Young: Global traveller finds entrepreneurial vision in the Okanagan
“Vision without action is a day dream but action without vision is a nightmare.”
This Japanese proverb is ever so true. I have learned to believe that the single thing that sets apart an entrepreneur from a small business owner is their strength of vision.
True entrepreneurs have a massive vision, which is needed to create the momentum to develop their venture.
Along with vision, as I have written here many times in the past, one of the most fundamental parts of growing an entrepreneurial venture is leading an retaining a team so that you can leverage your time.
Without leadership skills, that important factor becomes quite difficult.
The focus of my column this week is a person who has truly travelled the world for many years, growing as a person in dramatic fashion along the way and never ceasing to learn about herself and what today can be identified as her vision of truth— that all things are possible.
Recently, I met Carmen Sparg, co-partner of Total Office Business Furniture. I learned about her from one of her management staff members who is associated with our Okanagan Valley Entrepreneurs Society.
It didn’t take me long to realize that Carmen Sparg never sits still, and has grown into a dynamic being of great potential.
For my column today, I was particularly interested in the root of Sparg’s journey, which began in the African country of Zimbabwe, which borders on South Africa.
Her father ran a plumbing/construction venture with a surveying consulting practice.
Her brother, who has become a mortage broker, and her were raised by their stay-at-home mom.
After Sparg completed her business economics certification at a Technology College in South Africa, she worked as a controller in several large companies.
That provided her with hands-on experience in business management.
The next few years of her personal journey started with working for various corporate entities in Europe during 1992 and’93. Returning to Johannesburg, South Africa, she worked for a television manufacturing company, then spent a brief sojourn with an electronics firm.
She proceeded to then have her first child while settling in East London, South Africa, where she gained more entrepreneurial skills development while honing her skills also as a homemaker and mother.
Spending four years working for a security company, getting married and having her second child didn’t slow down Sparg one bit as the family decided to move to Ireland for a few years in 2000, an opportunity to accumulate sufficient funds to bring them to their ultimate travel destination—Canada.
At this point, Sparg had me dizzy trying to keep track of her family’s excursions, but I confess it was getting fun trying to keep up.
I asked her if she could describe what prompted Canada for her family to settle, and she replied that Canada was one of the English-speaking nations of the world that she and her husband felt would be fruitful as a country to raise their two children.
At the same time, she also cited how Canada offered potential for job and career paths for the couple.
It was while working for the Irish company that Sparg discovered her employer had a business connection to Kelowna, thus the Okanagan became the target destination for their future as immigrants to Canada.
After moving to Kelowna in 2003, Sparg and her husband struggled to find suitable employment.
Ironically, she began a position with the company that today she proudly is a partner in the office furnishings industry sector.
She worked for six years as an employee, gaining enough self-confidence believing she could venture out on her own as a bona fide Canadian entrepreneur.
Through her own process of reflection and exploring startups, Sparg decided the time was right, for her, to “take the plunge” into entrepreneurship. She resigned from her employment with some trepidation of what the future might hold.
When her resignation notice was served, the opportunity arose quickly for an owner/partner buyout, and Sparg had suddenly arrived at the threshold of Canadian entrepreneurship before she knew what happened.
The rest of the story is an Okanagan history lesson. From the violent racial abolishment of the South African apartheid system that claimed the lives of some of her immediate family members to Canada’s new world of entrepreneurial adventure, Carmen Sparg has responded to the challenge before her.
Through her partnership in Total Office Business Furnishings with business partner Roy Collins, supported by a truly remarkable industry “family” assembled around her, the business domain for Total Office has spread from Kelowna to throughout the B.C Interior for existing and new office products, with Western Canada as the next step for growth.
Sparg cites her key strength as the ability to engage people in all facets of life’s journey. I can vouch for that, as Carmen is truly a professional person who seeks the best in people she has on her staff team, those with whom she cites as customers and those who are her genuine friends.
Before I leave the story of my new friend, let me assert that Total Office is a leading supplier of office systems and related office furniture products, established now for 14 years.
The business has been built on a platform of design, product leadership and responsiveness to customer needs with long relationships the likes I have not witnessed in many industries in this region.
Stay tuned Okanagan for this relatively young company has only just begun, and please remember: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but…by the moments that take our breath away.”