Editor’s note: In 2020 it should be no surprise that more and more woman hold positions of power. Whether it’s business, politics, sports or the non-profit sector, woman continue to achieve new milestones. This story is part of a series of stories highlighting 16 women in Kelowna who are leaders in their fields. You can read all of their stories in our annual publication called Women in Business in the Feb. 28 issue of Kelowna Capital News.
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She went from volunteer to chief executive officer in just six years.
Brea Lake joined the team at Accelerate Okanagan not knowing whether her hard work and ambitions would pay off, however she was determined to find out.
Unlike her classmates, when the Kelowna-born businesswoman was completing her business degree at Okanagan College she knew that she wanted to stay in the community when she graduated.
After getting her first taste of the tech industry with the Kelowna-founded and Disney-bought Club Penguin, she hasn’t thought twice about her decision to stay and build her career in the Okanagan.
“I like to say I got the opportunity to grow alongside our tech community here,” said Lake.
“I started as a community manager with Accelerate Okanagan, moved into operations and when our CEO Ragwha Gopal had taken a new job, the board had asked me to step in as interim CEO, and then I just got offered the full-time position. Now, it feels pretty good to have a full year under my belt in that acting and CEO role.”
Though the Accelerate Okanagan board did its due diligence and opened the CEO position to allure out-of-town talent, the choice to select Lake came down to her ambition and drive to lead Accelerate Okanagan into the next decade.
“I made the case of what my experience is here and having a home-grown perspective of the Okanagan and how that can be a true asset to an organization,” Lake said.
Her pitch to the board worked and a few weeks later Lake was named the CEO, last October.
Lake’s ambition and passion continue to reap benefits six months later as more and more clientele and entrepreneurs look to collaborate with Accelerate Okanagan every day.
“We’re very community-driven,” said Lake.
“How do we help people plugin, how do we play that connector role? I love being able to give back in that capacity and help people find where they should be.”
Part of Lake’s plan for the future is to increase Accelerate Okanagan’s economic impact in the Okanagan. Her goal: a five-year strategy to increase Accelerate Okanagan’s impact from $1.7 billion to $5 billion.
“It’s quite ambitious,” Lake said with confidence.
“The big focus of this is to help the companies that are already scaling and growing become the anchor tech companies here in our region. What we’re finding is that technology is apart of almost every company nowadays so our reach has changed and we want to help companies start and grow their businesses.”
As a woman in her field, the disparity in the technology field and at Accelerate Okanagan has not been lost on Lake, but during her time with the company, she has seen many changes.
When Lake first started, most of the team were men, but fast forward six years later and Accelerate Okanagan now has a majority operation team of women, including the mentor team and their new ambitious female CEO.
That progress will continue later this year with a new women’s entrepreneurship program, which will focus on better suiting programs to local female entrepreneurs.
“It’s a key focus of ours. How do we show diversity and inclusion in all aspects of our projects, not just with our team,” said Lake.
“It definitely does give me a sense of pride and I think we’re just starting to scratch the surface. How do we bring in some expertise that we’ve been missing in the past by utilizing other women leaders.”
Accelerate Okanagan’s new entrepreneurship programs will be featured at the upcoming OKGN Angel Summit Finale in March where Arlene Dickinson, from the CBC’s Dragon’s Den, will join as a guest speaker.
The summit will be the culmination of a 10-week program for growing businesses with the winner securing a $150,000 investment.