I have been presenting to you stories, information and educational pieces for close to five years now, and I have worked within the world of entrepreneurship in Canada and the U.S. for more than 25 years, a lifetime to be sure.
The significance of my personal journey really stems from the creation of a National Entrepreneurship Policy & Strategy, which the Tory government under prime minister Brian Mulroney created within the developed national society in the late 1990s.
But here we are now in the Okanagan Valley after almost five years of exploring, searching, researching with some pleading thrown in for spice, and I am excitedly to declare that we, as a regional economy, are about to turn the corner toward a new level of collaboration amongst all relevant regional stakeholder organizations.
This week, I would like to share two very important initiatives with you that may contribute to changing the face of our region, our province and yes, our beloved Canada.
Before my wife and I moved to the Okanagan five years ago, I spent a great deal of time visiting with valley mayors and community leaders.
One of those special people was Kelowna Mayor Sharon Shepherd.
I told the mayor about my world of entrepreneurship and the initiative I had developed and implemented in my home province of Saskatchewan. It was when an NDP government was in power there, with the purpose to prompt a province-wide entrepreneurship game-plan for progressive change.
I presented to Shepherd that initial day a concept proposal for an Okanagan Valley Entrepreneurship Roundtable, which would be an open forum of stakeholders exploring the potential for a valley-wide entrepreneurship strategy, something which did not exist at that point. Although the mayor expressing her support, I wasn’t ready just yet to embark on that journey.
So, I shelved the roundtable notion and then moved forward the idea to create an entrepreneurship society, as a regional non-profit entity to light the candle, so to speak, for the entrepreneurial zealots and expressions of interest of which I was continually confronted with.
The society was started, and three years later we are now an established, multi-faceted socio-economic organization. While establishing my roots in the valley floor, I obtained letters of support for an entrepreneurship strategy from nearly every mayor from Vernon to Penticton.
And so, after mulling my revisitation to the roundtable initiative, I had an occasion to once again visit Kelowna’s mayor, to tell her I felt the time was ripe to bring together a cross section of valley stakeholders to explore that strategy development she had previously expressed an interest in supporting.
She reminded me of what she told me back when I came to her with this idea originally, that I ought to cease discussing and go get it done, that a roundtable concept was a solid vehicle to seek change of business attitude and behaviour in the valley.
So on Sept. 7 at the Delta Grand Hotel in Kelowna, we were able to complete a wonderfully productive roundtable forum with an innovative facilitation model led by David Church, a Winnipeg-based consultant who specializes in bringing multiple business and/or government organizations together to reach a common goal. Church, who is moving to the Okanagan and will split time between the Manitoba city and here in Kelowna, will set up a western Canadian training centre and has collaborated with two marketing and business coaches, Clint Best and Colin Parker, who so graciously assisted in making the Roundtable come to life.
In a seemingly short day, we were able to accumulate 257 ideas, (amazing outcome) that will be screened, categorized and form the nucleus of a report that will be shared with everyone in the roundtable database, inviting the formation of a working group to investigate the development of a first-ever regional entrepreneurship strategy and action agenda.
Am I excited? You bet—this was an idea that was a long time in coming. The world around us within the region, the province, the nation and beyond is and has been extolling the socio-economic virtues of entrepreneurial development for sometime now in bits and pieces.
That’s not all for this week’s joyful announcement about “entrepreneurship everywhere,” as the roundtable is also our entrepreneurship society’s contribution to Global Entrepreneurship Week, that runs from Nov. 14 to 20, led by the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, and which our society is a community partner in the Okanagan.
This major international initiative began a few short years ago with United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Carl Schramm, CEO of the Kaufmann Entrepreneurship Foundation.
The core essence of this celebratory week is the discovery that leaders around the world are looking to reinvigorate their economies by focusing on ways to stimulate new venture creation.
Global Entrepreneurship Week helps map the entrepreneurial ecosystem in all participating nations and enjoys the support and participation of presidents and prime ministers on every continent.
Today, that entails the participation of more than 100 nations, 40,000 events such as our roundtablef forum, and the contributions of 10 million people. Wow, that’s no Sunday picnic!
And to close this tidal wave of entrepreneurial waterfall, in February 2011, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared 2011 as the Year of the Entrepreneur throughout Canada, part of our federal government’s efforts to raise public awareness of the importance of entrepreneurs to Canada’s economy and pay tribute to their drive and dedication.
The Prime Minister said: “Canada’s entrepreneurs are the backbone of our economy, creating jobs and driving economic growth in communities, large and small across our landscape.”
Global Entrepreneurship Week has a wonderful national competition called YOU Innovate, which presents $ 25,000 in cash awards with 14 regional winners who may also win a trip to the United Kingdom.
Information and application to participate in this program may be obtained through the Okanagan Valley Entrepreneurs Society. Yes, dear friends, entrepreneurship is everywhere.
Joel Young is an entrepreneurial leadership consultant and founder of Okanagan Valley Entrepreneurs Society.