adapt to new ways of doing things.

Ensuring our online course offerings provide a high-quality learning experience and creating a safe physical campus for those that must be there in person have been my top priorities. I’ve been so impressed in my first months on the job, seeing how our campus community has adapted and developed a positive, forward-looking outlook. Our approach to online learning has involved the hard work hundreds of faculty and staff since March who developed our guidelines. Above all, those guidelines stress creativity and flexibility for both our students and faculty and an acknowledgement that online learning presents unique challenges and some unique benefits.

What lessons from your previous experience do you hope to apply to UBCO?

While I was dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta, I was particularly proud of our initiative to increase Indigenous student enrolment by 100% and hire 14 new Indigenous faculty members. UBC Okanagan already has a positive and foundational relationship with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, and I’m eager to see that partnership grow and develop even further.

I have also long been a proponent of enhancing support for research, and in particular interdisciplinary research. I think the Okanagan campus has become an impressive research-intensive institution, and I will be working to help strengthen that trend over the coming years.

What are your personal priorities as you settle into your new role?

First and foremost, I want to ensure that our students, faculty and staff have a safe and successful start to teaching and research as we move forward through September and beyond. I also want to make sure that plans to create new and much-needed teaching and research space move forward. Finally, it’s crucially important that we fulfil the commitments of UBC’s new Indigenous Strategic Plan. That includes UBCO’s own declaration in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action that was signed in September of last year.

More broadly, UBCO has made incredible progress over the past number of years, and I’d like to support those achievements. We have a solid plan to grow the campus and enhance our research capacity thanks to the long-term ambitions described in our Outlook 2040 vision. I’m especially excited by the enormous potential of the university’s new downtown Kelowna presence, which is beginning to take shape.

What are you most excited about in coming to UBC Okanagan?

This is a profoundly optimistic and empowering institution. We have bold ideas and the plans to get there. It is an enormous privilege to live and work not just in this campus community but in the wider Okanagan region that places so much value on innovative and forward-thinking initiatives. I’m thrilled to be at a university that has a great research and teaching mission but that also roots its activities so deeply in the community. It has a refreshing outlook, and I’m looking forward to getting to know this campus and the Okanagan’s residents.

New boss at Kelson Group
Amandalina Letterio - Sep 09, 2020 - People in Business

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There’s a new leader at the helm of Kelson Group.

Jason Fawcett, the Kamloops company’s former vice-president of operations, has been named president. The position was previously held by Fawcett’s father Ron, for more than four decades.

Kelson Group has grown from owning a few apartment buildings to becoming one of the largest private owners in Western Canada, with properties in B.C. and Alberta.

“Jason, together with his brother, Kelly, who is our vice-president (of) maintenance and construction, have been leading the operations of the company for years,” Ron said in a press release. “I view this announcement as not only the reality of what our company structure has looked like for quite some time, but this change will enable Jason and Kelly to lead the evolution of Kelson Group as we grow. This is a proud day for me, not just as a business owner, but as a father, too.”

Ron now becomes the executive director and founder of the company.

Jason applauded his dad for being a “big picture thinker” and a “great visionary.”

“He has this incredible ability to see opportunity where others may not and build upon that. He is really the biggest reason Kelson Group is here, and why it has seen continued success. I am honoured to take on this role and to help lead the exceptional work our company does. We will continue to provide an exceptional place for our staff team to build their careers as they help our residents live better,” Jason said.

Kelson Group is working on two new builds at Thompson Rivers University, including the 42-suite Liberty Pointe apartment and a condominium. The company plans to announce another development in Kamloops soon.

Top 40: Danica Dollman
Contributed - Sep 08, 2020 - People in Business

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

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


After previously working in an environment where she could live out her passion of bringing equality and accessibility to the community, Danica Dollman started as an agent with World Financial Group in 2017. It was there she found a new purpose and a new way to help the families of the Okanagan, and that was through financial education.

Over this time, Dollman was on a mission to help and touch as many Okanagan families as she could, provide a solution to a stress or provide a plan for a goal. She had a vision, and that vision was to create an agency, a brokerage, where people of the Okanagan could find exciting, fulfilling careers. Over the next two and a half years, Dollman helped many families as well as built an agency of six licences. In 2019 she was promoted in her firm and named MVP for the most families helped.

Over the years, Dollman has enjoyed coaching Westside girls youth soccer, where she herself was a part of the association growing up and was excited to coach the U6 team. It is extremely important to Dollman to be a positive role model for young girls today, and she receives great joy in exposing the benefits of sports to young girls through her coaching. She is passionate about getting to know her teammates, their most personal goals and helping them to get there. There is no better feeling than to be a part of a person’s growth and personal successes.

Since a small girl it has been in Dollman’s heart to be a volunteer and give. Over the years she has enjoyed sitting on her children’s parent advisory council at their school and currently sits on the committee for her firm’s fundraiser for Children’s Wish, where they have raised thousands of dollars to grant terminally ill Canadian children’s wishes. Dollman is also extremely passionate in advocating for women in the Okanagan; each week she interviews and promotes women in business on her Instagram page in a segment called #girlbosschatting.

Dollman graduated from the human service worker program from Okanagan University College in 2004 and went on to complete the social work program at UBCO. Dollman has also completed the Harmonized Life Licensing Qualification Program licensing requirements with the Insurance Council of BC.  

In 2006 she was one of the youngest people to be awarded Key Person at Lifestyle Equity Society.

Q&A with Danica Dollman

How are you currently approaching the current situation?                                         

My heart goes out to everyone that this pandemic has affected. I personally have seen it as a blessing in my life. I have been able to spend so much quality time with my children and family, as well as grow individually, all at the same time still helping families in my business.

Where are you now? Are you still working, at home or at work?

My firm, and all the companies I am contracted with, went remote in 48 hours when we were told to self isolate. I am able to assist my clients with life, critical illness and disability insurances, as well as investments from my home. I am currently seeing people for in-person appointments, while keeping with safe distancing and preventative measures. This pandemic was a time for Canadians to sit back and evaluate the areas in life they had been too busy to put attention to. As a result, I have been happy to help more families over these past months with placing proper protection, save and growing their money, and paying off debt than ever before. 

What is your favourite quote? 

“At the end it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.” — Denzel Washington

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