Young: Offering a direction for Okanagan economic prosperity

The image of entrepreneurs as positive role models has never been as strong in Canada as in the U.S.

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 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 education path has led more towards producing employees for a big company or government administration.

However, 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, to encourage risk taking, creativity and innovation.

Entrepreneurship has been rekindled as an engine and basis for socio-economic growth—reach out folks because it is here to stay.

The Okanagan region and our province overall needs to foster the entrepreneurial drive on a more aggressive and thorough basis. 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.

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, we have not yet led to making entrepreneurship a common feature or a widespread subject in our education system. 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. That makes it difficult to monitor any progress that may be achieved.

So only by working together, the clarity toward the creation of an Okanagan Valley entrepreneurship culture  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 instilling a way of thinking, acting and believing.

It is not that difficult but it doesn’t happen just because we may include “we will be entrepreneurs” in our vocabulary.

An entrepreneurial culture is created to a significant degree by our collaborative spirit and leadership. The most effective entrepreneurial leaders set the tone toward a cultural creation are those who merely set a good example toward what our world may become under the guise of an entrepreneurial culture environment.

So I ask you to please  embrace the notion that in an entrepreneurial culture—work is more than a job, it’s a lifestyle.

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 have experienced through this column and our Okanagan Entrepreneurs Society and the valley-wide entrepreneurship strategy development initiative currently underway.

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 to provide that inspiration.

After spending a day recently with Grade 9 students in a junior achievement program in West Kelowna, I couldn’t help myself and lectured a bit about entrepreneurship.

When I asked the class, kids in the 14 to 15 year old age range, who knows what an entrepreneur is, four students raised their hands and their replies were impressive. Wow!

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 and 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.

Forming a regional entrepreneurial network will invariably prompt the formation of an entrepreneurial culture, and an integrated regional agenda will become critical in this regard.

For such a network to work will require entrepreneurs and organizations to work together in unison to form a network of substance.

Such a network is 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.

I am inspired by the concept of such a network as its purpose is both timely and relevant to our Okanagan socio-economic future at a time when there remains mixed thoughts about we are headed as a region.

For despite the wonderful development and planning we lay witness to, there remains an element of doubt by naysayers about out future and growth.

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.

• develop accountability and improvement systems

• set up relevant communications systems such as 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 needed to develop and maintain this regional support system…..

Yes folks, at the end of the day, entrepreneurship is thinking, acting and believing in looking at our world and thinking differently and discovering solutions instead of dwelling on problems in our marketplace.

Kelowna Capital News