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Positive prospects: Okanagan small business success

Positive prospects: Okanagan small business success

Small business

According to the federal government website, a small business is one that employs from five to 99 people, while the BC definition is one to 49 employees. Statistics reported on the provincial government website indicate that small business employs 54% of private sector employees. Federally, companies with fewer than five employees are considered micro-businesses while provincially no such distinction is made. Because some are registered and some are not, it’s hard to determine how many micro-sized companies there are locally. Many of these micro-businesses are one-person shops.

BC and Saskatchewan are tied as the top provinces for small business with 82.6 companies per capita. This doesn’t necessarily reflect an entrepreneurial spirit. In a number of instances it may simply mean that Employment Insurance has run out and starting a small business is the only way to feed a family when there’s no other work in the region.

These smaller Okanagan businesses work within the narrow market of the Valley, selling their products or services locally. They include the dry-wall installers, roofers, driveway pavers, wedding photographers and one-man electrical services.

These smaller Okanagan businesses work within the narrow market of the Valley, selling their products or services locally. They include the dry-wall installers, roofers, driveway pavers, wedding photographers and one-man electrical services.

For many of these people, starting a profitable and ongoing business is a struggle for a number of reasons. In the case of trades people with viable industrial construction skills, the collapse of the Oil Patch has eroded their income base. For them, a small business is just a way to make ends meet. It’s a waiting game for the high-paying northern camp jobs to come back. When they do, the trades people will return to that industry as soon as possible.

Others need work to stay in the Okanagan and enjoy its lifestyle. They see small business as a means to an end. It’s a way to pay for real estate and ski lift tickets. For more than a few, a small business is the difference between the grocery store and the food bank. Still others see small business as a way of realizing their passions.

All that being said, there is a remarkable level of entrepreneurial enthusiasm here. Many of the Valley’s younger residents see small business as a way to employ their creative skills, or avoid low-paying service and retail employment, thereby avoiding the necessity to move to larger centres to make a decent living.

Progress-2016-Okanagan-business-success

The proof of this pudding lies in Kelowna Chamber of Commerce membership. The second largest such organization in BC outside the Lower Mainland, it acts on behalf of 1,300 businesses and their 25,000 plus employees. Penticton’s chamber has another 600 members on its list and the Greater Vernon Chamber advertises 750. There are more still in smaller centres like Osoyoos. Roughly 2,700 members belong to the various official chambers throughout the Valley.

Read more on the Okanagan high tech sector

Photos by Bruce Kemp

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About The Author

Bruce Kemp

Photographer and feature writer, Bruce Kemp has had the luxury of being able to tell stories for most of his adult life. Before moving to the Okanagan, he worked in the exciting national and international media, and still does when not on assignment for Okanagan Life.

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