The Okanagan Valley Entrepreneurs Society has launched a bold attempt to help harness the entrepreneurial capabilities of Okanagan Valley residents.
The society will host a roundtable discussion in September, aimed at bringing together about valley-wide business leaders with existing and aspiring entrepreneurs.
The goal of the roundtable will be to reach a consensus on how to take better advantage of the enterpreneurial spirit across the region, from Salmon Arm to Osoyoos, and appoint a task force to develop a three-year action plan to implement those recommendations.
The roundtable is the brainchild of Joel Young, a Capital News entrepreneur columnist and founder of the society, that has gained support of local business leaders and municipal officials.
As well, the Harvest Group of Companies, based out of Calgary and Lethbridge, has offered its support with a $4,000 grant to help cover the costs of the roundtable session and Frank Lonardelli, president of the capital investment firm, will be the keynote speaker.
Lonardelli started up a food service business that became one of the largest in Western Canada, which he sold in 2004 and turned his sights to building a real estate portfolio with a current combined enterprise value of more than $150 million.
Lonardelli was also instrumental in establishing the Calgary chapter of The Enterpreneurs Organization, a global network of more than 7,500 successful entrepreneurs in 38 countries.
At a press conference held on the steps of Kelowna City Hall on Tuesday, company spokesman Ron Beyer spoke of the importance that entrepreneurs can make in bringing positive change to our lives.
“Innovation and creativity are what entrepreneurs are all about,” said Beyer, director of investment revenue for the Harvest Group of Companies.
“Entrepreneurs set out to solve big problems, to provide a solution to issues, that governments just can’t do.”
Interviewed after the press conference, he cited the example of growing economies in countries like China, India and across Asia, where business entrepreneurs are helping to elevate people from poverty to middle class income levels.
He noted the example of Steve Jobs, who has changed the lives of people around the world by bringing creativity and innovation to Apple Computers
“Sometimes we often think of business people as being greedy and always out for a profit. But people who are true entrepreneurs do so much more than that by bringing their creativity and innovation to our society,” Beyer said.
He added that refugees who come to Canada also realize much more readily than Canadians what entrepreneurial opportunities our country can provide.
“I think our education system can do a lot more to help those of us who grow up here better realize that same opportunity.”
Also speaking at the press conference was Clint Best, who will be the chief facilitator for the roundtable forum, who admitted he was apprehensive about the roundtable idea at first.
“I didn’t get it at first when I was first approached about it,” said Best, who has been a private business coach in the Okanagan for the past decade.
“I thought it was an ambitious idea and a lot of pieces had to come into play to make it work.”
Best said the 75 participants expected to be invited to the roundtable are more aptly to be called “thought leaders” as opposed to business leaders.
“You have to be open-minded and objective in this process. We will all learn things out of this process and if it’s done right, it will lead to a more successful entrepreneur strategy for the valley.”
“If you are approached to take part in this roundtable in the weeks ahead, I hope everyone in that position will take the request seriously and bring their ideas to the table.”
Colin Parker, chair of the Okanagan Valley Entrepreneurs Society, said a key outcome of the roundtable and subsequent action plan is to make potential entrepreneurs aware of the services and support currently available, and what more can and should be done.
“It can make starting a business a lot easier if you are aware of organizations out there that can offer you help to get started,” Parker said.
As for Young, he spoke of a recent statistic that showed 57 per cent of the small business owners in the Okanagan are self employed.
“We don’t know how many of those business owners are textbook entrepreneurs, but it does show the validity for enhancing the entrepreneurial spirit in this part of B.C.,” Young said.
The roundtable forum will take place Sept. 7 at the Delta Grand convention centre.