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 USA. 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, I’m happy to report that over the last number of years, the game has changed dramatically and 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 needs to foster the entrepreneurial drive more aggressively and thorough. 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 first must recognize that entrepreneurial skills and attitudes provide benefits to our regional society, even beyond their application to new venture/business activities. In 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, although this is changing with new champions, leaders on the scene exhibiting the right attitudes. 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, acting and believing. An entrepreneurial culture is created to a significant degree by our collaborative spirit and leadership. 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 individuals who embrace the meaning of attitude and innovative behaviour we can make a difference together.
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.
Forming a ‘regional entrepreneurial network’ will invariably prompt the formation of an entrepreneurial culture—an integrated regional agenda will become critical in this regard.
For such a network to work will require entrepreneurs and organizations to work together, work as a set of entrepreneurs, organizations and regional citizens forming a collaborative blend to ensure that entrepreneurs get the support they need to launch and achieve success with their entrepreneurial venture pursuit.
The realization of an regional entrepreneurial culture via an substantive entrepreneurial network will see a gathering of information from entrepreneurs about their needs and opportunities, and then assist them, often by developing new services to meet such needs, setting up training programs for people to learn about entrepreneurship and its personal and community economic benefits, developing accountability and improvement systems, setting up relevant communications systems (an online regional entrepreneurship resource database for 24/7 accessibility), bring to the region new ideas and information about entrepreneurship from elsewhere, nationally and globally build this unique network so that information flows freely throughout the network so that people learn how to collaborate on initiatives, projects and activities.