For a considerable time, I have been motivated to talk to you about entrepreneurial culture in our beautiful Okanagan region.
Encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit is a key to creating jobs and improving the competitiveness and economic growth throughout the Okanagan.
Although some may argue that variables like the number of new start-ups or the psychological attitude of our regional population towards self-employment may be influenced by a number of different factors, there is unquestionably a cultural aspect that needs to be taken into account.
The image of entrepreneurs as positive role models has never been as strong in Canada as in the U.S.
Becoming an entrepreneur at times in our country has been seen as an unsafe and risky option, not particularly appealing and less socially rewarding than other, more traditional professions and careers.
The educational systems have not, in the past, been geared towards the development of entrepreneurship and the self-employment option, the final goal of the educational path being to produce employees for a big company or public administration.
However, this entrepreneurial zealot is very happy to report that, over the last number of years, the game has changed dramatically.
There is a growing awareness in Canada that multi-faceted initiatives should be, must be developed in order to promote an entrepreneurial culture, and to, in fact, encourage risk-taking, creativity and innovation.
As a result, the importance of entrepreneurship as one of the basic skills to be provided through lifelong learning is genuinely recognized today.
The Okanagan region and indeed, our province needs to foster the entrepreneurial drive more effectively.
It needs more new and thriving firms willing to embark on creative and innovative ventures.
Encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit is a key to achieving these objectives.
Education can contribute to encouraging entrepreneurship, by fostering the right attitudinal and behavioural mindset, by raising awareness of potential opportunities as an entrepreneur or a self-employed person, and providing the right venture creation skills.
When we speak of creating an entrepreneurial culture in the valley, we firstly must recognize that entrepreneurial skills and attitudes provide benefits to our regional society, even beyond their application to new venture/business activities.
In actual fact, personal qualities that are relevant to entrepreneurship, such as creativity and a spirit of initiative can be useful to absolutely everyone in their working activity and daily life.
However, with this philosophy being said, we have not yet led to making entrepreneurship a common feature or a widespread subject in our education systems, nor has the training of our teachers on how to bring the concept of entrepreneurship into the classroom been sufficiently explored.
Also, the establishment of indicators and the collection of qualitative and quantitative data in this field is still lacking as it pertains to our region and this of course makes it difficult to monitor any progress that may be achieved.
But, only by working together, all of the relevant economic and social organizations alike —will we be able to promote the development of entrepreneurial attitudes and skills in our Okanagan society.
This will offer, in the longer term, the clarity toward the creation of an Okanagan Valley Entrepreneurship Culture which will be our collective legacy to creating more jobs and improving economic growth and prosperity for the many years to come.
Creating an entrepreneurial culture is about, in part, instilling a way of thinking, doing and believing.
It is not that difficult but it doesn’t happen just because we may include “we will be entrepreneurs” in a company’s corporate vocabulary.
An entrepreneurial culture is created to a significant degree by our collaborative spirit and leadership.
But please, don’t think that I am implying that all of us need to be an inspirational. The most effective entrepreneurial leaders set the tone toward a cultural creation by merely setting a good example toward what our world may become under the guise of an entrepreneurial culture environment.
In conclusion today, please embrace the notion that in an entrepreneurial culture, work is more than a job—it’s a lifestyle.
Our environment might present more than a team approach—but even as a family of like-minded, committed individuals who embrace the meaning of attitude and innovative behaviour we can make a difference together.
I am amazed at the attitudinal changes that I am experiencing through this column, our Okanagan Entrepreneurs Society and the valley-wide entrepreneurship strategy development initiative currently underway.
As more and more people from all walks of life and varying ages tell me they experience an “aha” moment when exposed to entrepreneurship knowledge and information. What a joy it is…..
When spending a day recently with Grade 9 students in a Junior Achievment program on Westside, I couldn’t help myself and lectured a bit about entrepreneurship.
When I asked the class of 30 who knows what an entrepreneur is, four students raised their hands and their replies were impressive.
Lesson learned Okanagan—we can instill the joy and benefit of the entrepreneurial spirit from the middle schools to the seniors homes, from the university dorms to the sales staff at our retailers, to large and small companies alike.
Why? Because at the end of the day, entrepreneurship is “thinking, acting and believing” in looking at the world and thinking differently and discovering solutions instead of problems in our society’s marketplace.
Joel Young is an entrepreneurial leadership coach, educator and consultant and founder of the Okanagan Valley Entrepreneurs Society.