Some months ago, I talked about the imagery regarding how to build an entrepreneurial culture in the Okanagan Valley.
I still feel strongly about that goal today as I did then.
I would like to expand on this idea of creating a climate for entrepreneurship, a very sought after but at times not easily understood phenomenon.
In regions like the Okanagan, entrepreneurship harmonizes with the philosophy that our problems are best solved by solutions generated from within.
Thriving communities, it seems, have adopted an attitude that outside assistance of any nature isn’t needed to propose strategies for economic redemption.
Entrepreneurial activity is a suitable strategy for rural regions like ours. Why? Because, while it comes with its own brand of uncertainty, it doesn’t bear the fear of a major employer, for example, of closing shop and moving to perceive greener pastures.
We’ve had a taste of dramatic economic adjustment in our region when market changes in the lumber industry prompted closures and other unpleasant economic occurrences.
Homegrown entrepreneurs have a connection with their communities and the region in which they live and reinvest financially and emotionally.
Because the Okanagan doesn’t have a complete business infrastructure, entrepreneurship encourages regional interplay as well as regional identity, both real parts of a healthy economic strategy manifested recently in cluster and corridor development philosophies.
Entrepreneurs are influenced by their operating environment. A rigid business environment, for example, doesn’t provide ample opportunity for innovation and creativity—the cornerstones for new venture creation.
A financial climate where seed capital can’t be obtained will also hamper start-ups momentum.
A community or regional culture that penalizes change, or even success itself, will not support the necessary ambitions or idea generation of entrepreneurs.
So, to create a supportive climate for entrepreneurial development begins by recognizing the “importance” of entrepreneurs who live and work in our regional communities.
Regional leaders at all levels need to understand why the existing and aspiring entrepreneurs are very important to the socio-economic development of the region and to communicate that special need widely and loudly.
For example, growth entrepreneurs have both the motivation and capacity to grow their ventures that can bring jobs, taxes and economic gain to Okanagan communities.
Understanding their needs and developing a climate that is supportive is an important first step in this critical process for change.
There is no doubt, my research and experience tells me, that creating a culture that supports and embraces entrepreneurship entails a number of different elements.
For example, communities with an entrepreneurial culture regularly celebrate their entrepreneurs. I can’t stress this point enough.
They also recognize that their creative folks often may appear at times to be out of step with what might be considered the regional norm.
Instead of isolating such entrepreneurs because of their uniqueness, entrepreneurial communities accept entrepreneurs as a new and vital part of the regional social order.
I would love to see the banners flying on the regions highest buildings touting the virtues of the entrepreneurial dream machine.
Let’s face it, our community leaders must address the challenges of incorporating entrepreneurs into the social and political fabric of our regions of this wonderful province and encourage our provincial and municipal politicians to take the creation of an entrepreneurial climate across this landscape very seriously.
It is for our own good ultimately.
But let’s be mindful that an entrepreneurial climate differs from a business climate because entrepreneurship is fundamentally about developing human resources—the entrepreneurs themselves—and not merely the ventures they may become known for.
I closing this week, I would ask each and every one of you to see the importance of a supportive entrepreneurial climate, one that includes a “quality of life” infrastructure component.
Remembering that first and foremost, entrepreneurship is about people.
And, entrepreneurs choose to locate their ventures in locations where they live. Which, in this case, means right here in the Okanagan.
When we establish an inviting and beneficial infrastructure, we are more likely to attract entrepreneurs from outside of our region and keep here at home those entrepreneurs who are homegrown.
If there is ever a question of a likely and suitable region of Canada that can formulate an entrepreneurial climate for aspiring entrepreneurs to evolve and grow, it is here in our Okanagan.
So let’s work together to make the difference.